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Flatline was the ninth episode of series 8 of Doctor Who.

Flatline was Mathieson's first script for the show. Two years before writing it, he had pitched his ideas for a story to Steven Moffat, but was unsuccessful. When he again met with the executive producer, he showed him four ideas for episodes, complete with his own illustrations, aided by his background in art college. Taking an interest in the monster he had created for what would become Flatline, Moffat asked Mathieson to produce a story outline and he got the job to script the episode.

It was only after writing several drafts that he was told the episode would need to lock the Doctor away in a single location, as Peter Capaldi's scenes for the episode needed to be filmed quickly to abide by the production schedule. Mathieson decided to write a script where the Doctor was "in the dark". For this to be successful, he had to create an unknown quantity to feature as his alien enemy. Much like his previous creation, the Foretold, he elected to have no dialogue for the aggressors, allowing something about them to remain "unknowable". (DWM 479)


Separated from the Doctor, Clara discovers a new menace from another dimension.

But how do you hide when even the walls are no protection? With people to save and the Doctor trapped, Clara comes up against an enemy that exists beyond human perception.


A man is on the phone with the police, explaining in whispers that he knows what happened to the people who went missing. When they ask him to speak up, the man tells them he cannot; he needs the police to protect him as the culprits will be coming for him. Hearing something, he screams in fear and vanishes from the room. The officer on the line asks the man if he is okay, getting no response. On the wall of the room, there is an image of the man stretched through the trim, screaming.

After some adventures, the Doctor is piloting the TARDIS back to Clara's time to return her home. She is hurriedly packing her things, to which the Doctor tells her is not necessary as there is literally infinite space in the TARDIS for her possessions. However, Clara says Danny has gotten possessive and doesn't want any of her things in the TARDIS.

Not really caring, the Doctor lands the TARDIS, telling her it's the same time they left. However, he then adds "[the] same place-ish". Realising something is wrong, Clara demands the Doctor explain; however, he retorts that the readings he's getting are "ishy". As he looks at the monitor, Clara heads to the door. She stops, shocked, and calls the Doctor to her. He looks at the door as well, stating it's very not good: it's shrunk!

The Doctor and Clara exit the TARDIS, albeit with some difficulty as the exterior shell has shrunk to almost half its original size. Amazed, the Doctor begins wondering what happened and starts scanning with the sonic screwdriver. Clara looks over at the nearby tracks, reading the sign; they're in Bristol rather than London.

The Doctor tells Clara that the TARDIS isn't going anywhere until they stop whatever is causing the problem. He gets back inside for equipment, directing Clara to look around for the source of the problem. On her search, she meets Rigsy, a graffiti artist working community service for his art; he tells her that locals are disappearing, and mystery murals of them have appeared in a nearby pedestrian tunnel. Clara calls the Doctor, bringing him up to speed. She asks where he is since she can't see the TARDIS. However, he tells her he hasn't taken off. To her amusement, the TARDIS has shrunk to the size of a toy.

Clara holds the TARDIS

Clara holds the TARDIS.

The Doctor lightens the TARDIS, allowing Clara to carry it in her purse. He hands Clara his psychic paper, the sonic screwdriver, and an audio/visual earpiece so he can keep in touch with her. Clara takes this as being chosen to act as his stand-in. Annoyed, the Doctor tells Clara that she's not being him.

Clara goes back to the mural tunnel, scanning around to give stats to the Doctor in the TARDIS. Rigsy finds her again, asking for her name. Clara calls herself "the Doctor". She asks Rigsy to take her to where someone vanished. Rigsy leads her to the flat of the most recent missing person, where there's a strange desert mural. After Rigsy becomes uncomfortable with the strange conversation Clara is having with the Doctor, he decides to leave, but Clara stops him, realising that his local knowledge could be helpful. She pulls the TARDIS out of her purse and gets the Doctor to open the doors, introducing him to Rigsy.

Now more willing to work with Clara, Rigsy gains help from a police officer to gain access to the flat of the first known missing person. The Doctor says that the victims are in the walls, so Clara grabs a hammer. While she and Rigsy work on the walls, PC Forrest is sucked into the floor. Clara and Rigsy hear her scream, but by the time they reach her, she is gone. They look around the room and find another strange mural, and the Doctor realises it's likely to be PC Forrest's nervous system and believes the first mural was a closeup of human skin of the latest victim.

