Gets set for a swashbuckling adventure with Legend of the Sea Devils, written by show-runner Chris Chibnall and playwright Ella Road, and directed by newcomer Haolu Wang. The Sea Devils make their long awaited return in the modern era just in time for the penultimate story of the 13th Doctor’s era.This blockbusting Doctor Who Easter Special is an action packed adventure set on the high-seas in 19th century China. Its also something of a celebrity historical as the 13th Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her travelling companions Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Dan (John Bishop) encounter a historically real-life character – the fearsome Pirate Queen Madam Ching (Crystal Yu)! However, the TARDIS teams visit to the 19th century quickly goes awry when a small costal village comes under threat from the Pirate Queen and the deep-sea menace of the Sea Devils she’s inadvertently unleashed on the world.
From the moment we learn the TARDIS has been sent off course to China there is an almost palpable sense of excitement in the air. Jodie Whittaker is quite simply marvellous in her role here as the 13th Doctor in this episode, and her bright and breezy incarnation sails through the dramatic beats of the story with ease as she confronts her old foes – the Sea Devils. I really like the dynamic between this TARDIS team, Mandip Gill really comes into her own in this story too, and John Bishop is a pure delight as Dan. The growing closeness between the Doctor and Yaz which became apparent in Eve of the Daleks (2022) is another narrative thread that has been carried over into Legend of the Sea Devils as well. This episode sees some major costume changes for the Time Lord and her companions, the Doctor’s costume get a slight revamp with a striking oriental style top, Yaz has a beautiful double wrap-around skirt and best of all Dan gets to dress up as a pirate!
Along with the regular cast the episode also features Crystal Yu as the legendary Pirate Queen Madame Ching. Yu gives a great performance as the tough-as-nails Pirate Queen, who is searching for a lost treasure. Madame Ching’s quest soon finds her encountering the Doctor and crossing swords with the Sea Devils alongside the Time Lord as the amphibians return from the ocean depths. The cast also includes Arthur Lee as Ji-Hun and Marlow Chan-Reeves as Ying Ki who each play key roles in the swash buckling shenanigans of Legend of the Sea Devils.
It has been 50 years since the Doctor first encountered the aquatic Sea Devils. Chris Chibnall and co-writer Ella Road have crafted a really fun and exciting return for them here. Many fans, myself included, have long hoped these classic monsters who first appeared in 1972’s The Sea Devils, the 3rd Doctor story written by Malcolm Hulke, would return at some point, and I’m happy to say they’ve certainly done them justice with Legend of the Sea Devils. These new look Sea Devils may have swapped their string vests for the garb of buccaneer Pirates, but they’ve still retained their iconic look and distinctive whispery voices.
The Sea Devils chief Marsissus is played by Craige Els (Karvanista in Doctor Who Flux), he’s brilliant as Marsissus, especially during his confrontations with the Doctor, and the seafaring Pirate action when the Sea Devils strike provide many spectacular sights to behold as this story unfolds!
Legend of the Sea Devils not only provides a fantastic showcase for the 13th Doctor and her friends, it’s also a triumph for the production team who have clearly gone all out to make this episode really special. The fact Legend of the Sea Devils was also filmed under COVID restrictions makes what’s been achieved all the more impressive. Everything from the fishing village to the massive galleon ship sets, exquisite costume designs, period detail, along with the terrific new Pirate Sea Devils, stunning visual effects and Haolu Wang’s stylish direction all combine to make Legend of the Sea Devils a throughly enjoyable and thrilling adventure.
This Easter Special works incredible well as a standalone adventure, with giant sea monsters, pirate ships, the oceans, sword-fights and an ancient coastal village! Its nice to see the main cast in one last regular adventure before the inevitable tumultuous machinations of a regeneration story, before Jodie Whittaker bows out with end of the 13th Doctor’s era in the Doctor Who BBC centenary Special that will air in the autumn of 2022.
Check out the first look at Doctor Who’s feature-length Centenary special!
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
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.
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
A thrilling new adventure awaits Team TARDIS in Resolution, the Doctor Who New Year’s Day Special! The Doctor and her friends return to Earth as the new year is about to begin. But an ancient evil is also rising, something forged throughout centuries of human history, and now it threatens to destroy the entire world.
Although we’ve not had our usual festive themed Doctor Who Christmas special this year, the New Year’s Day special Resolution more than makes up for it. Written by showrunner Chris Chibnal and Directed by Wayne Yip (who also helmed 2017’s The Lie of the Land Empress of Mars for Peter Capaldi‘s final season), Resolution is an epic, fast-paced adventure that sees Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor (now sporting a nice new scarf) uncovering a bizarre archaeological mystery in Sheffield together with her companions Graham (Bradley Walsh), Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Ryan (Tosin Cole), along with new allies Mitch (Nikesh Patel who appeared in Indian Summers) and Lin (played by Call the Midwife star Charlotte Ritchie) who also get caught up in the action.
Following the century spanning opening scenes exploring the myth of some legendary custodians, the full scope and scale of Resolution quickly becomes apparent as Chibnal’s frenetically paced script deftly balances the creeping horror awakening at the archaeological dig beneath the Town Hall in Sheffield with the big action set-pieces. The drama and danger ramps up even further once the Doctor arrives and realises the menace is none other than one her deadliest enemies… the Daleks!
