Flatline (Doctor Who)

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250 – "Flatline"
Doctor Who episode
Flatline - Doctor Who.jpg
Promotional image showing the trapped Doctor in the shrunken TARDIS
Directed byDouglas Mackinnon
Written byJamie Mathieson
Script editorDavid P Davis
Richard Cookson
Produced byNikki Wilson
Executive producer(s)Steven Moffat
Brian Minchin
Incidental music composerMurray Gold
SeriesSeries 8
Length45 minutes
First broadcast18 October 2014 (2014-10-18)
← Preceded by
"Mummy on the Orient Express"
Followed by →
"In the Forest of the Night"
Doctor Who episodes (2005–present)

"Flatline" is the ninth episode of the eighth series of the British science fiction television programme Doctor Who, written by Jamie Mathieson, and directed by Douglas Mackinnon. The episode stars Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, with Joivan Wade and Christopher Fairbank guest starring. It was first broadcast on BBC One on 18 October 2014, and received positive reviews, with particular praise directed at Coleman's performance.


The Doctor discovers something draining energy from the TARDIS and materialises in Bristol. While Clara steps out to look around, by the time the Doctor tries to leave, the exterior dimensions of the TARDIS have shrunk too small to leave. The Doctor passes Clara his sonic screwdriver, psychic paper, and an earpiece to let him see, hear, and communicate with her, and she carries the TARDIS in her bag, acting as "Doctor" Clara.

Clara befriends Rigsy, a graffiti artist assigned community duty with a crew to paint over graffiti in a pedestrian tunnel. Rigsy explains the art appears to be of people that have gone missing over the last several days. The Doctor directs Clara and Rigsy to search the flat of the latest disappearance, and Clara convinces PC Forrest to let them in. Outside of a strange mural in one room, nothing seems amiss, but they hear Forrest scream from the next room. When they get there, there is no sign of Forrest, but there is another strange mural on the wall. The Doctor recognises it as a human nervous system, and suspects it is Forrest's. He warns Clara and Rigsy that there are two-dimensional creatures, the Boneless, that appear to be trying to understand the third dimension and have been the cause of the missing persons, flatting them into two dimensions. Clara and Rigsy escape before they are attacked.

The 2dis, the device that restores dimensions, as shown at the Doctor Who Experience.

They race back to the crew to warn them, the Doctor suspecting the paintings in the tunnel are additional Boneless. Some crewmen are killed while Clara leads the rest through a train yard into underground tunnels, followed by shambling forms of the paintings, which the Doctor surmises is the Boneless learning how to use the third dimension. The Boneless surround them, blocking their escape by flattening the doors into two dimensions. The Doctor jury-rigs a device and passes it to Clara to let them undo this flattening to give them time to escape. Clara and Rigsy try to run down the Boneless with an out-of-service train, but the creatures simply flatten it to two dimensions. In their haste, Clara drops the TARDIS into the path of an oncoming train, and the Doctor activates its Siege Mode, preventing any physical damage but leaving him unable to communicate with Clara or return it to normal with the Boneless's power drain.

After recovering the TARDIS, Clara, Rigsy, and the other crew take shelter in a disused office. Clara gets a plan, and has Rigsy paint a realistic door on a large poster. They hang the poster over an access tunnel, and lure the Boneless to it. The Boneless, thinking it is a flattened door, funnel their energy into it to restore it, but instead this is helping to power the TARDIS that Clara placed right behind the poster. The TARDIS reverts to its normal size and form, and the Doctor erects a barrier to hold the Boneless in place. Realising the Boneless have no peaceful intentions, he returns them to their normal dimension. After saying their goodbyes, the Doctor asks Clara how she enjoyed being the Doctor for the day. Elsewhere, Missy watches Clara's adventure, muttering to herself that she has "chosen well".


The TARDIS exterior was also shrunk to the size of a dollhouse in the serial Logopolis (1981), with the Fourth Doctor trapped inside.[1]


The read through for "Flatline" took place on 19 May 2014. Filming began soon afterwards, on 28 May, and concluded on 18 June 2014.[1]

Broadcast and reception[edit]

Overnight viewing figures were estimated at 4.6 million.[2] The episode was watched by a total of 6.71 million viewers.[3] In the US, this episode was seen by 0.75 million viewers.[4] It also received an AI of 85, considered excellent.[5]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
The A.V. ClubB+[6]
Paste Magazine9.4[7]
SFX Magazine4/5 stars[8]
TV Fanatic4.7/5 stars[9]
CultBox4/5 stars[10]
New York Magazine5/5 stars[13]
Radio Times5/5 stars[14]
Digital Spy3/5 stars[15]
The Daily Telegraph5/5 stars[16]

