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Doctor Who: Flux – Chapter One: The Halloween Apocalypse (Review)

“You know, Yaz. I can’t help but feel like some of this is my fault.”

In the lead-up to the broadcast of Doctor Who: Flux, there was some debate about the marketting of the series.

After all, it seemed like fans knew more about the distant fourteenth season of the revival than they did about the looming thirteenth season. Information about Chibnall’s third season tended to escape into the wild rather than derive from a single coherent source. Former showrunner Steven Moffat seemed to (accidentally) confirm that the Weeping Angels were appearing. Part of the publicity campaign for Flux involved deleting the show’s social media presence. The first trailer was released only three weeks before the premiere. In interviews, Chibnall openly worried about “giving too much away.”

Dogged pursuit.

In some ways, this is typical of the larger Chibnall era. After all, Chibnall took great pride in seeding the phrase “the Timeless Child” in The Ghost Monument, only to eventually pay it off with twenty minutes of expository flashbacks in The Timeless Children. The Chibnall era is very plot-focused, which means that it is paranoid of potential spoilers, and it is reasonable to wonder whether that paranoia makes it harder to sell the show to the general public. For a sprawling six-part epic built around one of the BBC’s flagship properties, Flux seemed to fly in under the radar.

Then again, this makes a certain amount of sense watching The Halloween Apocalypse. The season premiere doesn’t really feel like an episode of television, at least not in the traditional sense. There is a relatively minor self-contained plot within the episode focusing on Karvanista and Dan, which is neatly wrapped up within the episode proper. However, that is just one thread of a story that cuts frantically from one thread to another, introducing a host of set-ups that promise the possibility and the potential of chaos.

Tracing an outline of the season ahead.

This is itself pure and unfiltered Chris Chibnall. It is the ultimate acceleration and culmination of the style that he adopted in The Woman Who Fell to Earth. Inheriting the series from Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat, Chibnall was a writer who lacked his predecessors’ skill with character and dialogue. Watching The Woman Who Fell to Earth, it seemed like Chibnall’s solution to this problem was to ensure that there was always something to cut away to – that he could get into and out of scenes quickly, to distract from the fact that his dialogue and characters felt rather generic.

The Halloween Apocalypse takes that idea to its logical extreme. It introduces a variety of disparate and disconnected elements that are presented as a series of mystery boxes, hoping that the audience will be enticed enough to keep watching – the Swarm and his history with the Doctor, the transformed Azure, the mysterious Vinder, Claire who appears to be from the Doctor’s past and/or future, the Sontaran invasion fleet, the mysterious excavations in 1820. None of these elements get any pay-off, or even development. Instead, they are simply spinning plates positioned for the rest of the six-episode arc.

With that in mind, the marketting strategy makes a great deal more sense. Why would Flux need heavy advertising, if the first episode was essentially a fifty-minute trailer?

Being a little cagey about spoilers.

There is simultaneously a lot to talk about in The Halloween Apocalypse and nothing at all. It’s a wonderful sleight of hand, in some ways the culmination of Chibnall’s efforts to transform Doctor Who into a facsimile of prestige television. This is an episode of television in which the showrunner throws a host of balls into the air, making it very difficult to offer a convincing assessment of the effort until those balls have landed over the next five episodes.

In some ways, this approach makes sense. For all the panic and wand-wringing over the perceived decline in ratings, those figures ultimately suggest that audience viewing habits have changed. While Doctor Who is a BBC production, it arguably no longer exists within the confines of its original broadcast. It is unimaginable that any modern episodes would ever be lost like Marco Polo or The Macra Terror. Those early adventures were discarded because Doctor Who was thought to have little value outside of its initial broadcast. Flux demonstrates how times have changed.

The basic structure and premise of Flux assumes that the opposite is true: that modern Doctor Who is probably best designed with an eye to life after the initial broadcast. Watching The Halloween Apocalypse, it is clear that Chibnall is building this adventure for the binge or the boxset. It seems likely that however Flux ultimately turns out, it is probably designed to be best enjoyed watched as a single cohesive entity. After all, Chibnall is credited as writer on all six episodes, and the six episodes are split between only two directors. For all that Moffat joked that he was a “box set man”, Chibnall is pushing further in that direction.

