“It’s not like we haven’t had enough to do.”
The Flux ends in a chaotic mess of excessive plot threads, extraneous characters, unanswered questions, and wasted potential. The current Doctor will return on New Year’s for an encounter with the Daleks, but we’re no wiser about the mysteries and retcons added by Chris Chibnall, we’re possibly staring into a Whovian multiverse, and a certain arch-enemy of the Doctor’s is possibly back in play.
Title: “The Vanquishers”
Directed by Azhur Saleem
Written by Chris Chibnall
Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor
Mandip Gill as Yasmin Khan
John Bishop as Dan Lewis
Steve Orama as Joseph Williamson
Nadia Albina as Diane
Rochenda Sandall as Azure / Anna
Jacob Anderson as Vinder
Kevin McNally as Professor Eustacius Jericho
Annabel Scholey as Claire
Craige Els as Karvanista
Thaddea Graham as Bel
Jemma Redgrave as Kate Stewart
Sam Spruell as Swarm
Jonathan Watson as Sontaran Commander Stenck
Craig Parkinson as Grand Serpent / Probably not the Master but might as well be.
Dan Starkey as Senstarg / Shallo / Kragar
Nadia Albina as Diane
Simon Carew, Silas Carson as Ood
Jonny Mathers as the Passenger
Sonny Walker as Stevie
Nicholas Briggs as Voices of Daleks / Cybermen
The Doctor, occupying three different points of space-time simultaneously, and aided by a small army of companions (some of whom she has never really met) takes on the NAMES while intervening in the Sontarans’ attempts to exploit the Flux so that they can conquer the universe, an effort which engages them in a war with the Daleks, the Cybermen, and the Lupar.
If all that sounds awesome, it’s not. The finale plays like the result of an improv game based on Doctor Who story premises and played by a band of lunatics.
Some of the new companions– Dan Lewis, Eustacius Jericho– work remarkably well. The explanation for Williamson’s Tunnels, a real-world mystery, works in the Whoniversal context. As for the overall arc, The Flux contains quite a number of good story ideas….
….but the finale develops none of these in a sensible or coherent way. They have only wasted the potential of those story ideas and characters, and, more offensively, they’ve wasted the retcons imposed on the series. After teasing the Timeless Child as a major mystery, they abandon it. The Doctor and Division? That mostly remains a secret.
If you’re going to mess with the mythos, at least have your changes mean something.
Originality: 3/6 The series has never had an episode this chaotic before, so there’s that.
Story: 2/6 The Flux contains enough plots and characters for a couple of seasons of episodes, tossed together pell-mell and not permitted to develop properly. The death of a certain character conveyed some nobility, but that was mainly the actor. The scene would have made more sense if he’d been a true companion and we had gotten to know him. The loss of entire races and systems, meanwhile, seems to get shrugged off.
Emotional Response: 2/6
Effects: 5/6 Alien-occupied cities! The space outside the universe! Three different spacefleets! The episode certainly looks spectacular…. Except, of course, for the Ravagers. Even their ending looks stunningly lo-tech.
Overall: 3/6 Thomas Bacon, over at Screen Rant, makes an interesting case that the failure of the recent seasons has nothing to do with the Doctor (she’s excellent) or even the retcons, but the handling of the companions. It’s worth a read.
In total, “The Vanquishers” receives 24/42