The episode received positive reviews, with many praising Mathieson's script, Coleman's performance and the uniquely designed monsters. Neela Debnath of The Independent praised Capaldi and Coleman's performances and believed this episode to be the stronger of Mathieson's two episodes, although she was critical of the CGI effects.[17] Matt Risley of IGN gave the episode 8.3 out of 10, praising the concept of the episode and the performance of Coleman, but criticising the guest cast.[18] Morgan Jeffery of Digital Spy gave a mixed review of the episode, calling it "a bumpy ride." He too was critical of the supporting cast, citing lack of depth to their personalities. He was however, positive of the CGI, calling it "the most impressive and distinctive this show has featured in recent memory." Overall he gave the episode 3 stars out of five.[15]

Reviewing the episode for The Daily Telegraph, Michael Hogan noted that Christopher Fairbank was billed as the guest star but Joivan Wade outshone him. He stated that the episode had "outlandishly original ideas, smartly executed. It was thrillingly unsettling and ultimately satisfying."[16] Dan Martin, for The Guardian, wrote that Jamie Mathieson's script "is one of the more effective demonstrations of how to do the 'cheap one'." Martin also stated that Clara is "becoming more and more like the Doctor".[19] Alasdair Wilkins of The A.V. Club awarded the episode a B+, stating that "the show is on a hot streak we haven't seen in a long, long time". Wilkins closed his review by saying "'Flatline' isn't perfect, but it underlines just how great the 12th Doctor and Clara have been for each other, and how great their pairing has been for the show, if for no other reason than their complex relationship has forced the show to be thoughtful in a way it hasn't in quite some time".[6]

In print[edit]

Pearson Education published a novelisation of this episode by Nancy Taylor for students of English language reading 24 May 2018.[20][21]


  1. ^ a b "Doctor Who, Series 8, Flatline - Flatline: Fact File". Doctor Who. BBC. 18 October 2014. Retrieved 10 November 2014.
  2. ^ Miller, Paul (7 June 2010). "Who's 'Hungry Earth' draws 4.4 million". Digital Spy. Retrieved 19 October 2014.
  3. ^ "Doctor Who series 8 ratings accumulator", Doctor Who TV, UK.
  4. ^ "SHOWBUZZDAILY's Top 25 Saturday Cable Originals: 10.18.2014".
  5. ^ "Doctor Who Series 8 (2014) UK Ratings Accumulator".
  6. ^ a b Wilkins, Alasdair (18 October 2014). "Doctor Who: "Flatline"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 19 October 2014.
  7. ^ Rozeman, Mark (19 October 2014). "Doctor Who Review: "Flatline"". Paste Magazine. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  8. ^ Farley, Jordan (20 October 2014). "Doctor Who S8.09 Flatline review". SFX Magazine. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  9. ^ Pavlica, Carissa (18 October 2014). "Doctor Who Season 8 Episode 9 Review: Flatline". TV Fanatic. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  10. ^ Stewart, Malcolm (18 October 2014). "'Doctor Who' review: 'Flatline'". CultBox. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  11. ^ Welsh, Kaite (18 October 2014). "Review: 'Doctor Who' Season 8 Episode 9, 'Flatline,' Goes Off the Wall (In a Good Way)". IndieWire. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  12. ^ Risley, Matt (18 October 2014). "Doctor Who: "Flatline" Review". IGN. Retrieved 19 October 2014.
  13. ^ Ruediger, Ross (19 October 2014). "Doctor Who Recap: Physical Graffiti". Vulture.com. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  14. ^ Mulkern, Patrick (18 October 2014). "Flatline – Doctor Who's 250th story is an outstanding, gritty tribute to Banksy". Radio Times. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  15. ^ a b Jeffery, Morgan (18 October 2014). "Doctor Who series 8 'Flatline' recap: A bumpy ride?". Digital Spy. Retrieved 19 October 2014.
  16. ^ a b Hogan, Michael (18 October 2014). "Doctor Who, review, Flatline: 'a cleverly creepy premise'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 19 October 2014.
  17. ^ "Doctor Who 'Flatline' review: Clara isn't half bad as the Time Lord", The Independent, UK.
  18. ^ Doctor Who: 'Flatline' (review), UK: IGN, 18 Oct 2014.
  19. ^ Martin, Dan (18 Oct 2014), "Doctor Who recap: series 34, episode 9 'Flatline'", The Guardian, UK.
  20. ^ "Level 3: Doctor Who: Flatline". Pearson Education. 12 April 2018. Retrieved 8 February 2018 – via Amazon.
  21. ^ "Level 3: Doctor Who: Flatline - Pearson Readers". readers.english.com. Retrieved 6 April 2018.

External links[edit]