Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Doctor Who: Flux: Series 13 Review

Review by Paul Bowler

Doctor Who Flux blasted onto our screens this Halloween staring Jodie Whittaker as the 13th incarnation of the Time Lord, along with Mandip Gill as Yaz, and new travelling companion Dan played by John Bishop.  This series will also feature Game of Thrones actor Jacob Anderson as Vinder, and a host of monsters including the Weeping Angels, Sontarans, beings known as the Ravagers and many, many more! Series 13, or Doctor Who Flux as its subtitled, is the first time modern Doctor Who has told a single story across the space of a whole series (a move necessitated in part by logistics and COVID restrictions), but given Chris Chibnall’s history with serialised drama – most notably ITV’s smash-hit Broadchruch – its perhaps no surprise this format would have been adopted at some point during his tenure as show runner anyway.

Each of this seasons six episodes have been written by Chris Chibnall, apart from episode four which has been co-witten with Maxine Alderton who wrote 2020’s The Haunting of Villa Diodati. The workload behind the camera has been split between two directors as well, with Jamie Magnus Stone (Spyfall Part One, Ascension of the Cybermen and the Timeless Children) handling episodes one, two and four, with newcomer Azhur Salee on episode three, five and six. 

The new series kicks off with the appropriately Halloween themed season premier, The Halloween Apocalypse. Its Halloween time all across the universe, and horrifying forces are awakening. Everywhere, from an industrial excavation in Liverpool 1820, to the Artic Circle, and the void of deep space an ancient evil imprisoned since the dawn of the universe is starting to break free! Back on present-day Earth, in Liverpool, the life of Dan Lewis will soon change forever after he’s hijacked by an alien and propelled into an adventure with the Doctor and Yaz in the TARDIS. 

Doctor Who Flux certainly starts with a bang with The Halloween Apocalypse, plunging the 13th Doctor and her companions into what can best be described as season finale level action and intensity right from the outset, with the Time Lord hot on the trail of the canine looking alien called Karvanista (Craig Els) who has worked for the Division – the mysterious Time Lord cabal behind Series 12’s ‘Timeless Child’ reworking of the Doctor’s origins. Jodie Whittaker is assuredly confident in her role now as the 13th Doctor, with the Time Lord pushed to the edge as the TARDIS starts to malfunction just as she’s attempting to unravel the mysterious enigma known as the Flux.

Mandip Gill has also come into her own as Yaz since the end of Series 12, she’s not afraid to challenge the Doctor when it’s clear the Time Lord has been keeping secrets, and she’s adept enough with alien technology now to enable her to help Dan escape from his cage on Karvinista’s ship. Comedian John Bishop makes a welcome addition to this TARDIS team as Dan Lewis, a  fun everyman style character. Bishop brings a delightful sense of warmth and Liverpudlian humour to Dan, a classic audience associative figure, who gets kidnapped by Karvanista on Halloween, and ends up being rescued by Yaz and the Doctor – leading to Dan’s priceless reaction to stepping into the TARDIS for the first time. Jacob Anderson also debuts in the first chapter of Flux as Vinder, who is based on the intriguingly named Observation Outpost Rose in deep space, and is the first character to witness first hand the destructive power of the Flux – a cataclysmic force that’s sweeping across the cosmos.

Chibnall  is clearly setting up major aspects of Doctor Who Flux with the introduction of the Swarm.

With old enemies of the Doctor kicking around in the background waiting to make their move and an armada of Karvanista’s species spaceships on their way to Earth, it seems we are only scratching the surface of the forces gathering against the Time Lord. Sam Spruell’s ghoulish turn as the Swarm may prove to be one of the Doctor’s scariest and deadliest foes yet. Chibnall  is clearly setting up major aspects of Doctor Who Flux with the introduction of the Swarm, a former archenemy of the Doctor in their life as Division agents before their memories were wiped, whose his psychic connection to the Doctor leads to some of this episodes most dramatic moments, and chillingly he knows the Time Lord but the Doctor is left complexly on the back foot as she has no idea who he is. The Swarm also travels to Earth in a hauntingly creepy scene to revive his sister, Azure (Rochenda Sandall), who is hiding in human form in a remote house near the Artic circle. The Halloween Apocalypse is chock full of scary moments. The Swam is frighteningly powerful, seemingly draining his victims body and soul as he renews himself. The creepiest scenes though had Annabel Scholey’s mysterious character, Claire, who claims she’d taken “the long way round” (a phrase closely associated with the Doctor’s own journey to find Gallifrey), and has a frightening encounter with a Weeping Angel on her doorstep!

