She quickly comes upon a series of murals along an underpass a work team is clearing up graffiti and she catches a young man named Rigsy’s attention. Rigsy (played by Joivan Wade) is a local graffiti artist and explains that the mural is dedicated to the missing of the village. She quickly enlists Rigsy who has been at the mercy of a terrible bigot Fenton (played by Christopher Fairbank) who is immediately loathsome while the other work gang members seem at least sympathetic (which speaks to an underlying theme of Moffat’s work pointing to a dislike of certain figures of authority and a hatred Victorian attitude towards the poor).
Returning to the TARDIS she lets the Doctor know about the disappearances only to find that the TARDIS is now small enough to fit on a desk. The Doctor is safe inside since the dimensions are relative after all but he now can’t get out. Handing Clara the sonic screwdriver, the psychic paper and an ear piece that will use nano technology to let the Doctor see out her eyes via the TARDIS’ view screens he tells her she’s going to have to solve this one (with a little help from her friends obviously). Calling herself the Doctor with a not so subtle jab at the Doctor himself which he does not find too amusing she enlists the aid of Rigsy he shows her to the latest crime scene (I would assume this is the house from the beginning) but now there’s an interesting mural on the wall, it looks like the cracked earth of a desert. Talking to herself she starts to creep Rigsy out, the Doctor at first didn’t like Rigsy but when he made the same mental leap to a “Locked room mystery” that both Clara and the Doctor made the Doctor suddenly likes him.
This speaks volumes about the Doctor, he’s willing to prejudge but as soon as someone shows they think like he does he latches on. Unfortunately the Doctor’s little conversation back and forth with Clara starts to creep out Rigsy and when she mentions shrink rays he thinks it may be time to take his leave. This forces Clara’s hand and she pulls the TARDIS out of her purse to show Rigsy what’s what. Rigsy is immediately enraptured asking if Clara is an alien to which she says no but that the Doctor is. That said, this is hardly the first time that question has been asked. We know the history of Clara’s birth with the leaf on the wind, her dead mother, and so on but it’s starting to make me wonder if there is not something more to her especially since it’s been implied that Missy gave her the number to call the Doctor that began their adventures.
Unfortunately soon after they open the door of the TARDIS there’s a strange noise and the TARDIS started experiencing an energy drain. Going to a second victim’s house they meet a young police constable who shows them around the scene before she is called away by a telephone call. As Clara and Rigsy start bashing in the walls (thanks to a great sight gag, one of many in the episode) a strange force sucks her in to the carpet. Clara and Rigsy make their way to her screams and find an empty room until they notice the mural, what looks like a haunting rendition of a forest the Doctor recognizes as a cross section of the human nervous system. In one of his intuitive leaps he realizes that these creatures are dissecting and experimenting, the mural at the last house was human skin, this is a nervous system, they are trying to understand and they are trying to understand dimensions.
Moffat gave us the Silence and the Weeping Angels and once again he gives us a terrifying (as yet un-named) monster. This time something completely alien to our very type of existence, the great thing about Moffat’s monsters is they mess with perception. They all tie in to seeing, the Weeping Angels you can’t take your eyes off of or you die, the Silence you can’t take your eyes off of or you forget, these monsters could be right in front of you, all around you, and you would never know until it’s too late. These are the things that children’s nightmares are made of and I once again tip my hat to Moffat for returning to the kinds of stories that made up my fantasy life as a child in the 70s and 80s. Sure, this isn’t the kind of Dinosaurs on Spaceships of the last few years but this is something kids like almost as much, this is Goosebumps and Amazing Tales.
Fenton ordering Stan to “do his job” triggers the monsters who suck him in to the wall, the figures all start to move in this juttery motion which is quite unsettling and the chase is on. Clara and the survivors flee to a nearby train depot and attempt to formulate a plan. The Doctor tries to give Clara some instructions about taking control but she’s having none of it. We’ve seen her move with a confidence and self-assuredness that echoes the Doctor’s control of situations like these and she explains that she knows she’ll need to be the leader pulling a move that’s straight up Tom Baker that is so balls out cool even Capaldi’s Doctor is impressed and this is where the show takes the darkest turn. In what the Doctor was assuredly meaning to be a light back and forth he asks what is next for Doctor Clara and she replies “lie to them” that she has to give them hope to keep them going. This knocks the Doctor on his heels realizing for the first time what he sounds like and Clara is starting to become as cold and alien as the Doctor himself.