Hearing a bizarre sound, the Doctor shuts the TARDIS doors as the creatures behind draining it of its dimensional energy are at it again. Clara and Rigsy see what appears to be air moving like fluid coming at them. The Doctor quickly explains his theory that their adversaries are creatures from a 2-D universe, and must have been experimenting on the three-dimensional world, trying to understand it. As Clara and Rigsy try to avoid the entity, which is in the walls and ground, Danny phones Clara, and she manages to avoid questions of her whereabouts and quickly hangs up. The Doctor, who is listening in, recognises that Clara has lied to him about Danny accepting her continued travels in the TARDIS.

After escaping the flat, Clara and Rigsy return to the rest of the community service group, who are about to paint over the murals in the pedestrian tunnel. The Doctor realises that the images are masquerades for the two-dimensional creatures. After the creatures take one of the services workers, Clara leads the rest away, but the creatures chase them. They take shelter in a nearby engine repair warehouse, where the Doctor tells Clara that a leader will soon emerge and that she must make sure it's her. When Fenton demands to know who she is, Clara coldly states she's his best option for staying alive. The Doctor is impressed.

The Doctor helps Clara to try to communicate with the creatures using mathematics. When another worker is taken, Clara and the surviving members flee into a disused subway tunnel. As they explore, they find their only escape route has been flattened to two dimensions by the creatures. The Doctor provides Clara with a device to restore the dimensions, and they just manage to escape. The Doctor also tells Clara that he has worked out a way to stop the creatures and return them to their home dimension, but the TARDIS doesn't have enough power.

Fenton tries stealing the TARDIS from Clara's bag. In the chaos, the TARDIS is dropped down a shaft on to an active railway line, with an oncoming train heading right for it. With some advice from Clara, the Doctor is able to get the TARDIS off the rails by using his hand to move it, resulting in the Doctor doing a little victory dance for saving his TARDIS and himself. However, his victory is short-lived, as the TARDIS tips over onto the rails again. In order to protect the TARDIS from the oncoming train, the Doctor activates its siege mode at the very last minute, but without power is unable to return it to normal. The lack of power is also causing the life support systems to fail.

Clara uses the sonic screwdriver to stop an out-of-service train, and they attempt to use it to ram the creatures to prolong time to get back in contact with the Doctor. However, the train is simply transformed into two dimensions. As they escape, Clara finds the TARDIS now looking like a plain cube with Gallifreyan symbols and takes it with her.

Taking shelter in a disused office space, Clara comes up with a plan to provide energy to the TARDIS by having Rigsy paint out a fake access door on the back of a large poster. Unsure if Clara can still hear him or even if she is still alive, the Doctor praises her performance, saying that she "made a mighty fine Doctor". When the creatures attempt to pull the fake door into three dimensions, they instead feed their energy into the TARDIS, restoring it to normal.


The Doctor banishes the Boneless back to their own dimension.

Realising they have no interest in peace, the Doctor denounces the creatures as monsters and states that it is his job to stop the monsters. He exits the TARDIS and uses the sonic screwdriver to stop the creatures, whom he dubs the "Boneless", sending them back to their own dimension with a warning to those who survive the trip: "You are not welcome here. This plane is protected."

The Doctor gets everyone out of the tunnels safely in the TARDIS. Clara rejects a call from Danny, catching the Doctor's attention; he notes that she enjoyed 'playing the Doctor' for the day. She asks him to admit that she was a good Doctor; he reluctantly tells her that she made an "exceptional Doctor", but that "goodness" had nothing to do with it.

As Clara watches the Doctor enter the TARDIS, Missy, seated in a darkened room, is watching Clara on what appears to be a tablet. Missy says, with regard to "her" Clara, that she has "chosen well".


Uncredited Cast[]


General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics



General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.

Uncredited crew[]



  • The Doctor names the device he creates 2Dis.

Culture from the real world[]

  • Clara suggests mimicking a hand motion as performed by the disembodied hand character Thing from The Addams Family to enable the Doctor to move the shrunken TARDIS out of the path of an approaching train.

The Doctor's TARDIS[]

  • The Doctor puts the TARDIS in siege mode.
  • When the TARDIS is in siege mode, Gallifreyan writing is visible on the exterior.


