Old enemies return as the Flux’s disturbance continues in the second chapter of Doctor Who: Flux, ‘War of the Sontarans

Last Sunday, Doctor Who finally crash-landed back onto our screens with a jam-packed series opener. The Halloween Apocalypse kick-started Doctor Who: Flux, an epic new six-part serial.

This first chapter set into motion a number of seemingly disparate plot threads, which will no doubt begin to weave together as the series progresses. Particularly notable, of course, was the introduction of the Doctor’s newest companion, Dan Lewis (John Bishop), following his abduction by Lupari warrior, Karvanista (Craige Els). His debut appearance took place against an expansive backdrop, as The Halloween Apocalypse launched an array of storylines spanning all corners of the universe, from 1820s Liverpool to Observation Outpost Rose in the furthest reaches of outer space.

The one element which seems to connect all elements of the story so far, however, is of course the Flux. The events of The Halloween Apocalypse made it clear that this is a threat of epic proportions, as it began sweeping across the universe, bringing total destruction to every particle of matter it came into contact with. Even worse, the episode’s cliffhanger saw the Doctor, Yaz, and Dan face-to-face with imminent destruction, as the Flux looked set to swallow the TARDIS and its occupants whole.

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The Sontarans Make a Welcome Return to Doctor Who

Of course, the Flux does not destroy the TARDIS, at least for now. Instead, the Doctor, Yaz, and Dan find themselves deposited back on Earth, in the middle of the Crimean War. There, we learn that the Flux is damaging time as well as space, as the British army and its allies are fighting not Russians, but Sontarans.

It’s perhaps surprising to note that this episode marks the first Doctor Who story in which the Sontarans have been the primary antagonist since 2008’s The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky. The Sontarans have undergone a fairly significant redesign since we last saw them in 2015’s Face The Raven, with their new look harkening back to their original appearance as seen in The Time Warrior all the way back in 1973. The story itself also feels like a nod to that same serial. Once again, the these clone warriors attempt to conquer the Earth for the glorious Sontaran Empire from a point in its history.

Skaak came to crush human scum and ride horses (C) BBC Studios - Photographer: James Pardon Doctor Who Flux Doctor Who Series 13 Sontaran War of the Sontarans
Skaak came to crush human scum and ride horses (C) BBC Studios – Photographer: James Pardon

All of this taken together adds a hint of nostalgia to their return, and War of the Sontarans makes us realise just how much we’ve missed the Sontarans. It also proves exactly why they’re such an enduring and iconic Doctor Who monster, with their ability to be at once an excellent source of humour and a terrifying enemy. Dan Starkey makes a welcome return, having of course played numerous Sontarans throughout the show’s revived series, and will be recognised by most fans as friend of the Doctor, Strax. He, along with newcomer Jonathan Watson, perfectly embody both sides of the Sontarans’ character. They’re responsible for some of the episode’s funniest moments (“And also… I wanted to ride a horse.”) as well as its most unsettling, particularly as Skaak confronts the Doctor and General Logan (Gerald Kyd).

War of the Sontarans Gives the TARDIS Crew an Equal Share of the Spotlight

Elsewhere, Dan and Yaz find themselves inexplicably transported away. Meanwhile, the Doctor is left stranded in Sebastopol. Splitting up the TARDIS team is an excellent move. It’s refreshing to see each of these characters operating without one another. Dan‘s reunion with his parents and subsequent infiltration of the Sontaran base in present-day Liverpool allows for some very enjoyable comic relief in an otherwise grim situation. It’s rather a shame that Dan’s potential hero moment was ultimately undercut by the arrival of Karvanista (Craige Els). Nevertheless, it was still a treat to see more of their begrudging friendship dynamic play out.

It’s also rather bittersweet to see Yaz go out on her own. Whilst it’s wonderful to see her be so steadfast in the face of danger, it’s a little heartbreaking to see just how much she looks up to the Doctor, as reflected in her ‘WWTDD?’ note to self, especially when we’ve seen how reluctant the Doctor is to open up to her.

Doctor Who - S13 - Ep 2 - Mary (SARA POWELL) - (C) BBC Studios - Photographer: James Pardon
Doctor Who – S13 – Ep 2 – Mary (SARA POWELL) – (C) BBC Studios – Photographer: James Pardon

Her companions’ disappearance means it’s up to the Doctor, along with nurse Mary Seacole (Sara Powell) to handle the Sontaran threat. The two make a terrific duo, with Powell giving a stand-out performance as Mrs Seacole. As such a compelling historical figure, we hope that this episode will encourage viewers to learn more about her life and achievements. The story captures her determination to help others, as well as her bravery and adventurousness. What’s more, Jodie Whittaker really shines in this episode as she takes charge of the offensive against the Sontarans. We get to see the Doctor at her most intimidating. She channels that same anger we’ve seen from previous Doctors time and time again, not least as she tells Logan, “Sometimes men like you make me wonder why I bother with humanity.”

War of the Sontarans Asks More Questions Than it Answers

As for Doctor Who: Flux‘s overarching storyline, this episode revisits a few of the plot threads established The Halloween ApocalypseWar of the Sontarans sees the TARDIS crew cross paths with Vinder (Jacob Anderson), who was introduced last week as the commander of Observation Outpost Rose. We don’t learn very much more about him, however, other than that he’s ‘shamed, disgraced, and rejected’. Indeed, this episode raises yet more questions about the Temple of Atropos and the Mouri.

Doctor Who - S13 - Ch 2 - Azure (ROCHENDA SANDALL), Swarm (SAM SPRUELL) - (C) BBC Studios - Photographer: Ben Blackall
Doctor Who – S13 – Ch 2 – Azure (ROCHENDA SANDALL), Swarm (SAM SPRUELL) – (C) BBC Studios – Photographer: Ben Blackall

Also making a reappearance in this episode are Swarm (Sam Spruell) and Azure (Rochenda Sandall), as they invade the Temple and capture Yaz and Vinder. Seeing them now in broad daylight gives us a chance to properly appreciate the fantastically creepy and intricate designs, as well as how powerful and utterly sinister they are. They’re on track to be perhaps the most compelling and terrifying new enemies of Chibnall’s run.

Following in the footsteps of The Halloween Apocalypse, this episode ends on another cataclysmic cliffhanger. We’ll be on the edge of our seats awaiting its resolution until Sunday!

Doctor Who: Flux continues next Sunday 14th November with ‘Once, Upon Time‘ on BBC One and BBC America.

“Time is beginning to run wild”. On a planet that shouldn’t exist, in the aftermath of apocalypse, the Doctor, Dan, Yaz and Vinder face a battle to survive.

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