LOUISE WILSON weighs the pros and cons of Doctor Who: Flux.
In case you missed it: check out Louise's previous article, where she introduces her hopes and fears for Doctor Who.
Part of me feels like this is going to be the hardest episode of the series to review because it’s the one that has to set everything up. Something that has plagued every showrunner since the revival of Who has been making a story the audience can fully invest in that can still be resolved in 45 minutes, and this is where it seems Flux might have the advantage. Spreading one story across several episodes gives Chibnall space to breathe, which I think shows through some of the best character interactions we’ve had since he took over the reins. Yaz and 13 genuinely feel like they are friends in this episode. Yaz has clearly come a long way since Ryan and Graham left, and Chibnall is finally trusting the audience to see this through her actions, rather than the painful exposition we were plagued with for two series. She’s flying the Tardis, she’s rescuing Dan (more on him later), she’s challenging the Doctor. 13 is probably the most socially incompetent incarnation of the timelord to date, and Yaz really has the potential to become the emotional backbone of the Tardis crew.
My favourite part of this episode (somewhat unbelievably) was John Bishop. I really like Dan. Bishop’s natural humour is something the show really benefits from, and he settles into the Tardis team quite nicely. I mentioned this in my pre-transmission piece, but it is really great seeing Liverpool at the forefront of this show. The museum, the waterfront, Anfield, Klopp. “Alright la” and “nice work girl” showing up in Doctor Who is something I didn’t know I needed, but I’m very glad I have. The revival era of Doctor Who has spent so much time in London that it does feel refreshing to see so much of Chibnall’s era highlight Northern cities.
As much as I do like Dan however, something doesn’t feel quite right with him. It’s hard to tell whether his complete inability to be phased by the multiple aliens he encounters is down to him just being a scouser or whether there’s something more to him. He doesn’t seem bothered by the Tardis in the slightest, even joking that his mate has a bigger one. I could be reading into things a little too much, but something tells me it’s more than coincidence that he’s ended up in the Doctor’s company.
There were also some drawbacks to this episode. Firstly, The Doctor (or Chibnall) relies too heavily on her screwdriver. The sonic’s abilities seem to grow tenfold every time Chibs sits down to write an episode and I’m getting really tired of it. I want to see The Doctor work out the answer rather than having her point the screwdriver in any direction and it tell her exactly what she needs to know. The CGI in the opening scene was also really poor. I’d argue that it fairs even worse than some of the stuff the show was churning out 15 years ago on 1/10 of the budget.
Finally, and I am completely willing to rescind this point if future episodes prove me wrong, but the story felt very busy. We were introduced to Dan, the sontarans, the weeping angels, Karvanista, and the swarm, all in one episode. I’ll be impressed if Chibnall manages to tie up all of his loose ends before the series comes to a close.
This episode seems to make not one, but two references to Rose Tyler. Firstly, the base Vinder works on is named Observation Outpost Rose. Secondly, towards the end of the episode, the Doctor attempts to defeat the Flux by unleashing the time vortex with her mallet. The last time the time vortex was opened it was by Jackie Tyler and her massive yellow truck, but back then the vortex was used to turn Rose into the Bad Wolf. Captain Jack also reminded us of this back in the New Years Day special. Either Chibnall just really likes calling back to a fan favourite companion, or he’s planning something (most likely the former).
Finally, here’s where we’re at with bingo. Nothing major has happened, but I expect that whatever is happening to the Tardis is only going to get worse.
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Written by Louise Wilson