It’s interesting to wonder to what extent this creative decision comes from broader shifts in production and distribution. While a lot of the debate about what will happen after Chris Chibnall’s departure focused on the return of Russell T. Davies, one of the more interesting aspects of that transition will see Doctor Who become a co-production with Bad Wolf. Bad Wolf is reportedly “on the brink” of being acquired by Sony, and it seems likely that their involvement with Doctor Who was a factor under consideration. Doctor Who is much more than a television series that broadcasts on Sunday evenings.

State of Flux.

While Bad Wolf won’t take over production of Doctor Who until Chibnall departs, there has been a significant restructuring behind the scenes. During Chibnall’s tenure production of Doctor Who shifted from the BBC’s internal Drama Department to BBC Studios, and the impact of this transition is so significant that Chibnall didn’t get to choose his replacement as showrunner. This is all a very abstract and roundabout way of acknowledging that this is a new way of telling a Doctor Who story, and that it is something that exists in the context of the shifting realities of modern television.

Of course, Flux has been packaged and sold as “one epic story”, making it comparable to something like Torchwood: Children of Earth. This is certainly fair. However, it also gets at the interesting paradox of the Chibnall era, the way in which Chibnall has his eye on the franchise’s past and its future. After all, Chibnall’s approach to writing Doctor Who is arguably closer to Terry Nation than Steven Moffat. This is far from the first time that Doctor Who has attempted to tell a single story serialised over six weeks. Flux could just be The Daleks or The Invasion of Time, but with hour-long episodes.

Outside of the contrext of the shifting realities of television consumption, Flux could be positioned as a nostalgic return to the way that Doctor Who used to be produced. Even if the episodes are self-contained, it makes a certain amount of sense to understand the episode in the context of the show’s own internal history, as a spiritual successor to something like The Daleks’ Master Plan, The Key to Time or The Trial of a Time-Lord. However, the emphasis on set-up within The Halloween Apocalypse suggests that this will be much more committed to serialisation than the framing story around The Mysterious Planet or Mindwarp.

Like a lot of the Chibnall era, it’s hard not to read the basic concept of Flux as a mulligan on the show’s eighties, an attempt to reclaim and rework the era of Doctor Who with which Chibnall grew up. Chibnall’s defining moment as a fan remains critiquing The Trial of a Time Lord, so there is something appropriate in the idea that his final season as showrunner will be committed to revising that failed experiment. This makes sense. What was Ascension of the Cybermen but Earthshock on a bigger budget? What was The Timeless Children but a committed execution of the sort of premise teased by “the Cartmel Master Plan?”

To be fair, there is a certain appeal to The Halloween Apocalypse, with Chibnall leaning into his sense of momentum and excitement. It is certainly a lot easier to watch than something like Ascension of the Cybermen and The Timeless Children, which were very static and very staid pieces of television. While there is a moment in which the Swarm confronts the Doctor on the psychic plane and exposits to her, it’s mercifully brief compared to the Master’s monologuing in The Timeless Children. Chibnall’s approach is to always have something to which he can cut, and that sustains the episode across its runtime.

Keeping the audience in the dark.

The glib observation would be that it’s easier to start a story than to end one, and that an episode that expends so much energy setting plots in motion will ultimately be judged by how those plots resolve. J.J. Abrams’ contributions to Star Wars seem more likely to be judged relative to Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker than to Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. It seems likely that any assessment of The Halloween Apocalypse will be reshaped within the next month-and-a-half.

Still, it’s worth giving credit where it is due. There is a certain amount of charm to the episode’s self-contained plot, which concerns Karvanista journeying to Earth and abducting Dan. It is the sort of light and loose plot that works in a season premiere, when the story’s primary function is to avoid getting in the way of the show’s reintroduction to the audience. Stories like Rose, Smith and Jones and Partners in Crime were never particularly plot-heavy, because they were simply designed to welcome the audience back to Doctor Who, allowing them to get comfortable.