Yes, the Doctor’s greatest foes are back with a bang in Resolution! Well, at least one of them anyway! It transpires in Resolution that this Dalek is a reconnaissance scout that was defeated in the 9th Century, its parts divided around the world to be overseen by custodians, but now it has returned – albeit only initially here in its mutant form. We’ve seen how dangerous a lone Dalek can be before in 2005’s Dalek, and the Dalek in Resolution is every bit as deadly.
The Dalek mutant also goes a bit Venom at one point, forming a symbiotic bond with Lin. She is able to resists long enough for the Doctor to track her down, but not before the Dalek has been able to rebuild itself. I really liked this steampunk style Dalek and how it cobbled itself together. It’s quite a striking design, very different from anything we’ve ever seen before, but instantly recognizable and packed with hidden weapons!
Jodie Whittaker is again on superb form as the Doctor. Its great to finally see her incarnation of the Time Lord face-off against the newly reborn Dalek, and the powerful scenes between them were the highlights of the episode. The Doctor’s companions all get a moment in the spotlight as well, Tosin Cole got some great scenes when Ryan has a reunion with his long absent father, Aaron (Daniel Adegboyega), Bradley Walsh once again gets some emotional scenes as Graham, and Mandip Gill is right at the heart of the action as Yaz. Nikesh Patel and Charlotte Ritchie also make good mini companions for this adventure as Mitch and Lin, especially when Lin is taken over by the Dalek mutant and does all she can to resist the creatures influence.
There are moments of fun in Resolution as well, especially when the Dalek shuts down the UK’s entire internet and Wi-Fi, and the shocked population realise they might have to spend New Year’s Day actually having a real – shock horror – conversation! Not even UNIT is safe these days either, having seemingly been scuttled by Brexit, much to the Doctor’s consternation.
Wayne Yip’s stylish direction keeps Resolution rattling along at a cracking pace, especially once the Dalek trundles into action against the army. The showdown at GCHQ between the DIY junkyard Dalek and the Doctor and her friends is another spectacular action sequence, one that culminates in a final battle inside the TARDIS itself, and a moving reconciliation between Ryan and his father rounds off the episode in fine style.
In many respects Resolution actually feels a lot more like a popper season finale than The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos. I don’t think the shift from Christmas Day to having a New Year’s Day Doctor Who special has been at any detrimental cost to the series either, after all there’s only so many Christmas themed stories you can realistically tell, and this move also offered a chance to do something a bit different with the format. Resolution proved to be an exciting Doctor Who story bursting with action and spectacular effects, it was great to see the new Doctor and Co taking on a Dalek, and it also brought a nice sense of closure to series 11.
A reckoning awaits the Time Lord and her companions in The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos, as the The 13th Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) Graham (Bradley Walsh) , Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Ryan (Tosin Cole ) must answer nine separate distress calls on a remote battle ravaged planet with a perception altering psychic field. On this strange world were swirling mists enshroud dark secrets, a military commander has lost his memory, and who, or what, are the mysterious Ux?
The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos, written by show runner Chris Chibnall and directed by Jamie Childs, is the concluding episode of series 11 (before the special episode on New Years Day), and as season finales go it offers a decidedly unusual, sombre and rather emotional note to round off this years adventures in time and space for the new Doctor and her companions.
Team TARDIS are certainly put through the wringer in this episode as they face their deadliest challenge yet, Its also something of a roller coaster ride of emotions for them too. Furthermore it’s intriguing to note how Chibnall’s scrip focuses on how much the Doctor, Graham, Yaz, and Ryan’s adventures together have forged a strong bond between them. They are all very different people now than when they first met the Doctor, and The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos really challenges the new dynamic that has emerged between them.
Along with the endearing genuine warmth and sense of fun which Jodie Whittaker brings to her incarnation of the Time Lord, she also gets a chance to showcase her Doctor’s powerful inner strength as well. Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole also give exceptional performances in this episode as the Time Lord’s ever dependable team of Graham, Yaz and Ryan. With each of their characters getting a chance to shine as they unite against the threat they face.
This season finale also features a strong guest cast that includes Phyllis Logan (Downton Abby) as Andlinio, Percelle Ascott from Wizards and Aliens as Delph, along with Game of Thrones actor Mark Addy as the amnesiac commander Paltraki, and Jan Le as Umsang.
Following their discovery of a wrecked space-ship on the planet Ranskoor Av Kolos, the Doctor and her companions help commander Paltraki regain his memory (using the same neurobalancers that allow them to resist the psychic field), and together they set out to rescue his crew who have been imprisoned by a familiar foe… the Stenza warrior T’zim-Sha (or Tim Shaw as the Doctor calls him) who was vanquished by the Time Lord and her friends in the series premier: The Woman Who Fell to Earth. But on this world known as “disintegrator of the soul” in its native language the Doctor learns T’zim-Sha has manipulated the Ux, faith driven dimensional engineers of which only two can ever exist at any one time, into believing he is their god and the Stenza intends to use their ability to meld reality with the power of their minds to get revenge on the Doctor by destroying the planet Earth.