  • Fenton is not tricked by the psychic paper; the Doctor suggests this is due to a lack of imagination.
  • Forrest was investigating the disappearance of Mr Heath.




Story notes[]

Dr Who - Flatline A113

A113 on a train.

  • The Radio Times programme listing was accompanied by a small colour head-and-shoulders shot of Christopher Fairbank as Fenton, with the accompanying caption "Doctor Who / 8.25 p.m. / Will guest star Christopher Fairbank be on hand as Clara is forced to go it alone?"
  • The first train bears the number A113, an animation in-joke first known to originate in the Amazing Stories episode "The Family Dog" and used in many other movies and television shows. A113 is a classroom used at the California Institute of the Arts for graphic design and character animations, widely recognised by alumni of the institute.[6]
  • The shrunken TARDIS[7] and siege mode TARDIS [8] props were cast resin, fabricated by propmaker Nicholas Robatto.
  • A version of the shrunken TARDIS prop made of moulded rubber parts was prepared for the scene in which the TARDIS is dropped. During filming the main prop, made of cast-resin parts, was inadvertently used in the scene and dropped instead, requiring repair.[7]
  • Coincidentally, this story aired at the same time as the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip COMIC: The Eye of Torment. It not only featured Clara taking on Doctor-like responsibilities, it also had her taking a gamble with someone's life in similar fashion and ended with a similar sombre exchange about Clara beginning to think like the Doctor.
  • While the title "Flatline" refers directly to the two-dimensional nature of the Boneless, it is also a term for death, referring to the deceased's lack of heart beat on an electronic monitor.
  • Jamie Mathieson was a lifelong fan of the show and had previously had discussions about writing for seasons one and five without success. His work caught the attention of Sue Vertue, who convinced Steven Moffat to give him another chance. Aware that his earlier suggestions had dwelt too much on high concepts at the expense of offering engaging adventures for a general audience, Mathieson developed four concepts to present to Moffat. He discussed them with Toby Hadoke, whom Mathieson knew from his days as a stand-up comedian, and was reassured that the series had not previously explored similar ground.
  • Jamie Mathieson originally imagined the Boneless sliding over people, crushing their bones and allowing their bodies to be piloted.
  • Jamie Mathieson named Rigsy Moorhouse after the best man at his wedding.
  • Originally, a key group of characters was a gang of young homeless graffiti artists; one of them, Luc, would be the first victim of the Boneless. The story then followed Rigsy, who, along with the survivors, would discover the Doctor and Clara in the service tunnels, already in the process of investigating the Boneless after meeting the terrified homeless teenagers. The train driver entered the proceedings at an early stage, accompanying a group of refugees from a train car which had been attacked by the Boneless. The monsters continued to pick off the humans, at one point even setting up an ambush by piloting the bodies of several police officers. Fenton died saving one of the teenagers, who was known as Hashtag. The Doctor was finally able to locate the vessel which had transported the Boneless from their homeworld into three-dimensional space. Rigsy painted a false door in front of the ship, and when the monsters tried to un-flatten it, they triggered their vessel's recall protocol, dragging them back to their own realm. The episode ended with a coda set several years in the future in which Hashtag, now grown to adulthood, finished telling the story of the Boneless as a warning to others.
  • The train driver was originally named Perkins, after a friend of Jamie Mathieson's who was a rail afficianado. He also inspired Perkins in Mummy on the Orient Express. He was instead named Bill, which was originally the name of one of the passengers.
  • In subsequent drafts, the first victim of the Boneless became an aging hippie called Morton. He became Roscoe.
  • The Doctor was originally supposed to seek help from Kate Stewart and UNIT.
  • The episode was double-banked with Mummy on the Orient Express, requiring the Doctor's role to be reduced so that Peter Capaldi could film that episode. This prompted Jamie Mathieson to expand upon an element of his earlier drafts, in which the size of the TARDIS was affected by the Boneless. Originally, the Doctor had been able to reverse the phenomenon, but he would now become trapped inside the shrinking time machine.
  • Jamie Mathieson was asked to write Mummy on the Orient Express based on the strength of this episode.
  • Briefly, Bill was an old friend of Fenton's and explained that the other man's bitterness was because he had once been an anti-authoritarian himself.
  • The episode comprised Block Five of season eight.
  • Danny Pink's cameo was the first scene to be shot.
  • Filming was halted for a day because Jenna Coleman was attending the Glamour Women of the Year Awards ceremony, where she was named Best UK TV Actress.
  • The first train carries the name "A113," a tribute to Pixar, which includes "A113" in all its films, a reference to the classroom at the California Institute of Technical Arts, where many Pixar figures studied, including John Lasseter and Brad Bird.
  • Missy's cameo was a late addition to the script.
  • Joivan Wade and Michelle Gomez would later co-star in Doom Patrol.
  • Danny's phonecall to Clara was re-recorded to account for changes which had latterly been made to Clara's dialogue.
  • A scene dropped in editing saw the Doctor boost Clara's cell phone signal so that the survivors of the Community Payback crew could call their loved ones. Rigsy declared that he had no one to call, while Fenton admitted that the person he wanted to phone would hang up on him. As a result, Rigsy offered to make the call for him; the subsequent dialogue implied that he spoke to the mother of Fenton's daughter.