Indeed, there is something very familiar about the set-up of Karvanista travelling to Earth to hunt down Dan. It is basically the exact same plot as The Woman Who Fell to Earth, which was built around Tzim-Sha traveling to Earth to hunt down Karl. Indeed, The Woman Who Fell to Earth seems to be an obvious point of reference for The Halloween Apocalypse. Even the make-up design on the Swarm is superficially similar to the design of the Stenza, with the embedded crystals taking the place of the embedded teeth.

To Chibnall’s credit, there is a clever twist here. The revelation that Karvanista isn’t hunting Dan, but is instead saving him, is a nice subversion of expectations. It is exactly the sort of plot twist that the show would pull off in the Davies or Moffat eras, in episodes like Hide. It plays off the standard language of these sorts of science-fiction plots in interesting ways, reinforcing the fact that Doctor Who is not a typical science-fiction show. Similarly, there’s something immensely charming in the fact that Karvanista is a giant dog, recalling the cat people from stories like New Earth or Gridlock.

Axing the right questions.

The idea that there is an entire alien species that serves as “man’s best friend” is delightfully goofy, as is the absurdity of an alien rescue mission that relies on seven billion two-person space craft. It is ridiculous, in a good way. It is the sort of silly and playful idea that was a lot more common in earlier iterations of the series, and which has become a lot rarer during Chibnall’s tenure. It might be the most delightfully silly alien menace since something like It Takes You Away, which remains one of the best episodes of the Chibnall era to date.

That said, episodes like The Eleventh Hour, The Bells of St. John or The Pilot tended to keep their plots simple so that they could give over more room to character development. After all, The Halloween Apocalypse finds itself tasked with introducing a new companion in Dan, played by Jon Bishop. Chibnall’s never been quite as good at characterisation as Davies or Moffat, but Dan is superficially close enough to the most clearly defined supporting character of Chibnall’s tenure. Like Graham before him, Dan is a middle-aged white guy played by a variety television show host with enough raw charisma to coast on charm.

The Halloween Apocalypse does offer some hints about Dan Lewis. He is very much a companion cast in the mould of the Davies era, like Rose Tyler or Donna Noble. Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of The Halloween Apocalypse is the extent to which the episode does try to ground Dan within the realities of contemporary Britain. Notably, Dan works at a foodbank. He also needs the food from the foodbank, even if he is reluctant to acknowledge that. “Don’t be proud, Daniel,” his co-worker tells him.

This is a very candid acknowledgement of the very real problems facing the United Kingdom. Two-and-a-half million food parcels were given out in the first half of this year. Queues in London stretch down the road. Middle-class college graduates are forced to rely on foodbanks to survive. The government is doing nothing to alleviate this horror. In fact, it seems likely that government policies will only accelerate the problem. It’s refreshing to see a show like Doctor Who acknowledge a character like Dan needing to use a foodbank. It’s refreshing in the same way that it was nice to see Rose’s working class background.

Dan the man.

Of course, while acknowledging this reality has value, it would also be interesting to see Chibnall make a more pointed argument about it. Dan’s situation isn’t just tragic, it is deserving of anger and contempt. It would be nice to see an episode that shared the same anger as something like Aliens of London and World War III or Turn Left or The Beast Below or Oxygen. It would also be nice to get a sense of Dan’s humanity and complexity in the same way that episodes like Rose or Partners in Crime fleshed out the lives of Rose Tyler and Donna Noble.

Instead, The Halloween Apocalypse makes a big deal of Dan’s nobility and pride. The episode’s introduction of Dan is a celebration of his intellectual curiousity and his charisma, hijacking tours of the Museum of Liverpool to celebrate the city’s rich cultural heritage. “Nobody has got a top floor like the Museum of Liverpool,” he boasts. “These define us. These make Liverpool.” Dan is so proud of his local identity that the local museum has threatened to ban him.

It’s a very cartoonish portayal of nobility in poverty, and one that ignores the fact that somebody like Dan would likely face more severe limitations on their curiousity and their enthusiasm than the cheeky frustration of local administrators. Rose Tyler was a character who longed to see the larger world and universe, but who had resigned herself to the trappings of a working class existence. Even Bill Potts might have dreamed of exploring, but instead found herself trapped in a particular job by her background.