I have to say I wasn’t all that surprised to see the warrior T’zim-Sha return for the series finale. It was a tad disappointing to see this toothy alien menace make a comeback, as I don’t think he was that great a monster or threat in the first place, and his scheme to destroy Earth in planet The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos does echo concepts from The Pirate Planet (1978) a bit too much for my liking. That said The Battle Ranskoor Av Kolos did turn out to be a better finale than I was expecting in the end. I especially liked the conflict between the Doctor and Graham that this episode served up. Bradley Walsh once again gave an amazing performance, with his character remaining true to himself, his late wife Grace, and his new friends as good old Graham ends up being the better man for the choices he ultimately makes in the final battle with the Stenza warrior T’zim-Sha.
Chris Chibnall’s script certainly delivered some strong character moments once again for the Doctor and her companions, the plot however did feel a little bit like Sci-Fi by numbers at times, so not quite the epic finale we are used to for Doctor Who really, but the stylish direction by Jamie Childs just about managed to hold everything together – even if resolution bamboozled you with techno-babble and threw all logic out the window to get the job done. So, now that Doctor Who series 11 has concluded and The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos proved to be a relatively good – if somewhat unremarkable – season finale, I guess its time to look back at this series and ask ourselves… was it any good?
One thing’s for sure is that Jodie Whittaker has been a revelation as the 13th Doctor, her performance has been exceptionally good, and she’s no doubt proved a lot of the naysayers wrong who’d dismissed the very notion of having a female Doctor outright. Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole have also been good as Yaz and Ryan, although I’d have liked to have seen Yaz get a bit more character development. Ryan’s growing confidence as he coped with his Dispraxia on his adventures with the Doctor and the others was also handled well throughout the series. For me though, it was Bradley Walsh as Graham who really gave the standout performance of this series. His portrayal of Graham as he coped with his grief over the death of his wife, Grace, along with joining the TARDIS crew and his subsequent adventures in time and space, and being a granddad to Ryan were all brilliantly played by Bradley Walsh.
Chris Chibnall has been ok as show runner, but some of the scripts for this season have at times been a bit hit and miss. For me, this season’s highlights have been Rosa, The Demons of Punjab, The Witchfinders and It Takes You Away. My least favourite story was Kerblam! I think because I had to go into hospital for a couple of weeks mid-way through this series, my interest in this season obviously waned a bit, but despite this no matter how well I thought the regular cast worked together and how different each episode was in tone and style I still can’t shake the feeling that series 11 could have been a lot better than it ultimately was.
The longer episode length did allow a bit more room for plot development, but I really missed not having the two-part stories this year, and the lack of any obvious season-wide story arc coupled with series 11 only being comprised of ten episodes also made it feel like this new season was done and dusted just as it began to hit its stride. I really liked the new theme and title sequence though, although I think it just needs either the Doctor’s face or the TARDIS added to give it that added Doctor Who magic and the new crystalline TARDIS interior was also visually striking and refreshingly different from anything we’ve seen before.
I guess in hindsight Doctor Who series 11 will be probably be regarded as innovative, game changing even, despite being a little too PC and preachy at times, but overall I think series 11 held together quite well. It’s just a shame that the scripts for this season weren’t always as consistently good as they could, and really should have been for the beginning of a new era like this – especially considering the strong performances given by Jodie Whittaker and the rest of the regular cast.
Although sadly the Doctor and her companions wont be back in time for Christmas this year, we’ve still got the New Year’s Day special episode Resolution to look forward too where a terrifying evil from history rises to face the Doctor, Graham, Yaz and Ryan as they return to Earth! While a new adventure with the Doctor should certainly get 2019 off to a great start, the announcement that Series 12 (staring Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor, along with Bradley Walsh as Graham), Mandip Gill as Yaz and Tosin Cole as Ryan) won’t arrive until 2020 will no doubt come as a disappointment for many fans, and perhaps cloud expectation for the New Year’s Day Special a little because we know there’s going to be rather a long wait for the next series of Doctor Who…
Doctor Who Kerblam, The Witchfinders, & It Takes You Away
Review by Paul Bowler
As you probably know from my last few posts, I’ve recently spent some time in hospital after I fell ill with a chest infection again. Obviously this threw my review schedule out the window. Fortunately my review of The Tsuranqa Conundrum was almost completed before I went into hospital, but even though I’m home resting and recovering now I’m still under Doctor’s orders to take things easy. So, after completing a short Demons of Punjab review I decided to surmise my thoughts on Kerblam!, The Witchfinders, and It Takes You Away in a somewhat more truncated form for this post, and then do a more detailed review of the Series 11 finale The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos afterwards in a separate review.
When the Doctor receives a mysterious message in a package delivered to the TARDIS, it leads the Time Lord and her companions Graham, Yaz and Ryan to a moon base warehouse HQ of the galaxies largest retailer – Kerblam! But as the Doctor and her friends investigate the facility they uncover a much wider, and far-reaching conspiracy than they could’ve possibly imagined…
Kerblam! , written by Peter McTighe and directed by Jennifer Perrott, may have a grammatical first in its title for such a long running series like Doctor Who, but sadly that’s probably just about the only remarkable thing I can think of to say about this episode.
The episode started promisingly enough, considering the high jinks when the Doctor received the fez at the start. Indeed, the Time Lord and her companions investigation into discovering who sent the message for help from the Kerblam! facility had great potential. Sadly the plot revolving around this intergalactic answer to Amazon quickly ran out of steam.