So, with the Doctor bewildered and the TARDIS on the run from the Flux, seemingly immune to even a face-full of time vortex energy shot from the time machines leaky crystalline central console, and seven billion spaceships from Karvanista’s dog-faced Lupari species about to prove they may actually be man’s best friend after all The Halloween Apocalypse proved to be a resounding success. I had to keep pausing the episode to answer to the door to trick-or-treaters, but other than that I thought it was a great action-packed series premier, with an epic scale, and a menacing new adversary to boot. All that and we got a doozy of a cliffhanger too, with the Doctor confounded by the Flux, and the warmongering Sontarans returning as well. The Halloween Apocalypse felt like proper old-fashioned Doctor Who again at last!

The Cloister Bell rings out in the ominous aftermath of the TARDIS being engulfed by the Flux as War of the Sontarans transports the Doctor and her companions into an unexpected encounter with one of her oldest and deadliest foes, the Sontarans, who have become a new faction during the Crimean War! This exciting second chapter of Doctor Who Flux marks a dramatic change of pace as Chris Chibnall sends the Doctor, Yaz and Dan off on three separate adventures – with the Doctor teaming up with renowned nurse Mary Seacole (Sarah Powelll) for the historical portion, while Dan returns home to contemporary Earth where Liverpool docks have been turned into a Sontaran ship yard, and Yaz finds herself transported to a mysterious temple on a planet called Time along with Vinder. 

Even though the Flux is rapidly obliterating the universe the Sontarans have eagerly seized the chance to use the Crimean War as a staging ground for their temporal assault on Earth’s history. The militaristic clone race of the Sontarans positively relish the chance to engage in what they perceive as a glorious conflict. Skaak / Sontaran Commander Riskaw, brilliantly played by Jonathan Watson, is the ruthless Sontaran leader who confronts the Doctor on the field of battle, Jodie Whitaker excels here as the Doctor intervenes spectacularly, and Dan Starky (who has played a number of Sontaran’s in the past, most notably Strax of the Paternoster Gang) stars as the injured Sontaran Svild who has hilariously suffered the indignation of been captured by the British and nursed by Mary Seacole. This is the first time we’ve really seen the Sontarans en masse like this since The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky (2008), and the battle sequences in War of the Sontarans mark a truly spectacular return to form for them.

War of the Sontarans is an action-packed, exciting and fun run-around for the 13th Doctor and her companions.

Jodie Whittaker really gets some great material to sink her teeth into with this episode as the Doctor struggles to prevent the British army going into battle against the Sontarans. The 13th Doctor is still desperately playing a game of catch up, with the TARDIS continuing to malfunction alarmingly, and even the Sontarans frustratingly seeming to know more about the Flux than she does. Whittaker’s Doctor and Sarah Powelll’s excellent turn as Mary Seacole makes for an inspired historical team-up with the Time Lord, the compassionate Mary Seacole’s moving words of wisdom about the futility of war resonate powerfully with the stories darker elements, and the Doctor’s disgust with General Logan (Gerald Kyd) after he blows up retreating Sontarans is perhaps one of the most ‘Doctorish’ moments of Whittaker’s era so far.

Dan Lewis is rapidly becoming one of my favourite NuWho companions, and John Bishop almost steals the show in this episode. We briefly meet Dan’s parents after he’s displaced back through time to present-day Earth, before he sets off to find a way to stop the ‘potato head’ aliens that have taken over Liverpool docks armed only with a wock and his wits! Fortunately Karvanista shows up just in tine to pull his fat out of the fire, the dynamic between Bishop’s and Craig Els’s characters is great fun, and one of the highlights of this episode. 