The Halloween Apocalypse seems so worried at portraying Dan’s working class background as one with challenges to overcome and limitations to navigate, that it cannot suggest that anything is missing from Dan’s life. Dan might be starving, but his life is full. It’s an approach that illustrates the limitations of Chibnall’s approach to characterisation, particularly when contrasted to characters like Rose Tyler or Bill Potts or Donna Noble. Of course, introducing Dan is just one of many things that The Halloween Apocalypse has to get through.

Tardy to the TARDIS party…

One of the more interesting aspects of The Halloween Apocalypse is the sense in which it feels like a hybrid of a variety of styles. If Dan feels like a companion very much informed by the Davies era, a working class striver with a deep intellectual curiosity, then there are also shades of the Moffat era to hints of the “timey wimey” nature of the threat facing the Doctor. In particular, the idea that Claire has met the Doctor “in the past” is a very Moffat-esque idea, which makes sense given her interaction with the Weeping Angels. Indeed, Claire’s line about “taking the long way home” plays as a direct reference to The Girl in the Fireplace.

There are certainly moments in The Halloween Apocalypse that feel endebted to Moffat’s writing. The “why does Dan have such a flashy computer?” beat feels very much like a Moffat-era realisation, the character’s questioning an element of the scene that does not fit with the episode’s internal logic. Similarly, the Swarm’s attack on the two wardens features probably the single best one-liner of the entire Chibnall era, as the monster boasts, “I waited. I planned. And now I’m going to execute.” It’s hardly the smartest of puns, but that dialogue is playful in a way that Chibnall rarely allows himself to be.

(Indeed, The Halloween Apocalypse features no shortage of Chibnall’s clunky dialogue. In the opening teaser, Karvanista boasts about “… what will in future be known as the final hours of Planet Earth”, which is a very convoluted way of saying “… the final hours of Planet Earth.” Then again, even that can almost be excused as stylistic flourish, given Karvanista’s fondness for delightfully absurd (and redundant) death traps. Still, The Halloween Apocalypse isn’t an episode that lives or dies by its dialogue.)

At the same time, there is a lot in The Halloween Apocalypse that marks it as a specifically a Chris Chibnall episode. Most obviously and superficially, there is a surprising amount of implied continuity following on from The Timeless Children. The Swarm is introduced as a villain with an ancient connection to the Doctor, an easy way to make the antagonist feel more important. “Trick or treat, Doctor,” he taunts. “Hello again, Doctor,” he boasts. “Our final fight has begun,” he promises. This is all an easy way to make the Swarm seem like a big deal without actually developing the Swarm as a credible threat.

The king in black.

The Halloween Apocalypse picks up several threads from The Timeless Children, a surprising amount of them centred around “the Division.” The Doctor is pursuing questions about “the Division”, and that is what brings her to Karvanista in the first place, and the coincidence that Karvanista just happens to be abducting Dan is what spurs most of that plot thread. Similarly, the Swarm has been “imprisioned since the dawn of the universe” by “the Division”, which would seem to suggest that the Swarm’s relationship with the Doctor stretches back the Doctor’s lost memories.

It’s hardly the most compelling long-form arc. As with a lot of big plot points in the Chibnall era, it seems like the sort of story that the Moffat era would have played out in the background in contrast to the real story that it wanted to tell. Much as it’s possible to read The Timeless Children as a more straight-forward version of the sort of mythology-driven story that Hell Bent eschewed, it’s possible to read this plot thread focusing on “the Division” as a much more earnest take on the vast conspiracies playing out in the background of The Time of the Doctor.

There’s a strange obsessive and fannish quality to Chibnall’s fixation on these sorts of plot elements, as they seem to hark back to the more continuity-insistent aspects of the show’s wilderness years. It’s possible to read “the Division” and the Doctor’s lost history with the organisation as essentially an attempt to import some of the basic narrative logic of the “Season 6B” fan theory that posited a “secret” and “lost” history between The War Games and Spearhead from Space, in which the Doctor worked for the Time Lords’ “Celestial Intervention Agency” as a top secret operative.