The regular cast do their best with the mundane script, but guest stars Julie Hesmondhalgh (Coronation Street, Boradchurch) and Lee Mack (Not Going Out) seemed wasted in their sketchily developed roles. Even the revelation of who was behind everything that’d been happening at Kerblam! , along with their motives, was signposted a mile off and hardly a big surprise either.
Kerblam! was the second episode I watched during my recent stay in hospital. Perhaps it was because I was really looking forward to going home the following week more than I was about watching Doctor Who that Sunday night, I’m not sure, but I really struggled to like anything about Kerblam!. Cheap and tacky looking, Kerblam! has little to commend it, so I must consign it to mediocrity, bubble wrap and all…
The TARDIS brings the Doctor and her companions to 17th century Lancashire, where, in the shadow of Pendle Hill, the nearby townsfolk of Bilehurst Cragg is in the grip of the infamous Witchtrials. The Doctor becomes embroiled in a frightening mystery when they are unable to prevent young Willa Twiston’s (Tilly Steel) grandmother being condemned as a witch, as sinister magic grips the land, and the sudden arrival of King James I only serves to increase the fervour of the witch hunt!
Now this is more like it! The Witchfinders, written by Joy Wilkinson and directed by Sallie Aprahamian, is my kind of Doctor Who story. Grim, brooding themes, a creepy historical setting and a cleverly thought out alien mystery for the Doctor and her friends to solve. Jodie Whittaker continues to impress as the 13th Doctor on every level in this story.
For the first time in this series the Doctor’s gender also becomes an issue of sorts for her to contend with, further highlighting the discrimination and prejudices of this era. Even the sonic and psychic paper are used sparingly in this episode; and actually cause more problems for the Doctor than they help solve. There are good scenes for Ryan, Yaz, and Graham as well and I really like how team TARDIS is meshing together so well as a team now as they help the Doctor uncover the truth behind what has reanimated the victims of the trials that now stalk the land.
The Bafta winning, Golden Globe nominated actor, and star of Hollywood and Broadway, Alan Cunningham totally steals the show as King James in the Withcfinders. His performances as the witch-fearing King is deliciously wicked and fun. The King’s initial attitude towards the Doctor is priceless, especially when he appoints Graham as Witchfinder General over her, and King James’ flirting with Ryan is also hilarious. Slobhan Flnneran (Downton Abby, Happy Valley, Clocking Off) also guest stars as the ruthless Becka Savage, a character whose uncompromising zeal for the witch trials ultimately proves her undoing.
Complementing the story perfectly is this weeks monster of the week, the Morax! An ancient alien species imprisoned on Earth for war crimes, these disembodied entities were inadvertently released from their high-tech prison within Pendle Hill when Becka damaged a tree connected to its locking systems. The Morax possessed mud-caked victims of the trials are without doubt one of series 11’s most effective monster yet, and they provide plenty of nightmarish chills throughout the episode.
Sure, the episode got a little bit carried away by its own ambition, but the script and direction were bang on the money. I really enjoyed The Witchfinders. It was a thrillingly dark, atmospheric story, the main cast were all on fine form, the monsters were frighteningly realized on screen, and Alan Cummings was great as King James. Easily my favourite story of series 11 so far!
It Takes You Away
In the penultimate episode of Series 11, The Doctor, Graham, Yaz, and Ryan embark on a decidedly sombre adventure when Team TARDIS arrives in the present day on the edge of Norwegian fjord. In true Scandinavian fashion, the Time Lord and her friends quickly uncover a mystery surrounding an old boarded up cottage, where a young girl desperately needs their help, and a powerful danger will soon strike at them all.
It Takes You Away, written by Ed Hime and directed by Jamie Childs, is a brooding, atmospheric episode. It tells the story of Hanne (played by the blind actress Elle Wallwork, her scary predicament blends chills and sci-fi themes in equal measure, and the path the Doctor and her companions must take in order to save her.
Jodie Whittaker seems to have really settled into her role as the Doctor now. This story gives her, along with Mandip Gill, Tosin Cole and especially Bradley Walsh some terrific character moments – further highlighting just how well this regular cast work collectively as a whole. Elle Wallwork is outstanding as Hanne too. The guest cast also features the actor and comedian, Kevin Eldon, with Christian Rubeck as Erik, and Lisa Stokke as Trine.
Naturally, together with the underlying question of what really happened here, there’s also a monster lurking in the woods near the cottage, and soon the Doctor must confront a terrifying threat. But who, or what, is the frightening Ribbons?
The answers come soon enough as the Scandi-Noir tone of It Takes You Away spins off into Sci-Fi thrills and chills. With the discovery of a mirror without a reflection that leads to an Anti-Zone (a realm created by the universe as a buffer against a catastrophic event) , the Doctor and her friends encounter the treacherous creature known as Ribbons (chillingly portrayed by Kevin Eldon), face deadly flesh eating moths, and eventually flee through another portal back to the house.
It is here where Ed Hime’s script really hits it stride, juggling big concepts, and powerful emotional themes as the Doctor realizes they are in is a parallel dimension (the visual subtleties of its reverse reflective state are also a great touch) created by a sentient universe called The Solitract. It has used its power to construct this environment along with a duplicate of Hanne’s mother Trine to lure her father, Erick, back to this place and keep him there. I love how the direction here by Jamie Childs brings a dream-like quickly to these scenes, especially when Graham’s late wife, Grace (Sharon D Clarke), also appears, and Bradley Walsh’s subsequent performance as the grief stricken Graham proves truly moving when he is almost overwhelmed at seemingly being reunited with her again.
