Series thirteen, Doctor Who: Flux is not for the casual Doctor Who viewer. Doctor Who is known for being timey-wimey, but traditionally most storylines of Doctor Who wrapped up nicely by the end of the episode. Things can feel very confusing for veteran viewers, so I can imagine that a brand new viewer going into this season would be completely lost trying to follow along with everything. This week’s episode ” Chapter Three: Once, Upon Time” definitely required a lot of contexts to understand.
*Spoiler Warnings Apply*
Doctor Who: Flux needs context
From the first chapter of Doctor Who: Flux, you needed a lot of context. You need to know who the Sontarans are, you need to know who the Weeping Angels are, you needed to know that the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) is an alien who travels in time and space with her companion Yaz Khan (Mandip Gil). Because none of that is explained upfront. So this season definitely is more for the veteran Doctor Who fan.
This season feels like it’s about the Doctor not knowing what’s happening to Time and Space. And it feels like we as the audience are supposed to be just as confused as the Doctor. And we are. If you didn’t follow along closely to season twelve you will most likely be confused by a lot of the events in this week’s episode. Doctor Who: Flux is shaping up to be a close follow-up to the storyline that began during “The Fugitive of the Judoon”.
Last season’s “Fugitive of the Judoon” episode revealed that there are past incarnations that she has no recollection of. This is because her mind was wiped by her former employer on her home planet of Gallifrey, known as The Division. In that episode, she runs into a past incarnation of herself that showrunners refer to as The Fugitive Doctor, played by Jo Martin. In tonight’s episode, she runs into herself again as she is in a time stream trying to fix the problem with time.
In this latest episode Yaz, Dan (John Bishop), and Vinder (Jacob Anderson) are all wearing uniforms and holding guns similar to what Ritu Arya as Gax, an agent of the Division in “The Fugitive of Judoon.” The Doctor is clearly remembering things that happened in her past lives but struggling to understand what is happening to time and space, all while trying to save her friends and trying to piece together the missing parts of her life. At some point, The Doctor goes from being employed by The Division but is now on the run from them. And we really don’t know the details of what led up to that. This not knowing is manifesting as anger and frustration. Some of it was directed towards her companions. Which is something we have seen often in previous incarnations of the Doctor but not something that we see with the thirteenth Doctor.
So for the more than casual viewer that is the main thing we need to understand in this episode. Is a knowledge of what happened last season and who this past version of the Doctor is. Everything else gets kinda messy.
Companions and new friends
This season introduces a ton of new characters, both new friends and foes. It’s exciting to see new faces, but overwhelming by the sheer number of new characters in such a short time. To be fair a lot of these characters seem awesome. I can’t wait to get to know them all. But this whole time collapsing in on itself is making that very difficult. We’re very slowly figuring out who these new characters are and we are figuring it out out of order. Timey-Wimey.
The episode starts and ends with a character known as Bel. One of the many new faces introduced to us in this series. Played by Netflix’s The Irregulars star, Thaddea Graham, Bel is a survivor of the Flux event and traveling from planet to planet in search of a loved one. Her story has been the most satisfying so far because by the end of the episode we understand why she is there, why she is relevant and we are emotionally invested in her relationship as the mother of Vinder’s unborn child.
Learning about why Vinder was out in space when the Flux event happened made perfect sense n this episode. We saw Bel and Vinder’s story play out together while not realizing it was one story instead of two. This is in stark comparison to the character played by Steve Oram named Joseph Williamson. The first episode of this series introduced his character, in what looks like a Victorian-era excavation of a mine. And we still know very little about him or why he is constantly running into the Doctor and her friends.
And don’t get me wrong, a lot of these new characters are really interesting. I am excited to meet more of them. But I think the earlier episodes would have been better served by episodes like this week’s. Where we were able to understand in one episode why we should care about these characters.
But that is only speaking in regards to Bel and Vinder. There were so many different characters and situations happening here. So many new people, such as the woman who tells the Doctor was made and not a natural occurrence. There is absolutely no context there. I’m still not particularly sure what makes Dan and Diane so special and why the Swarm has kidnapped Diane. Dan’s character seems like a case of “wrong place, wrong time”. So I don’t see why, outside of trying to irritate the Doctor, the Swarm would need her.
The order in which everything is happening leaves us constantly asking why is this happening and what is going on. Every episode we get a ton of new information, but it seems that very little of it starts to answer some of the questions that we have. This is definitely a slow build-up for the series even though it feels like every episode is very fast-paced. This is interesting because we are halfway done with the series.
This episode is more enjoyable than the previous two because of the cameos of familiar monsters, like the Cybermen, The Daleks, and the Weeping Angels. Especially that end scene where the Weeping Angel has the TARDIS. It feels like fan service and I appreciate that. It was also enjoyable because of the return of Ruth/The Fugitive Doctor and because we start to understand who Vinder is. And we also get to see more about Dan’s life through his interactions with Diane. I think these are the things that help us connect with characters.
So, what do you think of Doctor Who: Flux so far? Let us know in the comments below.
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