Yaz, who has also been displaced in time like Dan, ends up in the Temple of Atropos along with Vinder from Observation Outpost Rose. Mandip Gill gets to do all the fun exploring bits in War of the Sontarans as Yaz ventures into the temple (blagging her way through mystery and danger no doubt in part thanks to an ingenious note she’s written on the palm of her hand during an inspired note-to-self moment between adventures), and bizarrely encountering one of the Liverpool industrialists from 1820 before meeting a curious triangular automated Priest (voiced by Nigel  Richard Lambert) that asks if she can help repair the damage the Flux has done to the temple and the Mouri – silent quantum locked women held in stasis that miraculously maintain the very flow of time. Yaz also meets Jacob Anderson’s Vinder here, there’s clearly an instant chemistry between them, but Vinder’s character still remains a frustratingly unknown quantity at this point. 

The fear factor gets ramped up to the max when the Swarm and his sister, Azure, enter the Temple of Atropos. Sam Spruell and Rochenda Sandall’s scenery chewing performances continue to impress, although this time their characters are accompanied by a mysterious newcomer – the Passenger (Johnny Mathers). While the Sontarans are brutish, bloodthirsty and not the smartest aliens on the block, this trinity of terror are clearly seeking to capitalise on the damage caused by the Flux. Chris Chibnall masterfully juggles storylines and characters, providing just enough hints and revelations about the Flux and the Swam’s plans to keep us guessing and on the edge of our seats – especially given that chilling finger-snapping cliff-hanger!

War of the Sontarans is an action-packed, exciting and fun run-around for the 13th Doctor and her companions. The corruption of the TARDIS by the Flux, with even time itself seemingly damaged, has certainly raised the bar in terms of the sheer scope and scale of the danger the Doctor faces. With its stylish blend of historical and sci-fi action, awesome battle scenes, and callbacks to the Sontarans first appearances in 1973’s The Time Warrior, War of the Sontarans is easily one of Series 13’s best, and indeed the modern series’, most standout episodes.

After two bombastic scene-setting episodes, Once Upon a Time allows the 13th Doctor a chance to explore the events behind the universe spanning peril this Flux mini-series has set in motion. Time has been disrupted in the aftermath of the Flux and is running wild. The Doctor throws herself into the heart of the Time Storm in a desperate bid to save her friends from the Swam’s trap, and together they find themselves simultaneously lost and working collectively as they journey through their memories of the past, present and future while time unravels all around them.

The third chapter of Doctor Who Flux is at times both bewildering and brilliant, it reaches  for greatness, and ends up falling into the cracks somewhere between the two. We do finally start to get some answers though, especially concerning the nature and cause of the Flux phenomenon. Jodie Whittaker spots a reversed coat version of her iconic costume as the Doctor explores her unknown past and history with the Division on the planet Time as the Fugitive Doctor, alongside Yaz, Dan and Vinder who experience the Siege of Atropos with her as the Division’s ancient battle with the Swarm and Azure comes to a head. Jo Martin, who first appeared in Fugitive of the Judoon (2020), makes a welcome return as the Fugitive Doctor, another incarnation of the Time Lord, and her scenes offering sage advice as the reflection of Jodie Whittaker’s startled 13th Doctor provides some of the episodes most riveting moments.

Once Upon a Time focuses heavily on the Doctor’s time displaced companions as well. Mandip Gill gets some great scenes, with Yaz’s job as a Police Officer and home-life leading to some especially scary moments with the Weeping Angels, and relations between Yaz and the Doctor continue to feel the strain as the Time Lord’s obsession with recovering secrets from her past seems to threaten to drive a wedge between them. We also learned that Dan was once going to be married during a somber interlude with his would-be girlfriend, Di (Nadia Albina). Bishop really excels in these quieter, emotional scenes, and there’s a perplexing encounter in the 1820’s between Dan and Steve Orman’s Joseph Whilliamson that gets thrown into the mix to keep that unusual plot element spinning in the background as well. 

