In ‘Flatline’ the Doctor encounter an alien race from a two dimensional plane. Until now the very existence of such a dimension was only a theory and this would appear to be the visit contact that anyone has made with such beings.
The Doctor eventually name them Boneless but there is much about them that is still a mystery. Through much of the episode there is a question of their motivation, with the Doctor hoping that they are just explorers who don’t realise the harm they are causing. By the end the Time Lord has come to the conclusion that they are monsters and banishes them.
The Boneless initially manifest as several flat creatures that slither along flat surfaces. We might assume that each line is an individual member of the species and that they hunt in packs but it could equally be hordes of small entities assembled in a line or one single organism.
By the time that the TARDIS arrives people appear to have been disappearing in Bristol for several weeks, enough time for makeshift memorial to be placed at the underpass and for people to think that the police were never going to investigate.
The first incident occurs at the home of Mr Heath. Later the disappearances are confined to the Estate. Mr Heath is the first person reported missing but that doesn’t mean there weren’t victims before him. The Boneless might have first made contact with animals before moving on to humans.
We know little about Mr Heath. Was he the first victim by chance or did he do something that attracted the attention of the Boneless? Could it be that he made contact with them first or deliberately brought them into a higher dimension.
There is no evidence to indicate that he was a victim of the Boneless, only that he is missing. Certainly there is no indication that he was dissected. This could lead to future encounters involving the mysterious Mr Heath and the other horrors he brings into our world.
After Mr Heath why did the Boneless turn their attention to the estate? Could it be that the higher population density of humans in the region was more suited to their needs? The cross section of humanity could have helped them understand how three dimensional beings live.
PC Forrest learnt to her peril that the Boneless were still infesting the home of Mr Heath. Could it be that they never left? This could mean that the Boneless at the Estate are a different group of explorers or that consuming Mr Heath allowed the Boneless to procreate, sending their new spawn to colonise a new area.
The Boneless don’t just kill people at the estate. They manifest what appears to be graffiti depicting tire traces and hand and foot prints. The Doctor later theorises that this was an attempt to communicate, since these tracks are how a two dimensional being would view our world.
If the Doctor is correct did the Boneless perceive these 2D symbols before or after they breached the 3D dimension? If it was before it is possible that the divide between worlds is thin, that the Boneless had seen these traces of our world for eons. If it was after it could be that their world is entirely separate from our reality.
Did the Boneless manifest these images before or after they began absorbing people? Could it be that they were testing to see if the humans were intelligent and when they didn’t get a response move on to an experimentation phase?
We know that Rigsby was at least one graffiti artist on the estate. What would the Boneless have made of his marks on the walls? Could this have been perceived as an attempt at communicating? Might the graffiti have been interpreted as a threat? Certainly those Boneless posing as a mural lash out when the community workers attempt to paint over them.
The mural in the underpass is revealed to actually be where the Boneless are gathering, wearing the shapes of those they have killed. It could be that the choose the underpass as a good place to watch the community come and go. It would be a good place to hunt but most of the kills we are shown occur in the victims home.
Initially all of the mural figures have their back turned to the viewer. Could this be how the Boneless perceived their victims, indicating that they were attacked while walking away or on their backs (with the Boneless absorbing them from the ground they lay on).
It might be that it is easier for them to imitate the back of their victims since they still have trouble with human features. Their later, juddering forms lack expression, indicating that they haven’t mastered this and so it is easier for them just to not show the face.
Once their presence has been revealed this flat figures do ‘turn’, showing that the Boneless have grasped some of the principles of perspective. At this stage each individual melts into a mass of transparent snake-like creatures that swarm forward.
The Doctor will later suggest that the Boneless were on a mission of infiltration. If the time travellers hadn’t arrived it is possible that with enough time to observe their targets they could manifest on their own in 3D, wearing the faces of the dead.
Since their victims are considered to be only missing, not dead, they might have been able to impersonate the departed. Their loving friends and relatives could have welcomed them with open arms, allowing the Boneless to gather more victims or learn more about Earth.
PCs could encounter a situation like this, where the Boneless have successfully achieve this stage of infiltration. They’ll need to work out what the Boneless plan next while working out how they are going to convince others that the missing haven’t returned after all.
To Be Continued…