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(Review) "Doctor Who: Flux - The Vanquishers"

Just like that, we've already reached the Doctor Who Series 13 finale.  Chris Chibnall brought  fans on a crazy ride this year that's seen the show finally dig deeper into the "Timeless Child" story (while providing a huge loophole to rewrite it again in the future.)  We've had plenty of timey-wimey experiences, and a mix of old and new faces.  There are still many outstanding questions as we head into Episode 6.  Can they all be properly resolved?  Let's discuss...

(Warning:   Spoilers ahead.)

 

Plot Summary: 

The Doctor is stuck in Division HQ outside the universe.  However, Yaz, Dan, Professor Jericho, Karvanista, Kate Stewart, along with everyone else, need her help, so she does the logical thing and finds a way to trisect herself.  Obvious, right?  It turns out the Sontarans are leading the Daleks and Cybermen to Earth so they can double-cross them and have the Flux final event wipe out their enemies.  #13 stops that in a way that feels unusually vengeful.  The Grand Serpent's motives for all of his actions are never fully revealed, but he gets a banishment for his actions. 

Two of the three Doctors and company use Passenger to absorb the rest of the Flux.  That leaves the final Doctor to watch Swarm and Azure destroyed by Time for failing to free it.  Time spares and restores the Doctor but also warns her that her story is almost over.  The countdown to regeneration has begun. 

 

Observations:

 

  • Of course Swarm is teasing the Doctor with her fob watch at the start of the episode.  The trailer for this week indicated that the watch opens at some point.  However, there's no way we're getting an extended look at #13's past lives here with only three episodes remaining after this.

 

  • We dig the Ood and wish they'd get more air time.   Daleks and Cybermen are so stale as recurring characters.  Here's hoping Russell T. Davies is planning to shake things up on that front.

 

  • Kate Stewart meets Yaz, Dan, and Professor Jericho in the tunnels, and her little device tells her two of them have been inside a TARDIS.  Yaz asks how she knows about the blue box, and the look on Kate's face is like, "Oh, I could tell you some things."  It would have been great to see Kate in Series 12, because Jemma Redgrave and Jodie Whittaker would have worked well together (as we get a hint of in this episode.)

 

  • The Grand Serpent is hanging out with the Sontarans after helping them invade Earth.  Who is this guy?  Is he the Master?  The Rani?  The Mara?  Someone else?  Will we get an answer before this episode is over? 

 

  • Swarm and Azure open the Doctor's fob watch, and we're transported to that creepy black and white house we've seen in past episodes.  Apparently all of #13's erased memories are in the house, but our two baddies plan to spend eternity destroying  and rebuilding it to torture the Doctor (and fans who want to know who else is in there besides the Fugitive Doctor.)

 

  • Ahh, the Doctor (or at least 1/3 of her) finds the crew.  The interactions between #13 and Yaz are tremendous, particularly when Yaz tells her they've been separated for three years.  The Doctor looks legitimately stunned and mortified.  These two totally could have done this entire run without any other companions.

 

  • Joseph Williamson gives a long explanation of why he created his tunnels.  There is a lot of exposition this week, even more so than usual.  It leaves us wondering if Chibnall and company were feeling crunched for time, because there's so much ground to cover in only six episodes.  What would this whole story have been like if it was twice as long?

 

  • This scene with the Sontaran in a corner store feels like a Monty Python skit gone horribly wrong.

 

  • The Doctor offers herself and Karvanista to the Sontarans as a distraction while Jericho and Claire go undercover on the Sontaran ship.   We find out that #13 and Karvanista used to be very close, and he was crushed by her disappearance.  However, he's not allowed to talk about it, because Division installed a device in his brain that will kill him immediately if he spills the beans.  (Perhaps this will be one of the many future Big Finish adventures Chibnall has made possible with this storyline.)

 

  • Azure and Swarm intend to wipe out the universe and bring it back on an endless loop to punish the Doctor for what she did to them so many years ago.  They're clearly villains, but it's also pretty clear the "erased Doctors" don't have the same moral high ground the ones we know usually occupy.

 

  • The Sontarans wiped out all of the Lupari, making Karvanista the last of his kind.  This stunning development, plus the fact that we still say Karvanista sounds exactly like Christopher Eccleston, calls to mind a comparison to the 9th Doctor.  Perhaps Karvinista will also find a way to save his species in the future.

 

  • So Vinder and Diane have been stuck in Passenger for a while, as Vinder continues looking for Bel.  Exactly how long has Diane been there?  She's got the whole thing figured out pretty well for an ordinary human.   Also, we're running out of time for a payoff to Vinder-Bel that's going to feel useful.

 

  • The Grand Serpent is supposed to be interrogating the Doctor, but instead, she finds out a little bit of information about him, before one of the other Doctors comes in and rescues her.  Again, a lot of talking that adds to the rushed feeling this week.