Most intriguingly though, we actually get some backstory to Jacob Anderson’s character, Vinder, in this episode. It seems Vinder was some kind of intergalactic whistleblower who exposed the throughly unpleasant Grand Serpent’s (Craig Parkinson) dealings and was excelled to Observation Outpost Rose for his troubles, whereby his forlorn messages to his nearest and dearest have been relayed to the newly introduced character Bel, played by Thaddea Graham.

Bel’s narration and story nicely distracts from the more complex aspects of the episode that has time playing games with everyone and the Doctor furiously negotiating with the etherial supersized Mouri. Bel and Vinder’s heartfelt journey in Once Upon a Time seemingly runs along parallel lines across time and space, Bel’s mission parameters knowingly tug at the heart-strings as Vinder’s true love while she single-handedly survives the apocalyptic aftermath of the Flux, evading Dalek patrols and becoming a one-woman army as she battles Cybermen – not bad for an expectant mum-to-be.

The monsters are out in force in Once Upon a Time, with Daleks, Weeping Angels, and the Cybermen all getting a piece of the action.

Sam Spruell’s and Rochenda Sandall’s double act as the gloriously evil Swarm and Azure didn’t really have much to do other than relish being menacing on the sidelines for most of this episode – despite sidekick Passenger actually being a living prison and far more crucial to the plot than expected. Matthew Needham returns again for the role of Old Swarm during the flashbacks to the era of the Fugitive Doctor’s adventure in the Temple of Atropos, however, he’s no match for Spurell’s gleefully villainous addition to the modern series’ pantheon of ‘big bad’s’. Fortunately Spurell is back on hand as Swarm by the end to ramp up the mystery and danger quota just in time for the next episode.

The monsters are out in force in Once Upon a Time, with Daleks, Weeping Angels, and the Cybermen all getting a piece of the action. It was an unexpected surprise to see the Daleks appear during Bel’s monologues, and it was great to see the Weeping Angles again. Although used sparingly, the Weeping Angels had probably the greatest impact, appearing in the Time Storm with the Doctor and creeping up on Yaz in the mirrors of her Police Car, and later striking at her again via a video game she was playing. The Cybermen also returned in force; battling with Bel in her spacecraft. These action-packed scenes were really exciting. However, as they’ve always been my favourite Doctor Who monster I was a bit disappointed that the Cybermen’s appearance related to little more than a cameo and didn’t really contribute  all that much to Once Upon a Time – especially considering how heavily the Cybermen’s presence was promoted for this episode.

If all those Moffat-style time-twisting highjacks Cibnall utilises wasn’t enough it also became apparent that Karnavista’s Lupari species must be extremely long lived, as events in this story surprisingly reveal they were hanging out with the Fugitive Doctor during her time with the Division. Vinder got to have that classic Doctor Who moment of entering the TARDIS for the first time as well (although curiously he seemed to know what a TARDIS was), even though his journey home ultimately ended up being one tinged with sadness, and Barbara Flynn made her first appearance as the enigmatic ‘Awsok’.

The term ‘Temporal Haze’ is bandied about a lot in Once Upon a Time, which probably best surmises what will probably become the Marmite episode of Doctor Who Flux. Covid  filming restrictions also clearly impacted on how some scenes were framed, the plot positively groans under the weight of its often incomprehensible narrative at times, and the scatter-shot dialogue made the episode feel more like the frenetic middle act of a MCU movie than a Doctor Who episode. Despite all that Once Upon a Time still managed to deliver enough shocks and surprises to gloss over most of its shortcomings. Jodie Whittaker’s engaging performance as the Doctor continues to keep everything on an even keel, her incarnation of the Time Lord seems to thrive amidst the chaos, and we also got a super scary cliffhanger with a Weeping Angel in the TARDIS to boot as well!