It is notable that the big booby trap that “the Division” sets for the Doctor is essentially a miniaturisation ray. While that is obviously Time Lord technology, it establishes a strong link to the Master. Spyfall, Part I and Spyfall, Part II went out of their way to reintroduce miniaturisation as part of that character’s gimmick. It plays into the fan theory that “SWARM” is – whether in- or out-of-universe – an acronym for Sontarans, Weeping Angels, Ravagers and the Master. It’s all very conscious and very aggressive arc-building, promising the audience that big revelations are coming.

Crystal clear.

Then again, this sort of approach is straight from Chibnall’s approach to the show. The Timeless Children was largely about characters delivering exposition about the Doctor’s secret history, treated as something fundamentally earth-shattering and important, even if it made for terrible television. As with a lot of Chibnall creative choices, this feels like emulation and imitation, as if the show is trying to position itself as drama by simply doing things that dramas are expected to do, rather than doing those things because they make sense within the story.

This is obvious in the little hints of the strained relationship between the Doctor and Yaz. The Halloween Apocalypse makes it clear that the Doctor has been keeping secrets from Yaz. “You won’t say why,” Yaz remarks of the Doctor’s plans to see “a man about dog.” The Doctor is confrontational about this, “You know what, Yaz? I don’t mention everything.” Yaz complains, “Why won’t you let me in?” She insists, “You’re hiding something, about him.”

This is nothing new. During the previous season, the Doctor concealed details about the destruction of Gallifrey from her companions. She lied to them. She kept them at an emotional distance. However, the characters confronted her about this. So it feels strange that the Doctor and Yaz seem to have found themselves back having this same argument. It’s particularly frustrating given that this set-up wasn’t particularly compelling the last time.

Again, it feels like Chibnall is doing this in an effort to create something resembling interpersonal drama within the TARDIS crew. It feels like an attempt to replicate the dynamic from the Davies era. The Ninth and Tenth Doctors would frequently lie to and manipulate their companions. This was most obvious in the Tenth Doctor’s treatment of Martha Jones, but it was also implicit in things like the Ninth Doctor’s dismissal of human beings as “stupid apes” and the Tenth Doctor’s assumption that he always knew best.

Shipping forecast.

Of course, there is a valid point here to be made that a large part of the Moffat era was about the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors realising that these patterns of behaviour were not healthy and that they needed to be more emotionally available to their companions and more willing to treat them as genuine equals. As with the destruction of Gallifrey, the tension between the Thirteenth Doctor and Yaz seems to have rolled the clock back in an effort to recreate the trappings of the Davies era.

Still, it’s nice to get some focus on Yaz. Yaz was, in many ways, the least developed companion of the previous two seasons. Given that Graham and Ryan shared a relationship and an arc, Yaz often fell to the periphery of the plot. Her family would come up in episodes like Arachnids in the U.K. and Demons of the Punjab, but the character eased into the role of the “default companion” among the ensemble. Yaz’s role tended towards exposition and plot function, and away from characterisation.

In her second season, the most interesting character threads around Yaz came in episodes like Praxeus, which hinted that she might be the most capable and the most competent of the companions. There was a quiet implication that Yaz might prove herself an equal to the Doctor, an equivalence that was perhaps reinforced by the dream sequences in Ascension of the Cybermen, which suggested that the Doctor had lived her own (albeit imaginary) previous life as a police officer.

It is slightly frustrating that Flux doesn’t trust the dynamic between the Doctor and Yaz to carry the show, the television show’s first exclusively female TARDIS crew. Of course, there are pragmatic reasons for wanting to include a performer of Bradley Walsh or John Bishop in the show’s ensemble, and a larger cast helps to split the show’s load. That said, it might have been nice to spend a season with just Jodie Whittaker and Mandip Gill as the primary cast, particularly an abridged season that already has an expansive ensemble.

Yaz, Queen.

By the start of The Halloween Apocalypse, it is clear that the Doctor and Yaz have spent considerable time together. Yaz is much more confident and assured. She is able to help with TARDIS. She can count booby traps. She is able to take charge with Dan. Chibnall’s script even leans into the subtext between the characters; there is plenty of fodder in The Halloween Apocalypse for shippers. The Doctor has moved a mattress to the control room; she keeps two sets of handcuffs on her at all times; the release word for the handcuffs is “relief.” It’s an interesting and slightly cheeky dynamic.

