Sunday 19 October 2014

Flatline (time shift)

 They’re starting to open up the sky/They’re starting to reach down through
- Trent Reznor, Zero Sum (2007)

Or (if you want to be all obvious about it)

A two-dimensional being inside a square would be exactly in the same predicament that a man would be, if he were in a room with no opening on any side. Now it would be possible to us to take up such a being from the inside of the square, and to set him down outside it. A being to whom this had happened would find himself outside the place he had been confined in, and he would not have passed through any of the boundaries by which he was shut in. The astonishment of such a being can only be imagined by comparing it to that which a man would feel, if he were suddenly to find himself outside a room in which he had been, without having passed through the window, doors, chimney or any opening in the walls, ceiling or floor. 
- Charles Howard Hinton, What is the Fourth Dimension? (1884) 
Me:  Well, that was Flatline.

(Long pause.)1


Him:  Errr…

(Another, even longer pause.)

Me:  I dunno…  I’m a bit…  I’m a bit blown away and a bit…  A little bit…

Him:  What’re you ‘a little bit’?

Me:  It’s weird.  Did you think it was good?

Him:  I think it was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen.

Me:  Ha!  It was very imaginative.

Him:  It is isn’t it?  It’s really creative and it’s really out there.

Me:  Yeah, the ideas are great.  Y’know, the whole thing about 2D and 3D and different dimensions ties in with the idea of four dimensions and higher dimensional beings.  There was a chap called Charles Hinton who wrote about time being the fourth dimension.2  Creatures that could live in four, or more dimensions, the way that they’d see a three-dimensional world would be similar to the way we see a two-dimensional one.  So, if they were looking down on something like a house, it would appear to be totally flat and they’d be able to-

Him:  I have seen Flatland.3

Me:  Yeah.  In a two-dimensional world – within a square – a two-dimensional creature wouldn’t be able to leave it, in much the same way that, in a three-dimensional world we can’t leave a room without a door or a window or some sort of gap.  When you go into things like magick, apparently – the idea is something along the lines of being able to see, or experience these separate dimensions…  There was a demon that was supposed to be able to grant people the power of flight and to be able to allow his passengers to see into houses from above – I think it was Asmodeus.4

Him:  I have seen Flatland.3

Me:  'Flatline'?

Him:  Flatland.

Me:  'Flatland'?

Him:  Yes.

Me:  What’s that? 

Him:  I thought it was weird that you were agreeing with the fact that I’d seen it, seeing as I didn’t think you’d have ever heard of it.

Me:  Go on.

Him:  It’s a film about a square that works for a circle and he’s got a hexagon as a granddaughter.  Everyone thinks he’s crazy because he believes in this third dimension and then a giant sphere transports him to the land inbetween dimensions where he sees the zeroth dimension and the first dimension.  Then he gets taken to see the third dimension.

Me:  That’s really interesting. 

Him:  You should look it up.

Me:  I will look it up.

Him:  It’s only about forty minutes long.

Me:  Well, if I can find it then there’ll be a clue to where it is at the end of this sentence.3 


The idea – getting back to Asmodeus – was almost a form of astral projection.  This demon or creature or Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come or whatever, could be argued to be something that lives in higher planes-

Him:  Demons would be able to see in seven planes.

Me:  Well, this is just it.

Him:  If you’ve got different planes of vision that aren’t just 2D and 3D you’d have separate ones for 3D that demons’d be able to hide in.  Ghosts are supposed to be able to hide in a different plane of the third dimension and that’s why cats can see them, ‘cause cats can see in five different planes as opposed to just the three planes.

Me:  Oh, right.  What’s that from? 

Him:  I fail to recall. 

Me:  Ha!  Once again, there were a couple of moments when Murray Gold clonked it around, but he was- 

Him:  Only really the start.  That was the only time you were shouting at him to shut up.

Me:  I really don’t think he can hear me.  That was the second one written by Jamie Mathieson who wrote last week’s as well. 

Him:  He does like his trains. 