The Doctor also puts everything on the line to save Hanne, her father, and her companions from the unstable dimension. Jodie Whittaker is sublime here as the Doctor faces the uncanny face-off with the true frog form of The Solitact in its own universe. The ensuing meeting of minds here is a wonderful scene and its beautiful played by Whittaker.
There’s even a fun nod to the Pertwee era in this episode as well when Yaz suggests at one point that the Doctor should try reversing the polarity! Having Ryan finally call Graham granddad at the end of the story was also a nice way close the episode. With its great story, beautiful direction, and strong performances from the cast, this one had it all for me. Eerie, bizarre, and more than a little surreal, It Takes You Away was one of the most enjoyable and satisfying episodes of this new series so far!
Sorry to be so short and to the point, but hopefully I got my views across ok, and it was fun to play around with the format of reviewing Doctor Who stories a bit. Let me know, do you like this way of reviewing a whole TV series, more like an overview say, or do you prefer the more detailed, individual episode approach I tend to use, or a mix of both?
Well, I’m all caught up with Doctor Who series 11 now and really looking forward to seeing what the season finale The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos will bring!
The adventures of the new TARDIS team continue as the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her companions Graham (Bradley Walsh), Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Ryan (Tosin Cole) arrive in Punjab in 1947, just as Partition is declared in India. Yaz resolves to discover more about her grandmother’s history and the events that led her into keeping a tragic secret; meanwhile the Doctor sets out to confront the sinister demons that have been mysteriously appearing across the land…
Demons of the Punjab, written by Vinay Patel (Murdered by my Fahter) and directed by Jamie Childs, is a deeply moving and tragically dark story. Yaz wants to lean about her families past, so having a friend with a time machine comes in handy, and she persuades the Doctor to take her back in time to the day when her grandmother got married.
It’s not long before the Doctor realises the significance of the world changing events they have inadvertently become involved in. Partition would herald stark divides; the displacement of millions of people, and terrible violence that would change lives forever, and now the Doctor and her fiends must tread softly in the past and let events transpire – despite their foreknowledge of the heartbreaking tragedy Yaz’s nanni with face.
Jodie Whittaker gives one of her finest performances to date as the Doctor. Bradley Walsh and Tosin Cole also acquit themselves well as Graham and Ryan, but it is Mandip Gill as Yaz who really takes centre stage in this episode about her gan’s past. The extensive guest cast which features Leena Dhingra as Nani Umbreen, Amita Suman as Umbreen, Shane Zaza as Prem, Hamza Jeetooa as Manish, Shaheen Khan as Hasna, Shobna Gulati as Najia Khan, Ravin J Gantra as Hakim Khan, Bhavnisa Pramar as Sonya Khanm, and Barbara Fadden as Almak all give strong performances.
Doing history on such a human scale is what Doctor Who does best, never more so than when the drama plays out against the backdrop of such powerful themes and personal issues like this. Obviously being a family show, Partition isn’t realised in a graphic way on screen, but the emotional fallout and sombre tone that builds throughout the episode actually makes the depiction of these events and the way it would shape the life which Yaz’s gran would lead ultimately feels a lot more powerful and poignant as a result.
Naturally, being Doctor Who there are monsters for the Doctor to contend with. Initially thought of as demons by those who’d seen them, these creatures which have been glimpsed as people are about to die alone, are the Thjarians. Once know and feared as the deadliest assassins in the universe, the Thjarians civilization is now gone, and these two lone survivors of their kind now travel endlessly to witness those who will perish alone because they themselves were not there to witness or honour the destruction of their own civilization.
The location filming in Spain gives this episode added scope and scale to bring the story to life as well. I actually watched Demons of Punjab while I was hospital recently. Although I was on a drip at the time and not feeling too good, I thought it was an excellent episode, and one of the most emotional and moving Doctor Who stories I’ve seen in a long time.
I really liked how the sci-fi and historical elements seamlessly merged and that the monsters were not quite what they seemed either. The resolution of the episode was also handled well. There are times when everything in Doctor Who seems to click together just right, Demons of Punjab is a thought-provoking tale, and one of the standout episodes of the 13th Doctor’s new adventures.
The new adventures of Team TARDIS become fraught with danger in The Tsuranqa Conundrum, as the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her companions Graham (Bradley Walsh), Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Ryan (Tosin Cole) find themselves injured and marooned in a distant galaxy. But to survive this crisis they must team up with a group of strangers against one of the most bizarre and powerful monsters in the entire universe…
The Tsuranqa Conundrum, written by Chris Chibnall and directed by Jennifer Perrott, finds the Doctor and her new companions stranded in a futuristic medical facility after one of their adventures has gone disastrously wrong on a junkyard planet. Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor is at the heart of the action, quickly discovering they are on board an automated spaceship bound for a medical space-station, but she’s far from the only hero here, and she inspires Graham, Yaz and Ryan to be as resourceful as ever to deal with their current predicament.
Of course, the other patients with them in the facility also have a key role to play. The extensive guest cast for this episode includes Brett Goldstein and Lois Chimimba as the medics Astos and Mabli, actor and stand up comedian Ben Bailley Smith plays Durkas Cicero, and Casualty star Suzanne Packer is Eve Cicero.