There are other markers of the larger Chibnall era. Most interestingly, it’s revealing that the character of Vinder – who will reportedly be a big deal – is introduced as a watcher and observer. Watching and observing is one of the big recurring motifs of the Chibnall era, perhaps most explicitly articulated in Demons of the Punjab. Arguably, episodes like Rosa have turned the Doctor herself into a passive observer rather than an active participant, so in some ways it feels very fitting that one of the most pivotal new characters of this season is introduced as a chracter whose sits and stares out the window, watching and reporting.

There is also perhaps something revealing in the fact that The Halloween Apocalypse presents the season’s existential threat as pure and unbriddled chaos – the breakdown of order. The eponymous Flux is described as a “hurricane ripping through the universe”, while observers watch the “falling of the structure of the universe.” It is a phenomenon that is “disobeying every law of time and space.” Given the emphasis on law and order – and systems – within Chibnall’s Doctor Who, this makes a pretty scary threat. Once again, the Doctor’s heroism is tied to her fighting to represent the status quo.

Indeed, it’s telling that this sort of epic and serialised story appeals to Chibnall. A six-part story like Flux is predicated on the idea of assembling order out of chaos. Part of the horror of The Halloween Apocalypse is the idea that these random elements are all completely disconnected from one another – that all these story threads are pushing outwards rather than tying into one another. The narrative arc of Flux will inevitably be the attempt to impose structure and order on this chaos. Once again, there’s a sense of the necessity of a larger over-arching system.

The Angels playing the angles.

This is obvious even within the teaser format of The Halloween Apocalypse. By the end of the episode, the various elements have already begun to overlap and intersect. Notably, Azure and the Swarm have already abducted Diane. It’s hard to tell whether Diane’s relationship to Dan is the reason why she was abducted, or if that is just a cosmic coincidence. However, even within the closing moments of The Halloween Apocalypse, there is a sense that the structure of the season is streamlining itself. Order is reasserting itself.

This will certainly be an interesting structure for the season, because it really seems that the nature of the threat is one of chaos and randomness, and it seems like that threat will never be as chaotic or random as it is in The Halloween Apocalypse. The structure of the season will require that the subsequent episodes feel more focused and more streamlined. It’s hard to imagine the show maintaining this level of frantic energy across six whole episodes. That raises interesting questions about the stakes of this adventure. Can they continue to escalate?

Again, it is worth acknowledging that Chibnall does manage to give a real sense of scale to the adventure. The Halloween Apocalypse stretches across space and time, from nineteenth century Liverpool to an observatory (“Observation Outpost Rose”) to a Sontaran fleet “thirty trillion light years away.” The show looks really impressive, and Chibnall continues to quote from accessible and populist entertainment in framing his epic adventure. Notably, the spread of the Flux recalls the imagery of Ego spreading from Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2.

There is also an interesting funereal atmosphere that pervades The Halloween Apocalypse, to the point that it would feel like the end of the journey even if the audience didn’t know that Chibnall’s successor was waiting in the wings. It’s notable that one of the big spurring events involves a literal changing of the guard, with an aging warden assigning custody of an old institution to a new generation. In this sense, the Swarm feels like an embodiment of the anxieties facing an showrunner reflecting on their time on Doctor Who.

Hanging in there.

“Now you’re handing over your task to a child,” the Swarm taunts En Sentac. The veteran has given her life and her purpose to caring for the maintenance and security of the Swarm’s cell, which seems to be – whether literally or even just figuratively – a force that holds the universe of Doctor Who together. It’s a commendably bleak opening to the season for an old veteran to watch their life’s work collapse into nothingness, the Swarm’s escape serving as “proof that [her] life’s work has ended in failure.”

It’s a surprisingly effective and evocative set-up, especially given that Chibnall will be leaving behind a very complicated and conflicted legacy on Doctor Who. In some ways, it feels like The Halloween Apocalypse is an appropriate starting point for the end of this era, as the universe itself unravels because an old caretaker cannot complete their final task.

