Doctor Who Review: Survivors of the Flux

This installment of the season-long arc features some excellent moments and it does move several of the disparate plotlines closer together. Overall, however, I do not know if I will be among those who survive the Flux.

Title: “Survivors of the Flux”

Directed by Azhur Saleem
Written by Chris Chibnall

Cast
Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor
Mandip Gill as Yasmin Khan
John Bishop as Dan Lewis
Kevin McNally as Professor Eutacius Jericho
Barbara Flynn as Tecteun
Craig Parkinson as Prentis / Grand Serpent
Robert Bathurst as Farquhar
Craige Els as Karvanista
Thaddea Graham as Bel
Jacob Anderson as Vinder
Sam Spruell as Swarm
Rochenda Sandall as Azure
Nadia Albina as Diana
Simon Carew Silas Carson, as Ood
Nicholas Blane as Millington
Steve Oram as Joseph Williamson
Jemma Redgrave as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart
Jonathan Watson as Sontaran Commander Stenek
Barbara Fadden, Isla Moody, Lowri Brown as Weeping Angels

Premise

The Weeping Angels transport the Doctor to a place outside the universe where her brand-new backstory gets amplified to where she is now central to, not only the story, Gallifrey, Division, and the Flux, but the entire history of the known universe. The Doctor also technobabbles something that includes the phrase, “reverse the polarity.” Perhaps it crosses the streams and counterpoints the surrealism of the underlying metaphor as well.

Prentis snakes through time and messes with UNIT. We actually see the third Doctor’s Tardis, but (and, in all fairness, this is typical, and only pulled out on special occasions) no explanation for how these changes to the timeline have not drawn the attention of the Doctor’s other incarnations. Timey-wimey, I suppose.

Dan, Yaz, and Eutacius travel around the world in 1904 in what appears to be the heavily-edited version of an interesting solo adventure connected to the main plot. They end up in Liverpool where they join forces with Joseph Williamson and try to fetch help from an irritable ally.

Conflict arises between Bel and Karvanista.

The plotting of the Doctor’s “mother” gets interrupted by the season’s low-budget (maybe) Final Bosses.

A kitchen sink gets thrown into spacetime. Okay, not really, but I fully expected that to happen.

High Points

Saddled with this script and several elements that don’t quite gel, Whittaker nevertheless gives a brilliant and nuanced performance as the Doctor.

The UNIT plot features a shout-out to the Brigadier and an impressive appearance by Jemma Redgrave as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart.

Low Point

Look, multiple and complex plotlines can work in fiction and even in visual media. Some of the crossover comic stories have pulled it off without becoming incoherent. Game of Thrones did it very well. Robert Altman and Richard Linklater (among others) have made memorable films with an army of characters and plots. In theory, it could work on Doctor Who.

It isn’t working.

Unlike the crossover comic events, we don’t already know and like most of the characters. The backstory lacks the coherence of a Game of Thrones. Opportunities to tell interesting parts of the arc– the 1904 adventures, for example– get lost in the need to tell all of them at once, in tiny fragments that obscure character, motivation, and anything else required for us to care about the plot.

This episode tries to bring the plot threads together, but the Flux’s storyline is collapsing faster than the universe.

The Scores

Originality: 3/6 It’s a mess, but some of its ideas are original.

Story: 4/6 The chaotic story gets some points for showing us a direction to this season.

Acting: 4/6

Emotional Response: 4/6

Production: 5/6

Effects: 5/6 This episode features enough stunning visuals for a season of Doctor Who, and impressive (if not strictly necessary) shots of various places around the world. Why, then, does the story hinge entirely on a pair of villains who look like they stepped out of a Halloween party down the block for a quick smoke?

Overall: 4/6

In total, “Survivors of the Flux” receives 29/42

8 replies on “Doctor Who Review: Survivors of the Flux”

  1. J_W_W says:

    “The Weeping Angels transport the Doctor a place outside the universe where her brand-new backstory gets amplified to where she is now central to, not only the story, Gallifrey, Division, and the Flux, but the entire history of the known universe.”

    You have GOT to be kidding me. Not just no but HELL NO.