Chris Chibnall’s fast paced script hardly pauses for a moment, further heightening the danger faced by the Doctor, her friends, and the other patients in the facility. After the Earth based stories The Tsuranqa Conundrum is a welcome voyage into full on science fiction territory, boasting a glittering universe of sleek spaceships, new cultures, there’s a physics lesson veiled in anitmatter technobabble, and the Doctor and co even get to meet a pregnant male alien. Australian director Jennifer Perrott and director of photography Simon Chapman (who is also Australian), have stylishly crafted this episodes vividly futuristic setting, the scope of it all is highly impressive, and the result is a truly remarkable looking Doctor Who adventure!
The medical space-ships course soon takes the vessel into disputed territory. Before long a dangerous alien threat gets on board, a ferocious Pting (created and named by Tim Price room during series 11‘s early development), and its this diminutive monster that the Doctor encounters in this episode which presents a very new and different kind of threat for the Time Lord and her companions. The Ptng is a tiny, incredibly strong, speedy little beast with razor sharp teeth, toxic skin, and well known throughout the galaxy because of its voracious appetite for devouring all non-organic matter – including energy!
Now… here’s where this review goes off on a slight tangent, because this is the point while preparing this review that I fell ill and got rushed into hospital. It feels a bit strange now, after just over two weeks, looking back over what I’d written about The Tsuranqa Conundrum while trying to gather my thoughts and opinions together in summing up this episode. To be honest my memory of it’s all a bit hazy, so I really need to see it again to judge it properly, but for now I’ll stick with the initial notes I made.
Although exciting and fast paced, I felt that The Tsuranqa Conundrum was crammed almost to bursting point with a lot of good ideas, but sadly few of them were either developed successfully or worked collectively as a whole. The episode certainly put the Doctor and her companions though their paces, delivering strong character moments, but the supporting cast and frenetic plot made The Tsuranqa Conundrum feel overstuffed – a bit like the Pting at the end of the episode! The little Pting was actually The Tsuranqa Conundrum’s saving grace, the monster was a really fun and dangerous menace, and it thankfully brought the scripts lazy fix-all overuse of the Sonic Screwdriver to an abrupt halt – for a little while anyway.
The Tsuranqa Conundrum is far from Chris Chibnall’s strongest script to date in series 11, however, the solid performances from the main cast, together with Jennifer Perrott’s stylish direction, and of course the insanely cute Pting do make up for some of the scripts failings.
Reflecting on seeing The Tsuranqa Conundrum now feels very bizarre to me, especially considering the paradox of actually going into hospital myself after watching this episode. I will probably revisit this story again at some point, but strangely, just like any stay in hospital (no matter how well they look after you, and believe me they certainly did and I‘m immensely grateful for the care I received), its not necessarily something that I want to do again any time soon; and I think that sums up exactly how I feel about The Tsuranqa Conundrum as well. An above average Doctor Who story – but one that oddly felt like it was still a couple of drafts away from reaching its full potential.
Doctor Who goes all eight legged and freaky in Arachnids in the UK as The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her companions Graham (Bradley Walsh), Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Ryan (Tosin Cole ) return to present day Sheffield after their recent adventures. But after everything they’ve been through together, can life back home ever really be the same again? Some big decisions await, but first there’s a creepy infestation of dangerous spiders in Sheffield to deal with…
Continuing the ongoing trend of placing markedly different stories next to one another, the fourth episode of Doctor Who’s eleventh series Arachnids in the UK, written by Chris Chibnall and directed by Sallie Aprahamin, is pure B-Movie fun.
Returning to the present after the modern historical of previous the episode, Rosa, Arachnids in the UK gives the Doctor’s companions a chance to touch base back home and contemplate everything that’s happened to them since the Doctor whisked them away on their adventures in time and space. There’s also more focus on Yaz’s family, and we gain a bit more insight about her home life
Jodie Whittaker continues to impress on every level as the Doctor, Mandip Gill gets more time in the spotlight as Yaz, while Tosin Cole and the brilliant Bradley Walsh also deliver strong performances as Ryan and Graham. Arachnids in the UK also features an impressive guest cast including Chris Noth (famed for his staring roles in Sex and the City and The Good Wife) as hotel the mogul Robertson who is dealing with a very pressing spider problem, Shobana Gulati (Dinnerladies and Coronation Street) plays Yaz’s mum, Najia, and Tanya Fear as the zoologist Dr Jade Mclntyre.
From the spectacular sight of the TARDIS travelling through the time, space vortex, to the beautiful scene where Yaz invites the Doctor and her new friends home for tea, and the emotional scenes as Graham returns home this episode hit’s the ground running and hardly lets up for a moment. Bradley Walsh continues to knock it out the park in this episode, delivering an especially moving performance as Graham confronts his grief, and these moving scenes are made all the more poignant as Sharon D Clarke also reprises her role briefly as Grace O’Brien.
Its only when the Doctor and Ryan meet Dr Jade McIntyre, a zoologist from an arachnid research centre in Sheffield, and discover something nasty under the bed in the flat next door but one to Yaz’s home that the full extent of what’s been happening to the spiders begins to emerge.