Me:  He does.  There were a lot of…  Listening seems to be important.  And, we still don’t totally know what was going on with the TARDIS.  It’s not impossible that Perkins sabotaged it, so I might still be right.5 

Him:  We don’t know how long Perkins was in there for. 

Me:  Well, no.  But he was left there on his own and he was messing around with it.  Said, “Good luck,” rather than “Goodbye,” and then the next thing you know-  And that's very much like The Mind Robber6 as well as The Time Meddler.  It’s almost an echo of the predicament the Doctor left the Monk in.  The exception being that the Monk was stuck outside of his TARDIS. 

Him:  Yes. 

Me:  I don’t think it’s that.  Interesting seeing Missy at the end.  And she’s chosen Clara.  I’ll have to rewatch that though, because I thought it could still be read that Missy’s using Danny to get to Clara.  Don’t forget Danny had a ‘thing’, in The Caretaker.  The bit at the very start, where the Bristle chap – ‘cause it was all set in Bristle-

Him:  Is that why you’ve written ‘Bristle’?

Me:  That’s the correct spelling of ‘Bristle’. 

Him:  It’s really all sorts of not.

Me:  At the start, when his face is in the wall?  There’s a lot of paintings that use that perspective effect within them.  And there’s a famous one that-

Him:  Not as good as my painting.

Me:  And what’s your painting?

Him:  No, I can’t reveal that because the authorities’ll come looking for it.

Me:  Well, we probably shouldn’t written a post about you acquiring it, then.   So, the way the face was stretched, and could only be seen at a certain angle.  There’s a Holbein painting called ‘Two Gentlemen’ or something…7  I put a link up to it fairly recently…  I should say, we do these ‘reviews’ immediately after watching the time shifted episodes, so we haven’t been on the internet and haven’t got a clue what people are saying.  Holbein hid a skull in this picture, but it’s so stretched that it looks like a weird smear of paint across the bottom of the canvas unless you’re standing in the right position.8  Clara’s protestations to the Doctor – and that whole situation’s going the way I expected it to – she sounded just like Nedry in Jurassic Park when he’s heading off to steal the embryos and putting on this totally unconvincing…  It was almost the same type of, “Ha!  Yes!  Everything’s… fine!  Nothing to worry about!”  A sort of nervous rambling.  Douglas Mackinnon directing again, doing a lovely job.  The Boneless themselves, I thought they were really good.9  You know the bit in the train tunnel?

Him:  Yeah.

Me:  You said it was like a zombie flick.

Him:  I said ‘film’.  I certainly did not say ‘zombie flick’.

Me:  Something I’m going to have to say, because this was a little bit weird, just a couple of days ago I was chatting to someone about Charles Addams – oddly enough, Banksy cropped up too, everything’s connected.  Charles Addams created The Addams Family, of course, including Thing, the disembodied hand which crawls around everywhere.  It also crops up in- 

Him:  The Walking Dead?

Me:  No, it’s Evil Dead 2.  “Who’s laughing now?”  But, you won’t know about that.

Him:  No, no I won’t.  Which is why I got the reference wrong to begin with.

Me:  The bit where the Doctor’s got his hand outside of the TARDIS, dragging it – that was so good.  Some of the shots were marvelously imaginative, the ideas were really clever and the visual sense was exquisite.  When the door handles became two dimensions so you couldn’t open them?  I thought that was great.  Bit Black Orchid at the end?  I’m sure that train station’s in Barry.  I think it might be where they filmed The Doctor Dances – the final, “Just this once, everybody lives.”  Remember that?  I think it was filmed in the same place.  I haven’t looked it up, but the Mystery Voice would know.10

Him:  You’ve drawn a cube.

Me:  That’s the TARDIS in-

Him:  Siege mode?

Me:  Yeah.  I should probably say that half of us have a column in the current issue of Starburst.  Well, I’ve got to, haven’t I?  It’s taken four hundred and three issues to get there-

Lady and gentleman, I give you, time travel!

Him:  You need to stop advertising my article.