    Chibnall treated the thoroughbred champion series from the BBC like crap and now all it’s legs are broken and it’s lying on the track in misery. Time to put it out of its misery and cancel it for quite a few more years.

    Maybe next time they’ll get a showrunner who isn’t a malignant narcissist to fix the disaster Chibnall INTENTIONALLY created.

  2. JD DeLuzio says:

    It’s a pity, because there really are a lot of good ideas in Flux. Put the Doctor in the 1904 plot (she appears briefly) and give the characters time to breathe and develop, and that would be one heck of a Doctor Who episode: the Doctor and companions do Indiana Jones/Lara Croft. Instead, we get fragmented highlights, interrupted by a bunch of other things. Or last week’s Weeping Angels episode, that led to this one? It’s still the standout of this season, but it really should have been more of a contained “chapter,” perhaps interrupted by one of the other plotlines. It still would have been derivative, but it likely would have been one of the most memorable Gothic Who episodes.

    The Prentis/Serpent plot? What an interesting development to drop into a season of Doctor Who. It’s actually a good retcon that doesn’t destroy what came before. But as presented, it becomes just one more thing that writers and viewers have to track to get to whatever the finale is going to be.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I really don’t understand the intense hatred for Chibnall. I agree that he wasn’t the best choice for showrunner but I really don’t think the result is anywhere remotely as bad as what the “Chibnall Is Teh Evil” crowd insists. No, not even The Retcon™, which isn’t nearly as deleterious to existing “canon” as a lot of people make out. None of that is to say that Chibnall has been great. Uneven writing, questionable overall plotting choices (too many companions, for one), among other things have not been beneficial (though how much of that is down to executive meddling is unclear, at least to me).

    It *is* good that we have a new (returning) showrunner, though. At the very least we’ll get something a bit different than we had over the past few years.

    • J_W_W says:

      The problem with the retcon is the destruction of what it means to be the first doctor, the fourth doctor, the tenth doctor, etc. it was always attached to the actor and the part in the show. It could identify and honor certain accord to play the role.

      Making them the umpteenth doctor basically effs that all up. And it was done with the Intent to rub that sand in the eyes of fans for which counting the doctors mattered (I didn’t pick 1,4, and 10 by accident in my example). Chibnalls BS removes that in show and out of show history, and it does it with malice because it’s all about the modern “narrative”. Chibnall is a pathetic egomaniacal scum that sullied Dr. Who for his own edification. The worst possible choice to run the show.

      • RTD made 10 the 10 and 11th iteration, and Moffat and John Hurt made everyone after McGann a miscount.

        It just means the way us fans had named the doctors doesn’t work, it doesn’t change anything. I just means that when you tell people who your favorite doctor is, you have to say Hartnell, Baker, and Tennant, or something more fun that still will make perfect sense to other Whovians by saying you like Sandshoes, Scarf, and Grandfather.

  4. I really want to like this. I feel like someone has given me everything I want.. but… it just really isn’t coming together. There’s only one episode left, they’ve moved past stuff that wasn’t satisfactorily resolved, and I think these six episodes would have been better if they were six seasons.

    I agree with a lot of the previous comments. Chibnall has some great ideas. I like The Retcon. It expands continuity in a fun way that leaves the whole continuity intact, but gives us so much more mystery. The Division sounds like the TVA or whatever the second/third doctor was dealing with, and does sound far too “big” in the last episode, but that can be downplayed in the future. Chibnall seems to have ideas that are too big and need to be reeled in and anchored a bit. I am sorry he didn’t find his rhythm before he is moving on, but unfortunately I think I do have to side with the people who want him to move on.

    RTD brought the show back from nothing. RTD expanded the show from “You can find an audio play if you look hard enough” to televised stories, Torchwood, Sarah Jane, and beyond that. I welcome him back to do work his magic so that next year I can watch as much Doctor Who as I watch MCU and Star Trek. That said, I wouldn’t have minded some new blood. We saw what RTD had to do. It was great. He moved on to Moffat, who was different, but also great. I wouldn’t have minded some new person to go someplace new with everything, but as long as we don’t just get a glorified set of re-runs I am sure I will be happy.

    • J_W_W says:

      I agree that RTD and Moffat built something amazing. Chibnall brought out a blowtorch to burn things down.

Comments are closed.