  • The Shrunken TARDIS was a Flight Control TARDIS made by Character Options. It was actually a miniature prop specially constructed for the story.


Filming locations[]

  • Barry Island Heritage Railway
  • Maelfa Shopping Center (Cardiff)
  • Barry Island Shooting Range
  • Winchcombe

Production errors[]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • The Doctor's hair is noticeably shorter in several scenes, starting when the TARDIS falls onto the train track and ending when the TARDIS returns to the surface after the defeat of the Boneless. This makes it clear these scenes were filmed out of order, during a different time than the rest of the scenes in the episode, when Peter Capaldi had recently undergone a haircut. In his regular column for Doctor Who Magazine, embarrassed showrunner Steven Moffat admitted to this continuity goof and that it was because of the scheduling.
  • When the TARDIS first becomes smaller, the Doctor uses one door to get out due to a lining in between in the doors. When the TARDIS shrinks again, both doors are open with there being no lining in between the doors.
  • When Clara walks up to the mini TARDIS, her phone is in her right hand but when she squats down, it's in her left hand.
  • As the Doctor hands Clara the sonic screwdriver, her right hand is on the side of the TARDIS but as the camera switches angles, her right hand is down by her side and holding the psychic paper.
  • The distance between the shrunken TARDIS and the train tracks decreases. It is a safe distance from the tracks as the Doctor climbs the dirt hill with his fingers, then it appears a little closer to the tracks the next scene when he pulls his hand in, the next scene, it is close enough that when it topples over, the top is laying on the tracks. Also, when the TARDIS topples over, the shock created inside the TARDIS by the fall throws the Doctor towards the doors, even though the TARDIS landed on its rear wall and the doors are facing upwards.
  • When Clara's phone rings towards the end of the episode, the ringtone is clearly heard. However, when held up, the icon for silent mode is visible at the top of the screen.
  • When the Doctor uses the sonic screwdriver to banish the Boneless, its diode doesn't illuminate.
  • When the Doctor opens the TARDIS door and declares himself as "the man that stops the monsters", the interior, which can be seen behind him, ripples, revealing that it is just a backdrop.
  • As the Doctor tells the Boneless that they are not welcome, he sweeps his arm across his chest, and it ends up at his side. However, when the scene cuts to the front view of him saying his next line, he is suddenly pointing towards the Boneless.
  • As the Doctor dives under the console to activate siege mode, the piping in the time rotor isn't lit up. However, in the next shot, as the camera zooms out to view the console room, the piping is lit up and can be seen going out just before the camera cuts to the shot of the train passing over the TARDIS's location.


Home video releases[]

DVD & Blu-ray releases[]

Complete 8th Series UK Cover

Series Full Box-set Region 2

Digital releases[]

  • The episode was released on Google Play, iTunes and Amazon Instant Video in HD or SD, also available as part of the Series 8 digital boxset. The digital boxset contains various features: trailer, interviews, The Ultimate Companion, The Ultimate Time Lord, Inside the World Tour and Doctor Who Extra episodes for each episode.
  • In the US, the series was released through digital streaming services Hulu and Netflix with a subscription.
  • In the United Kingdom, this story is available on BBC iPlayer.

External links[]

to be added