Main content

Flatline: Fact File

The read through for Flatline took place on Monday, 19 May, 2014. Shooting for the episode began nine days later and finished on Wednesday, 18 June.

The Doctor trying to exit the TARDIS in Flatline.

Flatline was written by Jamie Mathieson who also wrote the preceding episode, Mummy on the Orient Express. It’s the first time since 2005 that a writer new to Doctor Who has written two adventures that were transmitted in a row.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the exterior dimensions of the TARDIS shrink. In the 1964 adventure, Planet of Giants, both the time machine and its occupants were reduced to ‘roughly to the size of an inch’. Later, in the Fourth Doctor’s swansong, the Master’s villainous interference on Logopolis resulted in the TARDIS shrinking. As in Flatline, the Doctor was in the ship when this occurred and it took help from a companion on the outside to ensure it got back to its proper size.

Flatline is one of the very few episodes where we see the TARDIS exterior in a state where it does not resemble an old police box. In Attack of the Cybermen the ship’s malfunctioning chameleon circuit made it change its external appearance, at one point taking the form of an old organ that the Doctor was able to play! And in The Name of the Doctor we see the TARDIS before the Doctor stole it and it took its current, familiar appearance.

Filming took place in a number of locations around Cardiff, Barry and Winchcombe, but the scenes with the TARDIS in the tunnel were filmed in the BBC’s Roath Lock studios. It’s not the first time that underground train tunnels have been recreated so effectively. Back in 1968, designer David Myerscough-Jones created replicas of several London Underground tunnels and station locations for The Web of Fear. These looked so convincing that the London Underground authorities sent the BBC a letter of complaint alleging that filming had taken place on their property without consent!

Yeti invade the London Underground in The Web of Fear.

One of the train’s featured in Flatline is clearly numbered A113. This designation is often featured in films created by former students of California Institute of the Arts, referring to the classroom used by graphic design and character animation students. As such, A113 has appeared (with varying degrees of subtlety!) in TV shows such as The Simpsons and Family Guy plus movies including Toy Story, Monsters University and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

A dead man’s handle, referenced in Flatline, is a fail-safe mechanism that kicks in if a train driver becomes unconscious or otherwise incapacitated. When applied it essentially stops the train, hopefully preventing collisions or other accidents resulting from the driver being out of action.

The Addams Family is a group of fictional characters created by American cartoonist Charles Addams. They originally appeared in cartoon strips run in The New Yorker but reached a wider audience through TV series and movies. When Clara mentions The Addams Family she’s referring to ‘Thing’. In the TV series this ‘character’ is a disembodied hand, often appearing out of a small box to complete simple tasks like sorting out envelopes or giving someone directions.

Chloe Webber surrounded by her drawings in Fear Her.

This isn’t the first time the Doctor has encountered sinister artwork that’s turned out to be influenced by extra-terrestrial creatures. In Fear Her, the scribbles of Chloe Webber were brought to life by the Isolus and in Vincent and the Doctor the Time Lord spotted a Krafayis in van Gogh’s painting, The Church at Auvers. You can find out more about alien artwork encountered by the Doctor in Doctor Who Extra: Flatline.