Previously on Doctor Who: Flatline.
Due to Comic Con and work stuff, my viewing schedule has been messed about a little — and although Doctor Who is obviously coded for weekly viewing including seven days of dread before the next episode comes along, I’ll be binge-watching and reviewing the last three episodes of Series 8 in one go. From what spoilers I couldn’t really escape, looks like it’ll wreck most of my nerves whilst saving me getting upset about a few things, too.
In the Forest of the Night
It starts with a little girl in a forest — and this kid isn’t even annoying, imagine that. Wandering into the TARDIS, she takes the Doctor by the hand and shows him that they are, in fact, in the middle of London. Trafalgar Square, to be precise. Oh dear. I love their rapport in that opening scene — how simple it is, how the Doctor is his usual eccentric self, a bit gnarly, but mostly kind and… easy.
When Danny and Clara want to leave the morning after Natural History Museum sleep over with a group of students, they discover that a brand new forest has grown not just in London, but all over the world.
“I’m a Time Lord, not a child minder!”
“You’ve got a space ship! All we’ve got are Oyster cards!”
“I am, in fact, enchanted. But I’m not the priority here. The kids are.”
“That attitude is… actually very attractive.”
Tree facebook! Maeve’s gone! Aaah!
This episode is as much filler as it is the setup for what’s to come — the finale, the final conflict that’s going to decide everything. Clara’s told Danny that she hasn’t been in contact with the Doctor for months, but of course she has, she’s left her marking on the TARDIS. But it’s also just a few weeks, probably, after Clara had to be the Doctor, after her moral centre of gravity shifted to a different place.
“Stick to the path, red riding hood.”
“There is no path.”
“Then we’re lunch.”
The TARDIS is a lifeboat
That paradigm shift in Clara is kicking in when she tells that Doctor that the TARDIS is a lifeboat — if they can’t save everyone, they’ll save as many as they can. That’s got to be enough, and that’s a dramatic change compared to, for instance, Kill the Moon, where Clara’s goal was, undoubtedly, saving Earth and the egg, not just racing to save as many as she could after the baby dragon started devouring everything in sight. The TARDIS was never just a lifeboat to her, it was a symbol of hope for everyone. Now, she’s willing to take second-best. See where this is going? Because that was just a trick to get the Doctor to lead them back to the TARDIS. But he believed it, it was enough to get him going.
The Doctor, Clara, and a thing called devotion
When they arrive at the TARDIS, Clara tells the Doctor to get into his TARDIS and go, leave them. Where is he going to take those kids? She’s right, they’ll never not just wanna go back home. And she knows Danny is never going to leave them, and she doesn’t want to leave Danny. So they’ll stay, they’ll weather whatever this is, and if it means that Earth goes under, so be it.
“I can save you.”
“I don’t want you to.”
“What, you don’t want to live?”
“Of course I wanna live, I just…”
“Don’t make me say it.”
“I don’t wanna be the last of my kind.”
She knows how that sits in a heart, she’s seen it, every day for years. She can’t do it, she knows she can’t. And what would that be like? Her and the Doctor, travelling together, each the last of their kind. No. Clara doesn’t want to live out her life like that, doesn’t want to go down that road, not even with him by her side, not with him being the only one she has left when she knows that she will, eventually, wither and die right under his nose as well.
“Then why did you bring us all here?”
“Because it’s the only way to get you back to the TARDIS. Make you think you’re saving someone. Well, you know what, Doctor, this time, the human race is saving you. Make it worthwhile.”
“This is my world, too. I walk your earth, I breathe your air.” (Echoing what Clara once said to him in a fit of anger.)
“And on behalf of this world, you’re very welcome. Now go. Save the next one.”
And they’ve done it. Jenna Coleman and Peter Capaldi made me cry for the first time in Series 8. These quiet moments between them are so important, and so precious. Their acting is spectacular when they take a moment out of the rapid pacing of these adventure episodes, and just take a minute; and their chemistry is close to beating every Doctor/companion duo in new Who, in my ridiculously emotional opinion. They mean so much to each other, and it’s so desperately unspoken. Just look at him watching her. Look at him as he watches the solar flare reach out towards Earth. Just look at him as he realises that there is a way, that he can save them. Look at him as he still puzzles over the problem, of course he does, but he did jump into the TARDIS, he did leave, he did as he was told. By Clara, his Clara. He devoted himself to her in Deep Breath, and no matter the shit he’s pulled, that one thing he won’t smash to pieces.
A wise man called Danny Pink
“I don’t wanna see more things, I wanna see the things that are in front of me more clearly. There are wonders here on Earth.”
Danny Pink, you are a good man. He just wants Clara to be honest with him — and if that means that she still wants to travel with the Doctor, then that is the truth and that is all he wants. This man does not at any point presume to tell her what to do, just asks her to promise him that she makes sure she gets out of it alive so she can come back to him. He may not want to see the stars, but she does, so that is what she must do. Long as she comes home to him, that’s alright. I like him, I really like him.
And the kids don’t make gagging noises when Clara and Danny kiss, they cheer. How cute is that?
Kids on the TARDIS — for once, not driving me nuts
What’s really sleazy about this ep: all this bouncing around of complexes and phobiae and disorders. It’s one thing for Maeve to have an otherworldly connection that lets her hear voices, but god, please stop giving kids issues for comedic effect. It’s great to have kids on television with issues, with anxieties, with stuff that other kids watching can identify with and be told that it’s alright, but do not make it a melting pot of stuff so you can say, “oh look, we have this token boy with anger management and anxiety and night phobia so we can show how good we are with kids.” It does not work that way.
What I did like was that this group was so diverse. Different ethnicities, boys and girls (and possibly things in between, when they grow up). Although, again, the white kids got more speaking parts.
Next page: Dark Water.