The Weeping Angels take centre stage for Village of the Angels and bring some good  old-fashioned behind the sofa scares to the fourth chapter of Doctor Who Flux. Chris Chibnall and Maxine Alderton craft a wonderfully creepy tale here with an eerie gothic horror vibe – a genre that Doctor Who has often drawn its influences from with great success in the past – and the episode provides lots genuinely chilling thrills as a result. After a Weeping Angel hijacked the TARDIS and brought them to the village of Medderton in Devon, November 1967, the Time Lord and her friends split up, with Dan and Yaz investigating the mystery of a little girl who has gone missing, while the Doctor meets Professor Eustace Jericho (Kevin McNally) who has been conducting psychic experiments with the help of Claire Brown (Annabel Scholery) – the same woman ambushed on her doorstep by a Weeping Angel in The Halloween Apocalypse. Medderton, or “The Cursed Village” as it is known, is a place haunted by Weeping Angels, where dark secrets lurk in the shadows, and in the graveyard there seems to be one gravestone too many.

Village of the Angels showcase the great dynamic evolving between Yaz and Dan. Mandip Gill and John Bishop are effectively dealt a two-hander by the scrip which sees their characters marooned in 1901 after a frightening encounter with a Weeping Angel. Yaz gets to use her Police skills and Dan gets all the best lines as they come to terms with being trapped in Medderton in the past along with the young girl, Peggy (Poppy Pollynick). It was also tragically sad how Mrs Hayward (Penelope McGhie) turned out to be an older version of Peggy, who’d been ridiculed for years for trying to warn everyone in the village about what happened there when she was ten years old. Poppy Pollynick’s reaction as the young Peggy to the horrific demise of her elderly carers Gerald (Vincent Brimble) and Jean (Jemma Churchill) in 1901, where the village has been taken out of time and space by the Angels, was another of this episodes most disquieting and standout moments. 

The Weeping Angels return with a vengeance in Village of the Angels.

The supporting cast are also superb, especially Annabel Scholey as the psychic Claire and Kevin McNally’s stalwart scientist and war veteran, Professor Eustace Jericho. Their scenes help establish and built the haunting atmosphere that permeates every aspect of this episode, with Jericho’s EEG printing out the image of an Angel, and Claire hallucinating that she has stone wings in one particularly disturbing moment. Claire’s precognitive abilities establish how she was able to know about and find the Doctor in the first episode and how she also knew so much about the Weeping Angels. From this point Village of the Angels goes into full on classic Doctor Who base under siege territory, with Weeping Angels surrounding the Professor’s house, and the Doctor, Claire and Jericho barricading themselves in the basement.

Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor positively excels in this environment, fending off the Weeping Angels, and desperately trying to keep Jericho and Claire safe. It is only when the Doctor telepathically enters Claire’s mind that she uncovers the terrifying truth. Claire has a Rogue Weeping Angel hiding inside her mind, the other Angels are a quantum extraction squad sent to find her, and what’s more, the Angels are working for the Division!

After the revelation in the Timeless Children it would seem the secret Time Lord organisation is still very much present and active in the universe. Jodie Whittaker gives a commanding performance as her Doctor has to grapple with peril on all sides, whilst trying to stay one step ahead of the Angels, and come to terms with the secrets of her past.

The Weeping Angels return with a vengeance in Village of the Angels. Ever since their first appearance in the highly acclaimed episode Blink (2007), the Weeping Angels have become one of the modern series’ most popular monsters. Village of the Angels plays out like a greatest hits of their scariest moments: from dust in the eye, to lurking in graveyards, with Claire’s torn-up drawing of an Angel notably reassembling as it projects itself into the room and then bursts into flames when the Doctor sets the sketch alight, there’s an underground tunnel with Angels growing out of the walls, and perhaps most unnervingly of all they use Professor Jericho’s own voice to play on his insecurities in an attempt to make him lower his guard.

Bel’s voyage to find her soulmate continues in a brief interlude to the main action, with Thaddea Graham’s character travelling to a barren world where she saves Namaca (Blake Harrison) when Azure and Passenger show up to rescue refugees that have gathered on the planet in the aftermath of the Flux event. Sadly Swarm didn’t appear in this episode but we did get to see Passenger’s powers in action. Jacob Anderson also featured during a brief mid-post credit scene, where Vinder discovers Bel is still alive after Namaca leads him to a holo-recording that she’d left for him. 

