Ah the Doctor Who Point/Counterpoint. It’s becoming a time-honored tradition here at What’cha Reading. This week Julie takes the lead and I get to provide the counterpoint. As usual assume many many spoilers sweeties.
Julie: Goddamn, “Flatline,” AMIRITE? Tiny TARDIS, completely new monsters for the first time in an age, and Doctor Clara Oswald. It gave us just the right amounts of terror, uncertainty, and sheer badassedness (totally a word), with a hefty dose of humor to balance it out (hand acting FTW). And yes, another episode about the Doctor and Clara’s relationship. For a series that started with “Clara, I’m not your boyfriend…I never said it was your mistake,” there has been plenty in season eight to make the Whouffaldi shipper in me rejoice. But, let’s start at the beginning.
Chuck: I love when we agree. “Doctor Clara Oswald”. Yup, total BAMF, Coleman totally owned the episode. Reminded me of what I wish the Sarah Jane Chronicles had been, and in some ways exactly what that show was. Terror? This week was pretty high on the creepiness factor. But “hand acting” groan. And the “relationship” is really grinding on my nerves. More on that later back to Julie…
Julie: Clara is a complete BAMF in this episode. I look at this episode as the perfect companion to last week’s “Mummy on the Orient Express” (also written by Jamie Mathieson). Last week Clara got some insight into what it’s like to be the Doctor during their chat at the end of the episode, this week she got to live it, right down to taking on his title. Yes, she got some coaching from the Doctor about how to take charge of a shifting group dynamic, but in the end she was on her own, thinking on her feet to make a plan to save them all. (The scene where she asks the Doctor what he would do, and then says “No, what will I do” is the best—and most understated—tipping point I’ve seen in a Who episode in a long time.)
Chuck: I think it’s necessary to point out that The Doctor wasn’t happy about this role reversal, to say the least, and his constant taunting and micro-managing was really a bit too much. I don’t think it would have played well if he was a cheerleader but I could’ve done with a little less of his interference and a little more Clara kicking butt. Oh, I loved her solution to the big problem, using the talents of those around her very Doctor-esque!
Julie: Clara really is stronger than she knows, which is why it pissed me off so much that Danny asks if she’s in danger. Look, PE, she can take care of herself and saved the whole world in the process, she does not need a man protecting her. Even the Doctor realizes that. The more I see of the two relationships, the more it seems like Danny’s idea of a relationship is something that should have gone out in Edwardian times. He wants to swaddle Clara in cotton wool. Contrast this with the Doctor, who knows she can stand on her own two feet and has perfect faith that she can do so. They have a partnership. I know which guy I’d pick just based on that. Right, stepping off the feminist shipper soapbox that I accidentally got on.
Chuck: I agree with the idea that Danny isn’t right for her but I don’t think it’s fair to categorize his half of their relationship so harshly. Go back and look at how she interacts with him. She completely falls under his wing never once asserting her “badassery” or even her competence in front of him, instead opting to cuddle and sigh and nervously laugh (and lie) about her little jaunts with The Doctor. Do I think Danny would like it if she sat down and regaled him with tales of her journey’s? If she showed him the fire in her eyes as she spoke of saving the world? Nope, he’d walk away, not his cup of tea. But it seems the writers (and the series itself) has decided that they need this “normal life” foil to talk down to. Sorry but if I was lied to and marginalized by my girlfriend every time we spoke? The relationship would be over. An example of a good companion/normal person relationship? The Ponds.
Julie: At the outset of the season, Moffat said that one of the watchwords for the season is “consequences,” as in there are consequences for living this life with the Doctor. “Flatline” showed us consequences in a major way. Remember, it was only seven episodes ago that the Doctor introduced Clara as his “carer” in “Into the Dalek.” “She cares so I don’t have to.” At this point, Clara can focus on the big picture of saving the world rather than the individual deaths that occur along the way. I would argue that another of the big themes of the season is the concept of morality. “Am I a good man?” the Doctor asks Clara early on. At this point I think he’s made up his mind. He tells Clara that she was an excellent Doctor, but “goodness had nothing to do with it.” Being the Doctor means you have to make ruthless decisions to try to ensure that ultimate good prevails. The question now is, is that what Clara wants to be? Or what the Doctor wants for her?
Chuck: Consequences, here we go. The Doctor is definitely arrogant, more-so this season than before, and in his arrogance he seems to be revisiting one of the most aggravating plot points of Tennant’s run. “I’m The Doctor and it’s sooo hard to be me”. Sorry, you’re two thousand years old, you’re famous enough to be hated by one half of the galaxy (universe?) and adored by the other, and yet still seem to constantly find planets and people that haven’t yet heard of you. This brings me right back to 10’s “Oh the horrors I’ve witnessed/perpetrated” season, can the emo crap Doc you’re a bleedin’ super hero.
And “morality”? True he asked Clara early in the season if he was “a good man” but has he cared one iota since? Nope if anything he seems to be pointing out how amoral he really is. Did you see one flicker of emotion when the whole kitchen crew was vented in “Mummy”? I didn’t and this episode was no better. Even the bit on the beach at the end of “Mummy” was more about how Clara sees him than whether or not he’s “good”. I’d like to think his reluctance to tell Clara she’d done a good job was couched in a fear of her becoming like him but I saw it more along the lines of jealousy. Yup The Doctor is jealous that Clara sees enjoyment in this life. And the arrogance again surfaces in how he blows her off with that throw-away line “goodness had nothing to do with it.” (Jealousy is sort of a theme with the Doctor though, he had a big problem with Captain Jack being a time traveller and his reation to River having a sonic was hysterical.) I think if he were really concerned with her “goodness” or her “soul” he’d drop her at home and never darken her door again.
Julie: And that brings us back to Missy and the Nethersphere, because apparently that is exactly want Missy wants from Clara. “My Clara,” Missy calls her. The only other person we’ve heard call Clara that is the Doctor, so what the hell is going on here? Any guesses?
Chuck: Missy and the Nethersphere. This is the part of the plot I notice the least. The over-arching plot in Doctor Who is always weak, in my opinion, they seem to have an idea of where they’re going but it always seems rushed and hodgepodge when it all comes together (Bad Wolf anyone?)
Julie: I can’t believe we only have three episodes left till the break before the Christmas episode! What am I going to do without Twelve?
Chuck: And I can’t believe that we’ve come this far into the season and I’m still waiting for the show to find it’s feet. Sigh, feel like another wasted season. There have been a few in the last eight and they usually occur right after a regeneration. Let’s hope the season ends well, if the last two episodes are any indication there’s a good chance they’ll pull it off.
On a side note this was one of the best cast episodes of the season (along with “Mummy”) the members of Clara’s little band were well chosen right down to the nasty Fenton played by veteran actor Christopher Fairbank (Mactilburgh, the chief scientist at the Manhattan Nucleological Center in the movie “The Fifth Element”). I love that about this franchise, they keep giving us great actors playing well written roles.
Who’s ready for episode 10 “In the Forest of the Night”, lions, tigers, and wolves?! Oh my!