11 Responses

  1. You make loads of great points as always, many thanks for putting the work in to post this.

    There is also perhaps something revealing in the fact that The Halloween Apocalypse presents the season’s existential threat as pure and unbriddled chaos – the breakdown of order. The eponymous Flux is described as a “hurricane ripping through the universe”, while observers watch the “falling of the structure of the universe.” It is a phenomenon that is “disobeying every law of time and space.” Given the emphasis on law and order – and systems – within Chibnall’s Doctor Who, this makes a pretty scary threat. Once again, the Doctor’s heroism is tied to her fighting to represent the status quo.

    Respect to the point you’re making, but just because I’m finding it a little amusing right now, I can’t resist pointing out that I can’t imagine the most ardent of anarchists thinking the Flux is a good thing! (To be fair, I can just about imagine Moffat pulling a twist where it turns out to be just what the universe needs, just like he brilliantly embraced the Beast Below and the flying shark.) The Sontarans do think it’s a good thing, which I’m not sure is quite right for them, somehow – not quite sure their militarism extends to embracing wholesale destruction that’s presumably going to extend to their own empire.

    • To be fair, I’m not at all suggesting that the Flux is a good thing or that it’s wrong to be afraid of it.

      More that I think you can see what terrifies writers in the kind of apocalypse they bring to Doctor Who. Davies returns time and again to fears of ascendant fascism and even nihilism. The repeated Dalek invasions, the Master setting up a dictatorship and cloning himself across the planet, the idea of the Daleks masterminding “the destruction of reality itself!” It’s also there in Davies’ other works like Years and Years and even Children of Earth. Even at its most basic level, the Davies era seems deeply afraid of eternal nothingness, “the Howling Void” and the missing planets.

      Moffat’s big fear is erasure – of history, of memory, of continuity. The stars going out. All of history happening at once. A crack that swallows everything and makes it as though it never was. While Davies kinda glosses over the Doctor erasing Donna’s memory, Moffat understands that such an erasure is monstrous. So much of the Doctor’s journey under Moffat is filling in those lacunas – reconciling with the War Doctor, restoring his memories of Clara at the end, completing the journey with River.

      So I just think it’s interesting that Chibnall’s big apocalypse is framed as pure and unfiltered chaos. Not an absence, not a void, not even an explosion. A storm sweeping through the cosmos, upsetting the natural order of things. That said, to reiterate: this is not a pro-Flux blog! Time will tell, though, if we’re a pro-Flux blog. (I think this is easily Chibnall’s best season premiere.)

      • You know, there’s a very real possibility that the Flux is a force controlled by Swarm not to destroy the universe but to remake it. After all, he was able to “recycle” the disintegrated guard. It looks like a form of “evil” regeneration, that must prey on what already is. This is similar to the very centrist concern with originality in the Tesla episode. And it might turn out that the Doctor is again fighting a “destructive revolutionary”, just like in Kerblam.

      • I wouldn’t put it past the show for the Doctor to once again be an agent of the status quo.

  2. This wasn’t that bad, as far as Chibnall episodes go, I have to say. The fact that we have 8 more episodes in a row written by him….doesn’t fill me with confidence though. Not at all. But this was more Woman Who Fell to Earth than Spyfall Part 2. In the words of the Soviet politburo, not great, not terrible.

    Damn. I didn’t know things were that bad in the UK. As everywhere, they need reform….https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgism

    • To be fair, I much preferred it to The Woman Who Fell To Earth despite my reservations on it. Even just the small twist on the human-hunting went a long way for me.

  3. I feel like the Karvanista twist would’ve been more effective if we hadn’t already done a very similar subversion in Demons of the Punjab

    • To be fair, I’ll take what I can get in the Chibnall era. Indeed, I miss the Moffat era when the show largely seemed to do away with “monsters”, and opponents that were evil for the sake of it were the exception rather than the rule. (Monks aside, the Boneless are among the last “pure” monsters.)

  4. I feel like the Karvanista twist would’ve been a lot more effective if we hadn’t already done a very similar subversion in Demons of the Punjab

  5. Every word of this is spot on. Thankyou!

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