Doctor Who: Flux: Chapter Three:  Once, Upon Time

Doctor Who: Flux continues. Not Doctor Who: Fluxx–that’s a card game, which I think we have in my house somewhere. But the new season of the long-running TV series.

(Daily Doctor Who #360)

As we went into the third chapter of the new season-long Doctor Who story, I knew that for this story to continue to succeed it was going to have to start bringing understanding to some of its ongoing mysteries and enigmas, even while it continued to tell a fun story with good character interaction and high stakes action.  If not, then even if the episode had other strong qualities, the overall story would begin to feel frustrating.

So how did it do?

Spoilers!

Yeah, for the most part Flux continues to develop nicely.  The cold open introduces a new character whose connection to the broader story is at first not clear, but soon enough we are back with the Doctor and the cliffhanger from last week.  Jodie Whittaker has one of her best Doctor moments right here at the start where she moves into rapid-thinking mode, launching into the one desperate solution for the crisis that she’s in.

That of course takes us onto a crazy journey through space and time and reality, and through the various plotlines that the show has developed so far.  Taking the Doctor to a forgotten adventure that she had as the so-called Fugitive Doctor (Jo Martin) is a very clever way to bring that character back and to deepen this era’s ongoing mystery related to the hidden chapters of the Doctor’s past.  And it’s potentially an effective mechanism of giving us understanding of the motives of the Swarm and Azure–I say potentially because those motives are not fully clear yet, but we do have a much better sense than we did before. 

Dan and Yaz both have got good roles here, but they are fairly minimal compared to the previous chapters.  Instead, “guest character” Vinder is brought to the fore, and acquits himself as an honorable character with more admirable qualities than I thought we’d see.  Jacob Anderson does a good job in the first episode to really showcase the character.  Vinder’s connection with Bel, as revealed by the episode’s ending, was really nice and touching.

This does bring up something that I’m not happy about, however, although this is just a fan theory at this point—and  that is revealing that Vinder and Bel’s unborn baby is the Doctor herself, who is going to eventually have some timey-wimey thing done to her and then will be sent back in time for the early Gallifreyans to find.  There is nothing in the show to actually indicate this, except that the baby is being focused on at all, and it’s the sort of thing that the Chris Chibnall might do. 

It would be to the show’s detriment, though—a return to the more gimmicky storytelling that were the worst parts of Series 12.  And it would put a nail in the coffin of the idea that the whole Timeless Child idea is somehow increasing the quality and quantity of the show’s sense of mystery.

But there is no point complaining about things that have not happened yet—I might as well spend the energy complaining about things that have.  Because there were a few weak spots in the story.  One was that the script forced Jodie Whittaker to deliver a bunch of exposition to herself about what is going on—I like her as an actress but I feel like she’s less smooth at this than some of her predecessors.  A bigger issue is the reveal that it seems that the Swarm and his posse wanted the Doctor to pull the desperate time-travel gamble that most of the episode is focused on—if that’s true it definitely cheapens the episode and feels like lazy writing.

But these are small things in the face of the consistent fun and quality that the first half of Flux has had so far.  I’m hopeful that it will eventually be clear that these are just be small mid-story missteps and not the beginning of the story unraveling, in the same way as the in-story universe seems to be.

One thought on “Doctor Who: Flux: Chapter Three:  Once, Upon Time

  1. Seeing I’m Thinking Of Ending Things may have prepared me for the wild ride of reality warping that Once Upon Time would be. Even though I have learned to appreciate this kind of SF from an easy age thanks to Time Bandits, it’s amazing how daring this specific SF genre is today for all the great demands of entertainment for this century. Sometimes it may pay off and for Doctor Who’s courageous creativity, maybe it pays off for a good number of Whovians. But quite agreeably, it’s bound to make us all hope more than ever for a viable future of Doctor Who.

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