This episode had it all. Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor even got to utter the 3rd Doctor’s (Jon Pertwee) iconic catchphrase “reverse the polarity of the neutron flow” at one point! With the Rogue Angles dire warnings about what the Doctor will soon find out about herself Village of the Angels races towards its nail-biting cliffhanger. With Dan, Yaz, Peggy and the Professor trapped in 1901, they can only watch on helplessly across the divide of time to 1967 where the Doctor slowly turns to stone, wings growing on her back, as she is imprisoned as an Angel to be ‘recalled’ by the Division.

As cliffhangers go, this one was right up there with the  best, and it rounded off this brilliant episode in jaw-dropping style. Village of the Angels is the undisputed jewel in the crown of Doctor Who Flux, as riveting as it was scary, and easily one of the best episode of the 13th Doctor’s era.

In the penultimate episode of Doctor Who Flux the Doctor, Yaz, Dan and Professor Jericho must face their most perilous journey of all. Survivors of the Flux sees their quest to save the universe confounded by circumstance and insurmountable odds at nearly every turn. As the Doctor confronts her Weeping Angel captors while in transit to the Division, her stranded TARDIS team go tomb raiding in 1904 in order to decrypt an ancient text that can help them find their way back to the Doctor. 

Chris Chibnall skilfully manages to bring numerous plot threads together in Survivors of the Flux, with the Doctor’s opening monologue rapidly connecting the dots for the audience, and numerous characters story-arcs dramatically intersecting with one another as Flux races towards its conclusion. Of course, any enjoyment of this episode and its impact on the Doctor’s legacy depends very much on whether you liked the Timeless Child arc which set-up the Division as a secret means for the Time Lords to meddle indiscriminately with the development of the universe, and revealed that the Doctor was also the Timeless Child.

Survivors of the Flux reintroduces Barbara Flynn’s character, now called Tecteun, along with an Ood  (Simon Carew) servant, when the Doctor arrives at Division HQ’s bizarre vessel on the fringes of the multiverse. Here the mysteries of the Flux finally begin to unfold as the Doctor learns the Division has expanded across all of time and space, recruiting countless alien species, and now they want to take their mission to other universes – burning ours on their way out. What’s more the Division caused the Flux to prevent the Doctor uncovering the truth about their organisation and Tecteun was the Gallifreyan who found the Timeless Child and stole its genetic ability of regeneration for the Time Lords. She was also responsible for wiping the Doctor’s memories – memories which now tantalising reside in a fob watch. Jodie Whittaker gives a towering performance in this episode, running a gauntlet of emotions during her powerful exchanges with Tecteun, and Barbara Flynn is wickedly chilling as the Doctor’s cold-hearted ‘adoptive mother’.

Survivors of the Flux was a really ‘Ood’ and exciting episode.

One of the most fun aspects of this episode through was the light-hearted Indiana Jones style adventures in 1904 that Yaz, Dan and Jericho’s embarked upon. Mandip Gill really stood out here as Yaz has clearly taken charge of this TARDIS team in the Doctor’s absence, and calls all the shots throughout their globetrotting quest. The moment where Yaz watches the adaptive hologram recording the Doctor managed to secretly make for her was especially moving too.

Kevin McNally’s Jericho was another great addition to the team, gleefully sharing the comedy spotlight with John Bishop’s cheeky Dan Lewis, and proving to be the perfect foil to mix-up the dynamic between Yaz and Dan as bit as well. There were some brilliant moments as they encountered a hilarious Hermit in Nepal, Karnavista’s reaction to their attempt to get a message to him was priceless, and they also got to meet Joseph Williamson as the mystery behind the industrialists haphazard appearances throughout the 19th century in Doctor Who Flux were finally made clear at last.