 

  • Two out of the three Doctors are now in the TARDIS.  Isn't that supposed to be a  problem?  Is it not causing an issue because neither of them are at full strength?  Also, wasn't the TARDIS in rough shape the last time we saw it? 

 

  • A lot more exposition where the Doctors explain the Sontaran plan to eliminate Daleks and the Cybermen.  Yaz and Kate ask if they're going to warn those two about the double-cross.  Why isn't #13 doing that?  She's always been about giving folks a chance to save themselves.  She seems a little bloodthirsty this time.  Best guess, slivers of erased memories coming through?

 

  • The Ood at Division HQ warns the Doctor she may not survive much longer and then asks if she wants a drink.  That's the funniest thing we've seen in Series 13.  The Ood are awesome.  #TeamOod

 

  • The Doctor saves Vinder and Diane, so Vinder and Bel are finally reunited!  What do we find out next about this couple?  Nothing.  No big reveal to explain why we've invested this time in them, but we're reminded that Bel is pregnant.  Maybe it will come out later, but we're still hoping these two are the Doctor's parents.

 

  • Diane doesn't seem happy to see Dan.  Guess she holds this whole nightmare against him.  Not really fair, but you can see why she'd do it.  Sorry, Dan.

 

  • Aww, Professor Jericho dies.  That's a shame.  He certainly didn't need to be another companion, but maybe he could have worked with Kate Stewart and a revived UNIT?  Guess you need the occasional death of a character you like to reinforce the reality that associating with the Doctor can come at a price.

 

  • Sontarans, Daleks, and the Cybermen all get destroyed, and then Passenger absorbs the rest of the Flux before it can erase Earth.  However, most of the rest of the universe is still gone, right?

 

  • Swarm and Azure take #13 to the Temple of Atropos to sacrifice her to Time, having no idea their plan failed.  Time erases them from existence and then tells the Doctor, "Your time is heading to its end.  Nothing is forever. No regeneration, no life. Beware of the forces that mass against you… and their master."  That's shades of the Ood giving #10 a similar warning.  Also, does this mean Sacha Dhawan is returning as the Master?  That would be outstanding.  #13 is fully restored, but for how long?

 

  • By the way, Time is a sentient being?  That's new, and it also opens all sorts of doors for the future.

 

  • The Grand Serpent and Kate meet under the tunnels, when Vinder arrives to get his long-awaited revenge.  The Grand Serpent doesn't remember him at all.  Do we finally get a reveal about this guy's background?  We do not.  He's exiled without much of a fight, and that's that.  Will we ever find out more about snake man?

 

  • Apparently Karvinista, Vinder, and Bel will now be a team.  Let's think this one through...Say Vinder and Bel turn out to be the Doctor's parents.  That means Karvinista has (will have) been with her when she was an infant.  That could explain why they were so close during their time in Division, and why he was so hurt when she disappeared.  Yeah, don't know when we'll find out, but we're still standing by these two being her folks.

 

  • Diane is still holding a grudge, so Dan's bummed out...until the Doctor and Yaz invite him to join them for some new adventures.   John Bishop was fine, but again, Dan isn't necessary.  The Doctor and Yaz would have done fine by themselves.  Putting that to the side for a second, we're pretty sure the universe is still mostly gone, and no one seems to care?  Do we think that gets addressed during next year's specials?

 

  • The Doctor apologizes to Yaz for shutting her out and says, "I want to be able to tell you everything."  Let's be clear, #13-Yaz is every bit as much of a love story as #10-Rose or #11-Clara.  There's sooooo much unexplored ground here, but that's why fan fiction exists.

 

  • Hey, what happened the fob watch?  Oh, the Doctor still has it.  She asks the (apparently completely recovered) TARDIS to hide it from her...unless she really really wants it, and we're out.

 

Final Thoughts:

We don't know what to do with this finale.  There was so much interesting ground to cover in Series 13, but this week felt rushed, from start to finish.  What would have this adventure looked like it if it had been given 12 episodes to work with and the space to breathe a little bit?  There are still so many unanswered questions.  Maybe some of them will still be addressed next year.  It was asking a lot to be able to tell a story in just six episodes, so we give the powers that be points for trying. 

All in all, this was still an exponentially more interesting year than Series 11 or 12.  We finally got a better sense of Jodie Whittaker's Doctor, and it leaves us wanting more.  We'll give this week a B/B- (for just being so chaotic), and Series 13 a B+ as a whole.  What about you?

We've got another return of the Daleks on New Year's Day, so we'll see you then!

 

Doctor Who Flux The VanquishersWe're always happy to see more Ood.  (pic via radiotimes.com)

 

 

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