Me:  Ha!  Now, last week looked like the diet-companion episode because Clara spent a lot of it locked away.  This week, because the Doctor’s locked away, it’s-

Him:  Probably why he wrote them both that way.

Me:  Yeah.  This series feels to me like a continuous story-

Him:  What, with all the trains?

Me:  No not with all the trains.

Him:  Maybe it’s linking up and there’ll be a big train at the end.  The Doctor’s child wanders onto the railway line and he jumps down to save him and then he gets hit by a train and then he’s transported to heaven and then he sees his dead wife and then he’s finally able to have the child meet his mother.

Me:  And that’s a really happy ending.  And nobody screams.  I thought the grabbing hand in the tunnel was great.  It looks like the cover of Year Zero by Nine Inch Nails, and the idea’s very similar as well.

Him:  It reminded me of the Wallmasters from The Ocarina of Time.  You see the shadow.  The shadow grows.  Then the shadow flats down.  Very similar to that.

Me:  Was it the chap who was number twenty-two?

Him:  Number twenty-two, yeah.

Me:  When he became 2D…  You know in-

Him:  The thing is, he checks his jacket.

Me:  It’s after that they get him.  In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the bridge is the same kind of idea.  Old films used matte and glass paintings to create a similar effect. 

Him:  Glass paintings are rubbish.  As people discovered, if you dip a paintbrush into glass nothing actually happens.  That’s why glass painting tend to just be white sheets of paper.

Me:  Anything else you want to say about anything?  I should say it was nice to see Christopher Fairbank again.

Him:  It was interesting collection of characters.

Me:  It was.  Fenton was very unsympathetic.  Foreshadowing maybe?  Sometimes the ‘wrong’ ones make it.

Him:  Goodness knows, maybe he’s the Meddling Monk again?6

Me:  Would you like to expand on that theory?

Him:  No.  But I’m surprised you didn’t come up with it.  As I was watching it, I thought, “That’s the first theory he’s going to come up with.”

Me:  Because he got through the psychic paper?  With Fenton it’s a lack of imagination.  With the rock and roll Billy Shakespeare it’s too much imagination and a big old beard.

Him:  And what about the scientist guy?

Me:  Which one?

Him:  Are you not remembering this?  Right at the end of Army of Ghosts.  I think.  Or at the start of Doomsday.

Me:  That’s because he’s been trained.  Yeah, yeah, yeah – part of Torchwood.

Him:  I don’t know.

Me:  I think you’re right.  Do you want to make two dimensional noises now?

Him:  cqlrqkql cqlrqkql

Me:  And on that bombshell!


How am I going to spell that?

Him:  Ha!

1.  Still like a sea-badger.

2.  Both of you probably remember that I once wrote a four-dimensional history of Doctor Who for the Celestial Toyroom, the Doctor Who Appreciation Society magazine.  I’ll see if I can dig it out for you.

3.  Flatland, eh?  Edwin A. Abbot’s original was written in 1884, the same year that Hinton's essay came out.  Must've been something in the air.  There've been several adaptations of Flatland, but the Him's talking about the movie rather than the film.  Glad to clear that up.

4.  It was/wasn’t/is/will be.   Apparently, Asmodeus is keen on the Fibonacci sequence, which us brings back to the golden ratio, where we didn’t start.

5.  As the Doctor says, “I’m from the race that built the TARDIS.  Dimensions are kind of our thing.”  So, if Perkins is the Monk…  He also seemed to be carrying around the same iPad as Missy – you both spotted that, yeah?  The Him certainly did.  Personally, I’m drifting back to my World of Fiction ‘theory’.  But, if you want to say ‘miniscope’ based on the big hand that dragged the fellow into the light, don’t let me stop you.  After all, we’re all imaginary zeros and ones in here.6

6.  blah blah it’s the Master blah

7.  It’s not ‘Two Gentlemen’.  I first read about it in the Fortean Times issue 202, and here’s a piece on it in The Guardian.8

9.  Yeah, I had to look up ‘Boneless’ – didn’t catch it first time round.

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