Another surprise was seeing Craig Parkinson’s Grand Serpent return in a far more villainous capacity, this time on Earth under the alias of Prentis. It would seem this mysterious character has been manipulating UNIT since its formation, and has been present throughout the organisations illustrious history of dealing with extraterrestrial threats. I thought it was wonderful to see these early years of UNIT explored during this episode, with knowing call-backs to that ‘Post Office Tower business” from the 1965 Hartnell story The War Machines, and of course it was lovely to hear the voice of the late Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier when a snippet of dialogue from part four of Terror of the Autons (1971) rang out in the background. To top everything off Jemma Redgrave also returned as UNIT boss Kate Stewart and almost completely stole the show out from everyone in the process! All in all, it was fantastic to see UNIT back in Doctor Who again, especially that tense confrontation between Kate Stewart and Prentis. Mind you, I think having the 13th Doctor’s TARDIS in UNIT HQ during the 1960’s is bound to cause a few temporal hiccups!

While the supporting cast is slightly sidelined events in this episode do lead to some decidedly unexpected team-ups, with Bel and Karnavista’s missions becoming chaotically linked at the worst possible moment for them both, coragerous soldier Vinder and feisty modern-day scouser Di also find themselves in trouble when they inadvertently discover what the Ravagers have planned for the missing citizens of the universe. 

Tecteun’s scheme to burn our universe to cover up her own machinations possibly makes her the most monstrous person we’ve encountered so far in Doctor Who Flux. Everything builds towards a magnificently pitched cliffhanger, with the Lupari shield breached as the Grand Serpents allies – the Sontarans – attack Earth, while the Swarm and Azure show up to enact their revenge on Tecteun and destroy the Doctor. The special effects were outstanding as well, especially the backdrop of countless Weeping Angels featured during the Doctor’s conversion and the cosmic scale of Tecteun’s heinous plans for our universe. Survivors of the Flux was a really ‘Ood’ and exciting episode. Unlike the time twisting Once Upon a Time, Survivors of the Flux juggled all of its timey-wimey threads with consummate ease, every character and throw-away line was relevant to the overarching narrative, and it provided a fantastic set-up for the series finale as well.

All hope seems lost in the explosive final chapter of the Flux. The Vanquishers sees the Ravagers insidious campaign against the Division and the Doctor has come fruition as the forces of darkness take control. The monsters have won. Swarm and Azure are hellbent on unleashing a constant destructive loop as the Flux consumes the universe, Earth has fallen to the Sontaran empire, Kate Stewart is leader of the resistance against the Sontaran occupation, and the Doctor is tempted to delve into the lost memories of her past as the fate of her companions and the universe hangs in the balance! The Vanquishers strikes a fine balance between being both a stand-alone adventure with the Sontarans using Earth as a staging ground for their conquest of the universe and providing a conclusion to the six part Flux story arc. For the most part Chibnall succeeds in this by ingeniously turning the episode into a multi-Doctor story – of sorts – by splitting the Doctor into three personas across multiple time zones and locations. The Time Lord even saves herself form being tortured by Craig Parkinson’s intriguingly double pulsed Grand Serpent at one point, before reuniting with friends and allies alike. Claire (Annabel Scholey) returns to throw a proverbial psychic spanner into the works of the Sontaran Psychic Command and the Odd in Division HQ plays a pivotal role in helping to weaken the  effect of the Flux. Jacob Anderson and Thaddeea Graham’s star-crossed lovers Vinder and Bel also get a happy – if somewhat underwhelming – ending as well.

Chibnall really hit the landing with this one.

Jodie Whittaker’s amazing central performance and multiple portrayals of herself is the driving force of this complex episode. Her Doctor’s warmth and endearing personality makes light work the exposition heavy moments and keeps the narrative engaging. The Vanquishers showcases the 13th Doctor like never before, especially when ‘big bad’s’ Swarm and Azure taunt her with the mysteries of her past, but it is the quieter moments where her incarnation really shines. There are emotionally charged scenes with Yaz in the TARDIS as the Doctor finally admits she’s been keeping secrets from her, Steve Oram’s Joseph Williamson gets a moving farewell  from the Doctor, we also have 13’s first meeting with Jemma Redgrave’s tough-as-nails Kate Stewart (who fittingly also sends the Grand Serpent packing), and perhaps most heartrending of all is the scene where Whittaker’s Doctor realises Craig Els’ grumpy space-hound Karnavista once travelled with her during the Fugitive Doctor’s era.

