Doctor Who Flux Discussion: “Once, Upon Time” and “Village of the Angels”

The third and fourth episodes of the Doctor Who’s Flux features a chaotic but fairly original episode followed by one that embodies everything that has characterized this season, good and problematic.

What might be good and what, problematic, lies, of course, in the eye of the beholder.

Cast and Crew

Directors: Azhur Saleem and Jamie Magnus Stone
Writers: Chris Chibnall and Maxine Alderton

Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor
Mandip Gill as Yasmin Khan
John Bishop as Dan Lewis
Jo Martin as earlier Doctor
Kevin McNally as Professor Eustacius Jericho
Annabel Scholey as Claire Brown
Alex Frost as Reverend Shaw
Vincent Brimble as Gerald
Jemma Churchill as Jean
Penelope McGhie as Mrs. Hayward
Thaddea Graham as Bel
Blake Harrison as Namaca
Jacob Anderson as Vinder
Poppy Polivnick as Peggy
Rochenda Sandall as Azure
Sam Spruell as Swarm
Jacob Anderson as Vinder
Nadia Albina as Diane
Steve Oram as Joseph Williamson
Craig Parkinson as Grand Serpent
Bhavnisha Parmar as Sonya Khan
Matthew Needham as Old Swarm
Craige Els as Karvanista
Barbara Flynn as Awsok
Jonny Mathers as Passenger
Amanda Drew as voice of Mouri
Nigel Lambert as voice of Priest Triangle
Barbara Fadden, Isla Moody, Lowri Brown as Weeping Angels

My life has become quite hectic, and story arcs challenge out traditional reviews, so here are a few thoughts that might spark discussion.

“Once, Upon Time”

The Doctor and her supporting cast remain one of the strengths of this season. Jodie Whittaker has developed a character who, while unique, recalls some of the more off-kilter Doctors, most notably Tom Baker. Jacob Anderson as Vinder also gives a memorable performance as the Doctor hides characters in various, often “incorrect” timelines. It’s a confusing outing, but it has some intense moments. The ending seems a little too straightforward for a cliffhanger– I’ll be addressing that shortly as a feature/bug of this season.

Confusing matters further is the existence of a 2012 episode entitled “Once Upon a Time.”

The effects, once again, vary wildly, from beautiful space shots to a swarm of low-budget CGI.

“Village of the Angels”

This episode has the look and, in its best moments, the power of the classic Doctor Who gothic episodes, rendered with exceptional direction and a tragic character who recalls Hatty from Philippa Pearce’s classic children’s novel, Tom’s Midnight Garden. It gets undercut somewhat by the need of the larger arc to intrude, even when doing so breaks the mood.

It might have been a mostly-standalone follow-up to the brilliant “Blink” (2007)– not as good as the original, but certainly better than some follow-ups. Instead it gets interrupted by related doings on another world that might be better left for another episode, and the ongoing quest to discovery the Doctor’s backstory. The latter I accept is inevitable, regardless of my feelings about that particular retcon. But for all the power of the story arc to explore and develop characters, complex plots, and weighty themes, some stories work best when contained.

This has been a problem for Flux. Stories that might be better self- OR, at least, more contained (as were the chapters for the Key to Time saga, the famous arc that comprised the 1978-79 season) get shortchanged or disrupted by considerations that serve the larger story. The episodes have been individuated enough, however, that the overall arc feels choppy and chaotic.

There is much to like, however, and I am interested in how the story resolves.

Bonus: someone mistakes the Tardis for an actual police call box and tries to use it.

2 replies on “Doctor Who Flux Discussion: “Once, Upon Time” and “Village of the Angels””

  1. FYI, the episode title is “Once, Upon Time” (no “a”).

    Anyroad, yeah, this could possibly have been a bit better if it was more like the Key to TIme. I wonder how much of the stuff not directly related to the current story is there for contractual reasons (talent required being in all episodes, etc.) or because they need to have established some other goings on so it doesn’t appear like a deus ex machina later when the result of them makes like the cavalry. Yes, I’m probably giving them too much credit.

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