After an arachnid encounter at his house, Graham rejoins them, and the Doctor and the gang set off to find Yaz who has gone to meet her mother who has just been fired from her job at the newly constructed luxury hotel by its American owner Jack Robertson – a hotel which the Doctor has identified as the source of the infestation
Naturally the spiders in this episode provide the monster-of-the-week factor. Brining enough scares, chills, and downright ickyness to make your skin craws while providing the Doctor and her companions with a suitably challenging menace for them to deal with. Chibnall’s tautly paced scrip cleverly toys with all the familiar B-Movie tropes, along with our fears, and preconceptions of arachnids to make the eight legged critters – which are also effectively realized – in this episode feel all the more menacing as a result
It transpires that spiders are in fact giant domestic spiders that grew from the offspring of a spider specimen from Dr McIntyre’s lab that was believe to be dead when it was disposed of. Only trouble is, the company put it with the rest of the toxic waste they’ve been dumping in the mining tunnels beneath which Robertson’s new hotel has been built on.
With the creepy crawlies webbed presence cunningly hinted at right from the outset, Arachnids in the UK has spiders under the bed, spider scuttling down dark corridors, and even a giant spider bursting out through a bathtub (my favourite bit in the episode) to snare a hapless victim!
Its not long before the Doctor and her companions, along with Najia, Dr Jade McIntyre and slimy Trumpesque business man Robertson find a way to deal with the bulk of the spider horde, but I wasn’t expecting the tragic fate of the giant spider, and Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor really drives home the powerful themes surrounding the creatures demise with the utmost conviction.
Although I though the plot was a bit sketchy in places, Arachnids in the UK was still a fun, action packed adventure. Chris Chibnall continues to build the bond between the Doctor and her new companions, and the dramatic direction by Sallie Aprahamin makes ensures the scenes with the giant spiders are really exciting. With its distinct Pertwee era vibe, especially The Green Death (1973), and its dash of modern political satire Arachnids in the UK is certainly an eventful episode. Sure, the resolution to the spider menace does get wrapped up a bit too quickly and conveniently, but the final scenes in the TARDIS more than make up for any unresolved plot threads as Graham, Yaz and Ryan decide to continue travelling with the Doctor despite the dangers they might face, and its a wonderful moment for this new “team TARDIS” as they set off to see the universe. together!
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Watch the trailer for the fifth episode of series 11, The Tsuranga Conundrum!
Rosa, the third episode of series 11, sees the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her companions Graham (Bradley Walsh), Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Ryan (Tosin Cole ) take their first sojourn into the past when the TARDIS arrives in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955 where they encounter someone attempting to rewrite the history of the black civil rights movement.
Written by Malorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall, Rosa is a very new and bold style of historical adventure for Doctor Who. Indeed, this is a powerful, even harrowing, return to Earth for the Doctor’s new companions as they visit the Deep South in 1955 and find themselves in a very different era from the one they live in…
The seamstress, Rosa Parks, superbly played in this episode by Vinette Robinson, became a key figure in the civil rights moment on the day she refused to give up her seat on a buss for a white person. It set in motion a chain of events whereby the actions of this one woman would become a major turning point in history and result in brining far reaching change for the good.
There are strong performances all round in this episode, Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole all brining even grater range to their characters over the course of this story. Jodie Whittaker has an empowering presence here as the Doctor too. You see, someone wants to prevent this monumental moment from happening, someone is determined to alter time to ensure that everything bad stays just the way it, and there’s no what in a million years the Doctor is ever going to let that happen!
That someone is Krasko (Joshua Bowman) a recently paroled convict from Stormcage who has used a vortex manipulator and a temporal weapon to travel back in time and alter history by preventing Rosa Parks from having to give up her seat on the bus. Fortunately Krasko’s actions in this time have left a trail of artron energy, which enables the time travellers to track him to his lair in the bus works. Krasko’s scheme is a significant threat, but the Doctor soon discovers the ex-con has a mental restrictor in his mind preventing him from actually harming anyone – at least directly. So it’s up to the Doctor and her friends to become involved, each playing their own part in events to thwart Krasko’s plan and that ensure history and Rosa’s pivotal moment in time unfolds as it should.
Like the Ghost Monument, Rosa also had location filming in South Africa, and this time Mark Tonderal brings a very different approach to the look and tone of the episode. The challenge of shooting in South Africa and recreating the period setting of the USA 1955 is brilliantly handled. From the clothes, setting, and vehicles the production and design clearly pulled out all the stops to give the episode a distinct quality all its own for series 11’s first voyage into the past.
Featuring great character moments for the ensemble cast along with the assured direction of Mark Tonderal, Rosa marks a dramatic change of pace after the quirky fun of the first two episodes of series 11, and indeed historical stories in Doctor Who as a whole. Co writers Malorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall have taken the task of brining issues of racism, segregation, and the Montgomery buss boycott together in the format of Doctor Who incredibly well.
Rosa builds towards a resounding finale as the closing moments draw near, and the TARDIS crew realize that by thwarting Krasko’s plot they themselves have inadvertently become integral to events on the bus as they witness Rosa Parks getting arrested for violating the segregation laws. With the rousing soundtrack at the end called Rise Up by singer-songwriter Andrea Day, together with the coda where the Doctor takes her companions in the TARDIS to show them how much Rosa Parks actions would influence the future, and become an icon for freedom. Rosa is an emotional and challenging episode that stays with you long after the credits have rolled.