The Sontarans are as ruthless as ever, invading Earth, exterminating the Lupari and even  luring the Daleks and Cybermen fleets into a trap – although I’m surprised either of these intergalactic superpowers actually fell for it but it certainly made for some spectacular special effect sequences as the Flux closed in. The Sontarans plans quickly came unstuck after Karnavista turned the Lupari ships against them, Professor Jericho (Kevin McNally) met a noble end, Di’s (Nadia Albina’s) inspired idea of using Passenger to absorb the Flux also helped save the day, while Swarm and Azure were fittingly vanquished, and the Doctor got a reckoning with time itself to round everything off. Even though the multi faceted resolution and drawn out coda got a tad convoluted, Chibnall really hit the landing with this one. So, with Karnavista, Vinder and Bel setting out on their own and a Masterful portent about the Doctor’s impending fate looming Doctor Who Flux concluded with the tantalising prospect. Namely that of the fob watch containing the Doctor’s forgotten memories being squirrelled away in the depths of the TARDIS for safekeeping by the Doctor, and best of all John Bishop’s character Dan joined the TARDIS team for more adventures in time and space.

Chris Chibnall delivered a truly epic saga with Doctor Who Flux. I really like how Chibnall drew influences from so many eras of Doctor Who and included plenty of fan-pleasing callbacks to the shows past. Although the Timeless Child reboot of the Doctor’s origins is no doubt still a dealbreaker for many, given its context post Flux it arguably complements the Time Lords legacy now rather than detracting from it. The entire cast, crew and production team clearly pulled out all the stops to make this series under the most difficult of circumstances during the pandemic – a commendable feat in itself. Doctor Who Flux had some outstanding episodes, high production values, and stunning visual effects. The reduced episode count and serialised approach offered a more concisely structured narrative, and with a veritable army of popular returning monsters to endanger the universe it got Doctor Who firing on all cylinders again – both creatively and dramatically.

Jodie Whittaker’s outstanding performance as Doctor was another major highlight of this mini-seres. Her incarnation of the Time Lord has come a long way since Whittaker’s bright and breezy debut in 2018’s The Woman Who Fell To Earth, and the 13th Doctor became an all-commanding presence that has positively flourished here during the crisis of the Flux. Mandip Gill has also excelled as Yaz, with the character finally shrugging off the trope of being the underdeveloped third wheel of the TARDIS team, and John Bishop was absolutely brilliant as new companion Dan Lewis.

Overall I think Doctor Who Flux turned out to be an extremely good season, one that was actually much better than I expected to be honest, and minor quibbles aside I throughly enjoyed it. I also took the decision to write a series overview of Doctor Who Flux this time around rather than individual episode reviews. It was nice to try out a new format, I’ve really enjoyed just chilling out watching Doctor Who Flux, and taking a step back from the treadmill of individual episode reviews for a change. 

Well, Doctor Who Flux might be over but the 13th Doctor will return to kick off 2022 in a New Year’s Days Special: Eve of the Daleks. This will be the first of three Doctor Who Specials airing in 2022, with the second arriving in the Spring, and Jodie Whittaker’s final feature-length Special (where the 13th Doctor will regenerate), to be shown during the autumn of 2022 as part of the BBC’s Centenary celebrations before Russel T Davies takes over from Chris Chibnall as the new Doctor Who show runner to usher in the programmes 60th Anniversary in 2023.

IMAGES BELONG BBC

About The Author

Hi, I’m Paul Bowler, blogger and reviewer of films, TV shows, and comic books. I’m a Sci-Fi geek, a big fan of Doctor Who, Star Trek, movies, Sci-Fi, Horror, Comic Books, and all things PS4.You can follow me on Twitter @paul_bowler,or at my website, Sci-Fi Jubilee, and on YouTube and Facebook