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(Review) Doctor Who: Flux - Once, Upon Time

Just like that, we're already at the midpoint of Series 13!  Showrunner Chris Chibnall has already thrown a lot at viewers through the first two episodes, as we finally begin to learn more about the Doctor's erased past lives.  When last we left #13,  she was about to try to save Yaz and Vinder from being destroyed by time.  What came next was one of the most chaotic episodes of Doctor Who that we've ever seen, and it brought even more questions.  Let's discuss.

 

(Warning: Many spoilers ahead!)

 

Plot Summary: 

Let's see if we can keep this straight:  The Doctor throws Yaz, Dan, and Vinder into a time storm in order to try to protect them from being destroyed by Swarm and Azure.   Everyone but Yaz goes back to his/her past, while Yaz deals with a future that's being altered by a Weeping Angel.  We learn a little backstory about everyone but Yaz, including some major information about the Doctor.  Meanwhile, there's a woman named Bel traveling the universe looking for someone in the aftermath of the Flux.  After a whole lot of timey-wimey craziness, the Doctor seems to have saved everyone and the Temple of Atropos.  However, there's a new mysterious villain on the scene, and she apparently doesn't care for the Doctor one bit.

(That's as clear as we can make it, because there was a LOT going on in this episode.)

 

Observations:

  • Who is Bel, and why are we spending so much time watching her travel the universe in search of someone?  (The Doctor?)  Is there more to this than a chance to show off some Daleks in a quick cameo one more time?  Series 13 already has a lot of characters roaming around the universe.  Do we need another one?

 

  • The Doctor working out an escape plan in the second before Swarm snaps his fingers reminds us of #12 explaining how his brain works during "Heaven Sent."  She sees time differently than the rest of us, and this super-speed thought process is a nice subtle way to remind viewers that our favorite Time Lord is not human.

 

  • Our crew goes off into the time storm, which is different than the Time Vortex, right?  Maybe the Doctor clarifies, but between the sound mixing, accents, and frenzied explanations, we had a hard time hearing all of the dialogue this week.

 

  • Still loving the notion of time as a wild beast.

 

  • Everyone gets pulled to their different time streams, even though it's not at all clear why this will keep them safe from the Ravagers.  We first see the Doctor and her "friends" preparing to launch some sort of military style operation on the Temple of Atropos.  The Doctor's coat is reversed, everyone is acting like they've been a unit for ages, and they're all ready to use their weapons without hesitation.  This clearly isn't reality as we know it.  Is it an alternate universe?  Wait, is this a Division operation?  (Please let this be a Division operation.)

 

  • As we've said before, we didn't know anything about John Bishop before Series 13.  He was fine as Dan for the first two weeks, but this is a rough episode for the comedian.  He seems out of place in 90% of his scenes.

 

  • Dan catches up with Diane, the woman he had a date scheduled with, but that hasn't happened yet.  She asks him why he never got married, and he says he was engaged once, but his fiancee broke it off days before the wedding.  1) Ouch.  2) Is this relevant?  3) He sees a mysterious figure in the distance.  Pretty sure that's the Passenger from last week.

 

  • Now we've got Yaz and the Doctor starring in a new cop buddy show.  (Might watch that.)  Nope, hold on, the Doctor is temporarily breaking through to explain to Yaz what's going on.  The Doctor does this several times throughout the show.  It's not a good sign when you have to repeatedly summarize everything to make sure the audience is keeping up with you.  However, we'll put that to the side for a minute, because a Weeping Angel just appeared, and they still freak us out every time.

 

  • It turns out Vinder was banished to that outpost at the beginning because he reported political corruption.  Turns out he's a stand-up guy.  Now, he keeps seeing Yaz in his past, but she's not breaking through like the Doctor keeps doing with everyone.  Does he have a thing for the Doctor's friend?

 

  • Back to the invasion of the Temple of Atropos.  It's fun to see a different side to Jodie Whittaker's perpetually cheerful Doctor.  This HAS to be a Division operation, and that means.....the Fugitive Doctor is here!  So exciting to see Jo Martin in the mirror wondering what the hell her future self has gotten herself into. 

 

  • That means the team member we see as Dan is really Karvanista, but who are the other two members who look like Yaz and Vinder?  In any case, the Vinder lookalike reminds the Doctor that "they" promised to free her if she successfully completes this mission.  Does that mean the regenerations of the Fugitive Doctor and 13 will converge at the end of this series?  Can't think about that now, there's still a lot happening this week.

 

  • Dan runs into Joseph Williamson, a.k.a. Tunnel Guy.  They briefly discuss both being from Liverpool, while Williamson fights off some unseen aliens.  Is this Dan's future?

 

  • Time is breaking and hunting variants.  We just watched something like this with Loki on the Disney+ streaming service.  Didn't love Loki, but we're hopeful Doctor Who will do a better job with the idea.

 

  • Wait, now we're going back to Bel, who is clearly looking for someone she loves.  This better have a good payoff, because it's feeling like filler and a chance to say a quick hello to some Cybermen more than anything else.

 

  • Yaz and her sister are playing video games, and the Doctor has to explain again what's going on.  All we know is that another Weeping Angel shows up in the video game, and that's enough to keep us from a console, thank you very much.  The Angels are apparently causing the disruptions in Yaz's life, but what do they want with her?  (Also, is this because we've already covered Yaz's backstory over the past two series?)

 

  • The Passenger is explained as a living prison with endless capacity.  That sounds like it has a lot of potential, but will it survive after the Chibnall era?  Either way, you know it's going to show up in a Big Finish adventure eventually.

 

  • We could have listened to the Fugitive Doctor argue with Swarm all day long.  Once this is all over, we'll have to dig into the Time Lord-Ravager backstory, which was featured in the recent Time Lord Victorious project. 

 

  • The Fugitive Doctor defeats Swarm and Azure in the past with some help from the Mouri.  That should set her on her path to "freedom."  We should be good now, right?

 

  • Except that now we have this mysterious new woman who doesn't care about the universe ending but really doesn't like the Doctor.  Who the hell is this?

 

  • We won't find out, because the Doctor gets booted back to the present.  Swarm, Azure, and another Passenger decide they've caused enough trouble for now and leave (with Diane stuck inside Passenger.) 

 

  • The Doctor drops Vinder off on his home planet and it turns out he's looking for Bel, who is now in parts unknown.  Awkward.  Seriously, this chase better have a point.  (We're still thinking about Bel and Vinder's unborn baby...what are the odds it's the Doctor?)

 

  • This would be a good time for a breather for the gang.  Instead, the Weeping Angel has now hijacked the TARDIS, so the adventure continues.

 

Final Thoughts:

What a wild and surreal episode.  You've got the Doctor bouncing in and out of time streams like a pinball, there's a little progress made on the Fugitive Doctor's backstory, but it's clear we're nowhere near getting all the answers.  We also really can't think of another episode that was this frantic and chaotic from start to finish.

The material was fascinating, while the execution was hit-or-miss.  There had to be a way to tell the story that did not require the Doctor to explain it repeatedly during the episode.  However, we'll take all the Fugitive Doctor we can get, and this surely wasn't the last we've seen of her in Series 13.

It may take multiple viewings to fully put all of the pieces together, but we give Doctor Who credit for shaking things up and taking a much different approach than usual this week.

Next up, we've got a Weeping Angels story, so here's to not sleeping well after that.  See you then!

 

Doctor Who Once Upon TimeThe Doctor learns a little more about her past this week.  (pic via radiotimes.com)

 

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