Review: DOCTOR WHO FLUX Has a Couple of Great Episodes to Lift a Mediocre Season

Doctor Who: Flux is the latest season of the BBC’s popular sci-fi series. Due to the pandemic, the series had to reduce its number of episodes to six and used this to tell one continuous story.

The universe is in danger. A giant cloud called The Flux travels around the galaxy and destroys any planets in its path. Unfortunately, one of these planets is Earth, and the Doctor must figure out who created the Flux and why they want to destroy the universe. She works with old and new allies and faces old and new enemies across time and space.

Since Chris Chibnall has become the showrunner of Doctor Who, the show has had a massive drop in quality. The show no longer felt fun like it used to, nor had the emotion and character development that fans loved about the Davies and Moffatt eras. Instead, Chibnall made the show boring because of his bland characters, overly expository dialogue, and overreliance on heavy-handed political commentary. Chibnall also annoyed fans because he seemed to misunderstand the series he’s working on. So, the only way to go was up.

Flux did see a lot of improvements, and Chibnall seemed to have listened to some of the criticisms. There was much less expository dialogue or just having characters standing and talking, and the political commentary was toned down. As a result, the show felt fun again. The first episode of the season was a confusing mess. Still, it had energy and urgency because the Doctor and Yaz had to escape from a seemingly impossible situation and had a fun, campy tone. Chibnall knew how to excite audiences with a cliffhanger at the end of each episode.

The fourth episode, “The Village of the Angels,” was easily the best episode of the Chibnall era, let alone in the season. It was the best Weeping Angels episode since the Series 5 two-parter “Time of the Angels”/”Flesh and Stone.” “The Village of the Angels” was a classic rural English countryside horror with a Doctor Who twist. In the episode, The Weeping Angels attack a village in 1967. It was a simple concept that made for a great horror episode. It showed Chibnall at his best because he had the ordinary collide with the extraordinary, like his hit crime show Broadchurch. And like Broadchurch, “The Village of the Angels” was set in Dorset.

The other great episode of the series is “War of the Sontarans.” In this episode, The Doctor discovered the Sontarans had traveled back in time to rewrite Earth’s history, causing the British to be at war with aliens during the Crimean War. It was a fun episode that showed an alternative history story. It’s hard to go wrong with 19th-century soldiers fighting laser-wielding aliens. Mary Seacole was a major character in the episode, and the episode managed to educate people on who she was while also being a satisfying sci-fi story. It didn’t feel like an episode like “Rosa,” where the Doctor and companions took a backseat to a history lesson.

Even though Flux had two excellent episodes, it didn’t work as a complete package. There were duff episodes and plotlines that went nowhere. The character’s role known as The Great Serpent (Craig Parkinson) was an example of this. The Great Serpent was a figure who could get into positions of power throughout the centuries, had psychic abilities, and killed off anyone who discovered his secret. But The Great Serpent’s motivations were vague.

All the new villains’ motivations were vague. Swarm (Sam Spruell) and Azure (Rochenda Sandall) were meant to be big bad guys of the series. There were ancient beings who could manipulate time and dissolve people with a touch and wanted to be able to control all of time. Yet they came across as nothing more than Saturday Morning Cartoon villains who were evil for the sake of being evil, or to put it another way; they were one-off Doctor Who monsters who got a much more important role than they deserved. They were underwhelming villains who got an equally underwhelming end in the final episode of the series.

As the series progressed, Chibnall became more interested in the Doctor’s mysterious past. There were questions about who The Division was and why The Doctor was a member, and her connections to characters like Swarm and Karvanista (Craige Els). The first issue was Chibnall was doubling down on the controversial Timeless Child reveal of Series 12, which retconned the Doctor’s origins story. Even if audience members accept The Timeless Child storyline, Flux left many questions unanswered. Unfortunately, it seems like Chibnall was leaving them open just so he could address them in Whittaker’s final specials.

Doctor Who: Flux was an improvement over Chibnall’s previous seasons, and “Village of the Angels” will be seen as a classic episode, and the series had more of a sense of fun. However, the series did succumb to some terrible writing from Chibnall, especially during the final two episodes.

 

Kieran Freemantle
Kieran Freemantle
I am a film critic/writer based in the UK, writing for Entertainment Fuse, Rock n Reel Reviews, UK Film Review and Meniscus Sunrise. I have worked on film shoots. I support West Ham and Bath Rugby. Follow me on Twitter @FreemantleUK.

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