Following the dramatic conclusion to ‘Village of the Angels‘ the penultimate episode of Doctor Who: Flux was can’t miss television. But could ‘Survivors of the Flux‘ live up to expectations?
*BEWARE! SPOILERS UP AHEAD!*
So far Doctor Who: Flux has been a series of hits and misses. The Halloween Apocalypse was a miss with way too much going on. ‘War of the Sontarans‘ was much better for being more coherent. ‘Once, Upon Time‘ however had a total lack of coherence. ‘Village of the Angels‘ put the ship back on course. For all my criticism of Chris Chibnall’s writing, one cannot fail to be impressed by his bold decisions. Recalling the Doctor to the Division and turning her into a Weeping Angel is one of the most dramatic conclusions to an episode in a very long time! But where could the story possibly go from here?
Unfortunately, the drama was immediately undone as the Doctor breaks free of the stone to monologue in front of the Weeping Angels. A bit disappointing but info dumping was required. Much more of that was to come. The set for the Division was particularly stunning but the revelation that they went outside the Time Lord directive of non-interference may irk some. Perhaps even worse was the true identity of the individual in charge.
Having survived the touch of the Angels, Yaz, Dan and Jericho are working to try and get back to their own time. The trio have an entertaining dynamic, in fact their scenes were easily the best moments in the episode, but rather than fade into history they are drawing attention to themselves somehow. Conveniently, the Doctor provides more info dumping to Yaz, just like a Princess Leia hologram. So they weren’t trying to get back to their own time? Elsewhere in Earth history the Grand Serpent is slithering into UNIT. Karvanista and the Lupari are trying to maintain their shield from the Flux over Earth in 2021. Meanwhile Bel is still trying to find Vinder. He however has found Swarm and Azure.
There’s lots going on. Again. A bit too much? Quite possibly. It is so difficult to keep track of everything even with the incessant information dumping. The jumping around between time zones, planets and characters is discombobulating. I’ll be honest, I completely lost track at various points. Then Joseph Williamson shows up just to make it worse!
Returning, always returning
It is funny how Chris Chibnall has come full circle with his attitude towards recurring characters and monsters. During Series 11 there was a clear decision to be ‘all new’ with viewers having to wait till the New Years Special to see a returning monster in the form of the Daleks. Series 12 saw the return of the Cybermen and the Master. Now this year we’ve gone even bigger with the returns of the Sontarans, Weeping Angels plus cameos from Daleks and Cybermen. ‘Survivors of the Flux‘ featured even more! Jemma Redgrave was back as Kate Stewart, along with UNIT. Previously Chris Chibnall had written out UNIT as the organisation was disbanded due to funding issues. We were provided that context. However it was very telling that a succession of white blokes couldn’t tell that Prentis was an alien, but Kate Stewart could. Not that it did her any good.
We were also treated to a return of Silas Carson as an Ood. Who doesn’t love an Ood! The return of Tecteun however will likely prove far less popular. If Chris Chibnall was trying to appease those he drove away with his Timeless Children storyline then making Tecteun a villain was a fair attempt. However, the opportunity to simply reveal that the Master was lying passed us by. Killing off Tecteun doesn’t really make up for it either.
Of course the key task of a penultimate episode is to build tension for the finale. Strangely, the threat of the universe destroying Flux reaching Earth was not the cliffhanger. Instead it was Sontarans threatening Earth. Felt like a downgrade on the threat, right before the finale. Plus Swarm threatening the Doctor. I was underwhelmed. Happily, we at least had some motivation for Swarm’s actions. Finally. To infiltrate the Division and gain revenge. But we could’ve deduced that from the very first episode had it been presented better.
Whilst I was hoping the episode would be bold and take the Doctor out of the action, she was far from absent. Throughout the entire running time the Doctor was just a bystander. Asking questions. Making conclusions. Info dumping. Trying to explain away the nonsense. At least Yaz, Dan and Jericho were proactive! Even if I couldn’t remember what they were actually trying to achieve.
I think the success or failure of Doctor Who: Flux will be determined by the ultimate payoff to all these various plot threads. Survivors of the Flux was a lot of not too much going on other than positioning the chess pieces ready for the finale and attempting to provide exposition. Unfortunately, it was too akin to Chapter 1 and 3 for my liking.
Will it prove worth the journey? We’ll have to find out next week…