Chapter Three of Doctor Who: Flux has just landed. Here’s what we thought of Once, Upon Time…
Naturally, spoilers follow.
Tony Jones: It started so well. Enter Bel, played by Thaddea Graham (who impressed in The Irregulars) one of two excellent pieces of casting and a well judged character, with a meaningful narrative thread. Then we moved to the Doctor and companions (fam seems so long ago), here’s where I could hear the ball being dropped (narratively speaking). The whole episodes existed only to provide a means to give a lot of exposition about the Timeless Child / Division in the guise of time line implanted flashbacks or some such nonsense. While it was great to see Jo Martin, it’s actually quite hard to work out what the episode was about.
Unlike last week, Dan did nothing of any obvious consequence. Yaz (like last week) did very little except get shouted at by the Doctor. Vinder is still an emerging figure, and his flashback timeline memories told us a lot of who he is and why he was where he was. Why did we not get the same for Dan? Why not show us something about Yaz?
Of course it was also a clever device to reuse the cast as avatars for actual people in memories, and John Bishop playing Karvanista we had a nice symmetry. Who are the two others represented by Yaz and Vinder? In the latter case I suspect he might have been the same character who died in Gloucester before Jodie’s Doctor met Jo’s Doctor. No idea who Yaz was meant to be — Romana anyone? The Rani?
Joking aside we get a lot more sense of the importance of Jo Martin’s Doctor in the bigger picture. We also had a random reset the planet of Time ending and Swarm and co just pop back off waiting for next time.
It looks good, it’s well produced, it just doesn’t work (for me). Better luck next time.
Ian McArdell: Once, Upon Time or the one where we hoped we’d start to find out what the Flux is going on… We did, a little.. Plot-wise this chapter delivered the least towards the ongoing story so far, instead concerning itself with answering a few questions. And naturally setting up even more.
For the TARDIS crew and Vinder, this involved copious amounts of bobbing about in their own time stream while the Doctor went all Quantum Leap into her past. Pleasingly, she encountered Jo Martin’s Fugitive Doctor in her own memory — showing us what happened when the Doctor (and Karvanista) initially hunted down and dealt with the Ravagers, Swarm and Azure.
We also dug into Vinder’s backstory, meeting Craig Parkinson’s terrific Grand Serpent, the shady politician whose actions were the cause of Vinder’s disgrace. For me, Parkinson’s short appearance really stood out and the moment he turned on Jacob Anderson’s Vinder was fantastic.
Meanwhile, seemingly unconnected, Thaddea Graham’s Bel was our guide to a fractured post-Flux universe. Handy with a blaster — she can take out a whole cyber patrol — and with only herself to talk to, she delivered ample amounts of exposition in a reasonably engaging manner.
I’d say the regular companions fared less well though; Yaz was busy setting up the Angels threat for the next episode, and Dan was just a bit lost, encountering tunnel builder Joseph Williamson and his potential love interest Diane. Neither companion seemed to be actively engaged doing anything very much.
The Doctor, pleasingly front-footed so far this series, felt less so as a consequence of this situation. The story did her no favours in this regard, especially by dropping in Barbara Flynn’s mystery character right at the end. The episode certainly looked great and I loved the Doctor’s darker coat, even if it was a figment of her imagination.
Additionally, I’m also not entirely sure why the god-like Mouri could not simply resolve the situation themselves? Perhaps this difficult middle-ish chapter will make more sense when set in the context of the whole story. I hope so! In the meantime, I’m off for a rewatch or two…
Doctor Who: Flux continues next week with Village of the Angels.