Welcome back, everyone!
Don't know about you, but we spent a good part of last week thinking about how much we enjoyed the first episode of Doctor Who: Flux. The storyline was immediately engaging, and it also featured the best pacing and character development of the Chris Chibnall era. The production values were terrific, and we were left pondering all of the dangling plot threads. Now the question becomes, can this week's episode, "War of the Sontarans" continue the momentum? Let's discuss...
(Warning: Many spoilers ahead!)
Plot Summary: The Doctor, Yaz, and Dan survived last week's pending disaster and now find themselves in the middle of the Crimean War. That is until Yaz and Dan both fall through time, with Yaz ending up at a mysterious temple, and Dan going...home. The Sontarans are trying to take advantage of the chaos caused by the arrival of the Flux, so they can rewrite Earth's history and establish the planet as an outpost. The Doctor and Dan each take care of the Sontaran threat in their respective times (with some help from friends), but what's the story with this temple?
- The Doctor and friends meet Mary Seacole at the battlefield where they've landed. Seacole is a real figure from history who is described by Wikipedia as, "a British-Jamacian healer and businesswoman who set up the "British Hotel" behind the lines during the Crimean War." Can't say we knew of her before this episode, but that description matches the character, who seems to have an issue with Florence Nightingale. It's always fun to see the Doctor interact with historical figures, but we have to confess, for a half-second, we were wondering if the "British Hotel" might turn into a TARDIS.
- There's a brief discussion of whether or not "Doctor" is a man's title, to which 13 replies, "It's fluid," and we can just hear the trolls getting mad right now.
- The British soldiers aren't fighting Russians in this reality - they're fighting Sontarans, so clearly history has gone a little haywire.
- We like the new version of the potato heads, but are Sontarans supposed to be dangerous with a hint of humor, or funny with an edge? They're always described as brutal soldiers, but 75% of their lines are for laughs.
- Uh oh, Dan and Yaz are both fading away. Thought this might be a bit of a "Back to the Future" moment, but they're not being erased from the story. They're being sent off on their own adventures because of the collision between Flux and Vortex energy, according to the Doctor. How would she know that?
- The TARDIS cloister bell is ringing, and the great blue box seems to have lost its door. That can't be good. We love that the cloister bell is present for this series. It's not used that often, so it carries more weight when they warn of doom.
- It turns out Vinder also escaped his crisis last week. He ended up in a random temple, and a floating diamond wants to know if he can repair the place. (Side note: Isn't this the set where the Doctor and the Master faced off on Gallifrey in "The Timeless Children?")
- Dan's gone home, his house is still gone, and now he's being chased down the street by a group of Sontarans, and not one of them has good enough aim to hit him. Again, it seems like these guys are supposed to be dangerous, but we're still mostly just seeing the comedy.
- We're introduced to Dan's parents, who seem pretty on top of the entire Sontaran invasion. Is there more to Dan than meets the eye? If not, this segment feels a bit like filler.
- Now Yaz lands in the same temple where Vinder went, and she runs into random tunnel guy from the first episode. It seemed like he might be a bad guy last week, but he seems more troubled than anything else now. He ends up wandering off, and that's the last we see of him.
- How many people do you think will get a "WWTDD" tattoo before the end of this year?
- It turns out this temple is home to the Mouri, who are creatures tasked with controlling "evil" time so it flows in an orderly direction, and the floating diamond wants Vinder and Yaz to fix those who have been damaged by the Flux. First off, the notion of time being "evil" is fascinating. Second, does this whole premise remind anyone else of the Logopolis engineers who were supposed to keep the universe's entropy in check, until the Master attacked them? Finally, that similarity has us once again wondering if Swarm and his sister Azure might also be from Gallifrey. Actually, let's take that one step further - are these two some version of the Master and a previously unknown sister?
- The Doctor meets General Logan, an arrogant man who has no use for the advice from a woman. That will come back to haunt him.
- We'd recognize Dan Starkey's voice anywhere, but we wondered for a second if the wounded Sontaran was Strax. No such luck. The Doctor deceives this Sontaran about her true identity. It's a little shady, but it's also consistent with some of the Time Lord's past lives and more interesting than 13's almost non-stop cheerfulness.
- Dan decides to hop on a Sontaran ship to try to help the Doctor. In 1.5 episodes, he's already a more fully developed character than Graham or Ryan were in two seasons.
- Quick pause - we just have to point out again how great everything looks. The sets are much better lit than past seasons, the colors are vivid and vibrant, and the actors look like they're in HD.
- The Sontaran leader Skaak seems more serious than the rest of them, right up until he mentions invading Earth partly because he wanted to ride a horse.
- Dan and the Doctor use the technology on the Sontaran ships to talk to each other across time and make plans to get rid of the invaders. Their conversation is rudely shut down, and the Sontarans are ready to kill Dan, when Karvanista comes in to save his human. We're on-board with the dog warrior, and if you tell us he and Dan will eventually have their own Big Finish series, we have no complaints.
- Swarm and Azure have joined the mysterious temple, and they've got a friend called The Passenger with them. Heavy Logopolis vibes again, but in any case, who is the new guy?
- Swarm knows everything about Yaz, including her little "WWTD" reminder, and he clearly doesn't like any of the Doctor's companions. You know who else didn't like the companions? Rhymes with "The Blaster."
- Why do we think Vinder needs redemption?
- The Doctor and friends drain the Sontaran ships and force them to retreat, while Karvanista and Dan use their ship to smash into all of the other ones in the modern day.
- That all works pretty smoothly (and the ramming sequence is a cool visual.) Problem is, General Logan isn't satisfied with the Sontarans leaving. He wants revenge for the soldiers that were slaughtered because of his arrogance, so he lights a match to set off an explosion that destroys the ships. Any chance Logan is related to Prime Minister Harriet Jones?
- The Doctor and Dan eventually reunite, and the Doctor says she's not done with Karvanista, which is outstanding. We can finally see the TARDIS interior well, and the poor thing is a mess. What's going on? Maybe we'll get an answer when this group joins everyone else at the mysterious temple.
- The gang is all here, and Swarm and Azure have apparently turned Yaz and Vinder into Mouri-type creatures. Swarm says he can destroy both of them with one snap of his fingers and then promptly snaps, as the screen turns black. That doesn't look good, but judging by the "Next Week" trailer, the Doctor finds a way out of that mess.
Doctor Who: Flux - War of the Sontarans was a good follow-up to the series premiere. It turns out that the Sontarans didn't really have anything to do with the Flux, so that was a bit of a swerve, but it was still fun to watch the Doctor and company defeat them. The pacing and character development remain strong. Perhaps Chris Chibnall should have taken the "one overarching story" approach to his entire tenure as showrunner.
This adventure is already so much better than anything from the first two years of this era. It's more what we were expecting when the Broadchurch creator and Jodie Whittaker began their time on the show. We're already counting the days until "Once Upon a Time" airs next Sunday. It will be interesting to see how well it works when the Doctor, Yaz, Dan, and Vinder are together. See you then!
The Doctor and friends find themselves in a mess. (pic via britishherald.com)
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