Fleeing in to the subway they find themselves trapped the handles of the subway all flattened and Clara starts to suspect they are being herded. Moving towards the junction point between the old and new subway lines, before they start the hike the Doctor gives Clara a device that will “de-flaten” called the 2dis (this is a pretty pun heavy episode for a spooky one). Unfortunately it doesn’t work and there’s another massive drain on the TARDIS’ power. It would seem the monsters are stepping up their game and have now made the leap from 2D space to 3D yanking another member in to the wall and flattening him. If the weird disjointed jerky motion in two dimensions was scary, the three dimensional creatures who look like strange chalk drawings come to life are downright terrifying. Running deeper in to the tunnels Fenton takes this moment to try and assert his power accidentally knocking the TARDIS out of Clara’s purse and down in to a tunnel below. Unfortunately for the Doctor it’s right on a train line. Doing his best Thing impersonation he almost gets the TARDIS out of the way before it is knocked back on to the tracks. Throwing it in to “Seige Mode” a lock down mode where the TARDIS is sealed from all space and heavily protected (and yes you can already buy one) which saves him but prevents him from communicating with the outside world.
Clara, Fenton, and Rigsy find themselves trapped a train coming at them from one direction and the monsters from the other. Using the sonic Clara stops the train asking the conductor if they can get it to move in hopes of crashing it in to the “blockage” ahead. While the talk Rigsy gets aboard and starts up the train which uses a Dead man’s switch to keep it in motion. Here we get to see Clara once again channeling her inner Doctor, pulling out a hairband from a pocket she makes a really cutting and sarcastic remark about the hair band and how whenever she uses it she’ll think of him then slips it over the switch locking it place. This is the exact thing a few episodes ago in Kill The Moon Clara was so upset by. There’s condescension in her voice, there’s coldness, separateness and a condescension that makes her seem superior to those she’s supposed to be helping. This is all too familiar, and at this point I have to wonder if the Doctor isn’t in the TARDIS thinking “is this what I sound like?” Leaping off the train they are conveniently at the spot where Fenton dropped the TARDIS which Clara spots beside the tracks. A little convenient but the plot had to keep moving somehow Clara picks up the now even smaller TARDIS and rejoins Fenton and the engineer.
They flee to a storage room where Clara does something that the Doctor often does and turns to the talents of his companions. Getting Rigsy to paint a convincing door she tacks it up on one side of a wall and places the TARDIS on the other side of the wall, knowing that the aliens are draining the TARDIS it stands to reason when they try to de-flatten the door using their energy rays they’ll pour energy back in to the TARDIS on the other side. I have to be honest, as much as I like this episode there are a LOT of leaps of logic but much of this is secondary to the real objective of this episode which I will touch on in a moment. The aliens are tricked by the 2D door which is not unreasonable being new to the three dimensional space and re-energize the Doctor allowing him to leave siege mode and return to normal.
The Doctor traps the aliens using the TARDIS and has one of his brilliant monologues (which I would love to see more of but not as many as the Smith monologues those were out of control). Here you see the Doctor who is conflicted and he in some ways seems to be apologizing to the TARDIS before he confronts the aliens. As soon as the door opens though we see the Doctor enraged before launching in to full on Shakespearean anti-hero as the “Man who stops the monsters”.
We get our touching goodbye at this point, the Doctor brings everyone to the surface in the TARDIS and Fenton goes on his way, Rigsy calls his mom and the engineer is happy to have seen the TARDIS. The Doctor though isn’t quite right, he’s looking at Clara in a disconcerted way. There’s a brief exchange with Fenton who self-righteously dismisses the death of the people under his care as the burning of brush. The Doctor though is not pleased, Clara is chipper because they saved the world and though many good people died “on balance” everyone is safe and the Doctor is disturbed. He’s looking in to a mirror but a cracked mirror because Clara has become the Doctor comfortable with lying to Danny about being on the TARDIS, comfortable with sacrificing good people to save the greater number, and quite disturbed at the fact that Clara was an “exceptional Doctor” but “goodness had nothing to do with it”.