BlogtorWho has already provided a review for this week’s new episode of Doctor Who; The Halloween Apocalypse. But allow me to present an alternative perspective…
Series 13 of Doctor Who, titled ‘Flux‘, kicked off with Chapter One: The Halloween Apocalypse. Following the warning trailers exclaiming that “The Flux is coming”, perhaps we’d actually get some context about what the damn thing is and why we should care. With this overarching storyline for the series there was much for this opener to achieve. We needed to be reintroduced to the Doctor and Yaz. New companion Dan also had to be presented. The various players needed to be revealed and the peril established. Lots to do. Unfortunately, it resulted in far too much going on in the short runtime.
Overall, The Halloween Apocalypse was a bit of a mess. From the outset the pace was absolutely relentless. Plot points were thrown out with all the skill of a machine gun in the hands of a new recruit at an army barracks. Karvanista was a perfect example. It was established why he’d captured Dan Lewis but the explanation didn’t really satisfy. When did humans have rescuers on standby to protect them? How about all the other times the world has almost ended? On top of that Karvanista was also an agent of the Division but other things distracted before that was discussed any further. There were also unfortunate moments where his mouth failed to move properly when delivering important dialogue. That said, it was light years ahead of the abysmal Hyph3n from ‘Orphan 55‘!
Starring Jodie Whittaker and Mandip Gill
Jodie Whittaker continued to struggle with her performance of the Doctor. Once again she was running around like a hyperactive toddler who had been tucking into their ‘trick or treat’ sweets all afternoon. Delivering dialogue was incomprehensibly rapid, making it difficult to keep up with what was being said. Opposite the Thirteenth Doctor was the returning Mandip Gill as Yaz. Without Ryan and Graham holding her back, Yaz seems to have become a much more confident time traveller. Unfortunately, that has made her arrogant and made her far more unlikeable. At least when Yaz had previously stood around passively she wasn’t actively obnoxious. It reminded me a lot of Clara before she got her comeuppance in ‘Face the Raven‘. Perhaps Yaz will meet a similar fate?.
Clearly some time has passed since the last episode, so the relationship between the Doctor and Yaz has developed. It’s a shame that this has happened off screen but pandemic and all that. The opening sequence, which clearly looked like it had been done on a green screen, was poor. From the incomprehensible dialogue, to the ‘it’s impossible for you to escape’ proving predictably easy to escape from, the whole opener was pretty dire. This sequence concluded with a deliberately provocative shot of Thirteen and Yaz handcuffed and sprawled on a conveniently placed mattress. Areas of the internet will be jumping to all sorts of conclusions!
The Doctor plus one companion dynamic is clearly the appropriate format and further highlights how the TARDIS had been crowded over the previous 2 series. Despite this we do have another companion (of sorts) along for the ride; Dan Lewis.
Introducing John Bishop as Dan Lewis
The new addition for Series 13 is John Bishop. A naturally funny guy, his character was presented as a passionate Scouser, trying to help others by volunteering at a food bank whilst clearly also struggling. His appears to be an interesting backstory but given the ever accelerating drama we might not get a chance to find it out. There was however one cringeworthy moment as Chris Chibnall tried to tip toe around a Liverpudlian’s aversion to Sheffield and their police force without using the word “Hillsborough”.
I’m sure that many viewers were intrigued by Dan’s reaction to the TARDIS. He clearly mentioned that a friend of his had something similar. If not bigger. Who could that possibly be? Similarly, why did the Jedi mind trick not work on him? There definitely seems to be something unique about Dan Lewis, at odds with his everyman persona. Lets hope that even though the universe is ceasing to exist we’ll learn more about our new favourite Liverpudlian.
To complicate matters further Vinder is expected to join the crew suggesting that maybe Chris Chibnall hasn’t learnt the lesson that the Doctor plus three companions simply doesn’t work in the shortened modern era. Only time will tell on that one.
By Chris Chibnall
Dan was just one of several positives. The Sontarans looked fantastic. In fact they haven’t looked as good since ‘The Time Warrior’. A Weeping Angel provided perfect Halloween night scares. Another new villain, the Swarm (Sam Spruell), was also presented in very dramatic terms. Unfortunately, an overly convenient psychic link was created between the Swarm and the Doctor to provide an info-dump. Does this suggest some sort of Time Lord connection to Swarm? The Division are involved somehow. But the idea of a villain from the Doctor’s past, who she can’t remember, is again an overly convenient method to try and ‘big-up the big bad’.
The scattergun strategy of throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks is a questionable method. Overall the episode was wildly entertaining, but it was equally unwieldy. With so much going on, the high spots were numerous. There was plenty to be excited by. But also a lot to process.
By the end of the episode the universe was being erased by the Flux. How exactly the Sontarans could take advantage of such a situation is still to be revealed. Similarly, how all these jigsaw pieces fit together is likely to be a challenge. What is Jospeh Williamson digging for in the Liverpool of the past? What about Claire and the Weeping Angel? Will Dan ever have his date with Diane? How does Vinder tie into all of this? And why was his monitoring station called Outpost Rose? See what I mean about too much stuff going on? Remind me next week to have a paper and pen handy to keep track of everything!
Not that long ago critics were complaining that the Steven Moffat era alienated the casual viewer. The frequent references to other episodes, events and plotlines meant that you really couldn’t miss an episode. After watching Chapter 1 a similar criticism could be levelled at Flux. But this very much feels like event television. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’ll draw in the viewers but this was a solid start. Will others be deterred by the overly complex nature of the various plot threads and characters? Or will they embrace the spectacle?
The Flux is here. Only time will tell if the universe and the viewers can survive it…