Obviously, the subject matter makes for a powerfully themed episode, but even though Rosa doesn’t have quite the same Doctor Who sci-fi sparkle as previous historically based New Who episodes it’s a resoundingly better story for it. Unflinching, heartrending, and empowering, Rosa is a magnificent addition to this new series, and I for one cant think of any other episode of Doctor Who that has moved me quite as much as this one.
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Here’s the trailer for Episode 4, Arachnids In The UK | Doctor Who
Following its ratings smashing premier episode, The Woman Who Fell To Earth, Series 11 of Doctor Who continues with The Ghost Monument, written by Chris Chibnall, and directed by Mark Tonderai (Gotham, Black Lightening, The Five). After being left reeling from their first adventure, the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), along with her new companions Graham (Bradley Walsh), Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Ryan (Tosin Cole) must now find a way to survive on a hostile alien world as they strive to solve the uncanny mystery of the planet Desolation…
Partly filmed in South Africa, the second episode of series 11 certainly gives an added sense of awe and spectacle to the Doctor’s companion’s first trip to another plant. The BAFTA winning DNEG team responsible for this new season visual effects also continue to work their magic, and The Ghost Monument is an absolutely stunning looking episode as a result.
Jodie Whittaker continues to excel in her role as the new 13th Doctor, brimming with fun and sound advice, her incarnations traits quickly make you warm to her endearing characterization of the Time Lord. After being marooned in space at the end of the new series premier, the Doctor and her companions are soon scooped from the void by two pilots Angstorm (Susan Lynch) and Epzo (Shaun Dooley) in their old rickety spaceships taking part in an intergalactic race, but after crash-landing on the barren planet with three suns the stranded group encounter the holographic potentate Llin (Art Malik) and the Doctor is shocked to discover that the objective of the race – reaching the mythical Ghost Monument – is actually the TARDIS which has somehow become trapped out of phase on this worlds surface because of the damage it suffered.
Their quest to reach the Ghost Monument involves crossing a sea contaminated by deadly microbes, exploring some ancient ruins while stalked by sniper robots, facing the frightening cloth-like Remnants, and the eventual discover that this entire planet was used by the Stenza to create weapons of mass destruction.
There is a snappy pace to Chris Chibnal’s scrip for The Ghost Monument that really steps things up a gear for the Doctor and her companions. Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole are all excellent in their roles as Graham, Yaz and Ryan respectively, and its great to see their characters gradually adapting to the Doctor’s madcap world over the course of this adventure with only her promise to keep them alive and get them home to really bind them together – relying on their wits and getting to know each other better as a result along the way.
The subtleties in Jodie Whittaker’s performance as the quirkily fun, clever and practical new incarnation Time Lord also really begins to shine though as both she and her companions start to forge strong bonds, with subsequent events illustrating just how great they are as a team when they get caught up in the episodes powerful allegorical themes of disaster, mass-murder, and ethnic cleansing. The Ghost Monument also gives us slightly more insight to the Stenza from the first episode, especially how they used this planet to make weapons, the sniper bots provide some exciting action, and the snaking cloth-like Remnants (chillingly voiced by Ian Gelder) which emerge at night are also quite unsettling as they use their victims fears against them.
The Ghost Monument marks the debut of series 11’s fantastic new title sequence as well! Featuring a stylish amalgamation of classic and new elements the gorgeously swirly new titles complements the fresh, vibrant tone of the new series perfectly, and together with terrific new opening theme by the series’ new composer Segun Akinola this episode feels extra special as a result.
But that not all. After reaching the Ghost Monument, Angstorm and Epzo claim joint victory, and teleport off the planet, apparently leaving the Doctor and her companions stranded. It is here, in a particularly emotional scene for Jodie Whittaker, that the Doctor coaxes the TARDIS to materialise properly at last and we get our first look inside! While the exterior is a lovely throwback to the early Tom Baker years; I feel the interior may divide opinion somewhat, but I personally thought the new TARDIS interior was spectacular! It looks a bit like a crystalline, steam punk, version of the 9th and 10th Doctor’s TARDIS interiors, the console is covered in chunky levers, there‘s a little model TARDIS, one section of the console even dispenses custard cream biscuits, and seeing the Doctor and her companions finally enter the elusive time machine for the first time is a defining moment that really makes the 13th Doctor’s new era feel complete at last.
The Ghost Monument is a continuation of the set-up for the new series, new Doctor and new characters that began with The Woman Who Fell To Earth. Sure, the plot is a bit frenzied at times, but my only real grip was how much the story went so OTT with the sonic screwdriver – yes it’s that old pitfall of the sonic fixing / saving every situation that New Who so often falls into. However, with the episodes dash of Venusian Akido and its tantalizing reference to the “Timeless Child” I’m willing to let them off the overuse of the sonic a bit.
Along with Chris Chibnal’s strong script and Mark Tonderai’s superb direction, The Ghost Monument delivers blockbusting spectacle and action in equal measure. Jodie Whittaker and the new ensemble cast are settling into their roles nicely, all the familiar elements are now in place, and with their inaugural trip first voyage to another planet under their belt its now time for the Doctor and her companions adventurers in time and space to begin in earnest!
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Watch the trailer for the third episode of series 11, Rosa.
Here’s the new Doctor Who title sequence and new theme!