Chapter Two of Doctor Who: Flux has just landed. Here’s what we thought of War of the Sontarans…
Naturally, spoilers follow.
Tony Jones: Well, that was great fun, from start to finish indeed. The full-pelt pacing from last week was turned down a notch, allowing for some character as well as action. The team were split apart so they could join together and while the big (Swarm and team) story ticked forward a couple of notches, there was a big in-episode Sontaran war to enjoy.
Far too many references back to twentieth century Who to list or remember, but didn’t it look good? Both CGI and costume / makeup / props were spot on and we felt spoiled. I assume there’s a simpler setting to come, but for now let’s enjoy the treat.
Plenty of classic Who feel (including Logopolis) and a hard look at that most displeasing era of British colonialism and the catastrophe of the Crimean War. Tremendous performances all round from Mary Seacole, mad general and Dan’s parents, all topped with some tight direction. I also suspect this had some of Jodie Whittaker’s strongest performances so far (the sequence when she arrived in Crimea showed character without the babbling rush of nonsense we sometimes get.
The only quibble of any note is Dan, who suddenly comes over all James Bond (then again, JB — John Bishop, James Bond…) and takes on the invasion of Liverpool single-handed, armed only with a Wok. Still room for comedy. We’ve also got a big cliff-hanger, the arc with Claire yet to emerge and what is the Victorian engineer up to? Does he save the day (short-term)? Why do evil universe destroying villains spend so long boasting and tormenting instead of just disposing of the Doctor? I guess we’ll find out in the next few weeks.
Ian McArdell: Understandably, the frenetic pace slowed down for Chapter 2 of Flux, but not as much as I expected. Splitting the three leads and giving them separate story strands was effective and still made sure the story ripped along. No Claire or Diane this time though, their threads to be presumably be picked up later.
- I found the Doctor was pleasingly front footed throughout, really enjoyed the parlay moment and loved the catapult too. What the heck was the nightmare vision with the floating house thought?
For her part, Yaz had a pleasing moment with the tunnel building fella before getting wrapped into Vinder’s story. WWTDD though — is that the reckless path we saw Clara on before? As for Dan, he seems to be born lucky, but I loved his parents and the tempura/temporal joke was cringey, but I laughed.
It was terrific to see Sontarans perverting the course of human history and I was pleased by the name-check for Linx. Their charging cycle probably doesn’t bare too much thought, but then the probic vent vulnerability has long been a convenient design flaw/character motivation too. They were responsible for some brutal moments too; the firing squad and the execution of the dishonoured — Sontar-ho indeed! It was great to see an army of the ugly brutes doing what they do best — laying waste to everything in a mismatched fight and calling it honourable! What was nice was that Mary Seacole’s observations were the key to defeating them — Sara Powell was a delight (and she’s not unfamiliar to the worlds of Doctor Who already thanks to Big Finish).
And so, to Swarm and Azure, still not quite sure what’s going on there but it’s decidedly evil (and rather camp?) Are we shifting back in time, now at the point where the Flux was released? Let’s hope all becomes clear next week. I like the idea that the destructive force of time is held in check on a planet called Time – it feels a bit Logopolis somehow.
The best moment of the episode for me though? That doorless TARDIS! It felt as impactful as the empty shell scene from Father’s Day. So simple, so very clever.
Doctor Who: Flux continues next week with Once, Upon Time.