Doctor Who: Flux continues. Not Doctor Who: Fluxx–that’s a card game, which I also wrote about recently. But the new season of the long-running TV series.
Once upon a time, certain events caused Doctor Who to go off the air for longer than expected, so the creative team behind it decided that when it returned, the shorter than expected run-time of the new season would be devoted to a single over-arching story, even though that overall plot would be made up of shorter segments that could more-or-less stand on their own.
This all happened in 1986, and the over-arching story was called Trial of a Time Lord.
Then it happened again in 2021, and the over-arching story became known as Doctor Who: Flux.
The difference is that Flux is shaping up pretty well as a grand plot. By two thirds into Trial, there was still the possibility of having some fun with the individual segments, but things were not looking good as far as a satisfying arc for the whole year was concerned. Will Flux actually land strongly? Well, we’ll know in a couple of weeks!
For the time being we must content ourselves with Village of the Angels. Happily, that is all right because the episode is really enjoyable. It’s the only episode of the season which Chris Chibnall had a co-writer on, specifically Maxine Alderton, who wrote my favorite Thirteenth Doctor episode before thiss season, The Haunting of Villa Diodati.
Like War of the Sontarans a couple of weeks ago, the episode is fairly self-contained, telling a decent beginning, middle and end all by itself. This results in Yaz and Dan getting to run around together a bit more like traditional companions. This is fine, especially with Dan who has had a lot of moments to shine. I’m still waiting for Yaz to take a starring role in a story–she’s been written a lot more interestingly than she used to and she’s always got a decent part, but she still has never really been the hero of the story in the way that Dan got to with the Sontarans.
Unlike the Sontarans, the Angels here aren’t simply taking advantage of the Flux to go about their evil ways–there is an agenda here that does tie into the grander questions of the Doctor’s hidden history.
They are chasing a Rogue Angel, who has attempted to go “off the grid” in a way, by hiding in the mind that woman Claire that we saw back in the first chapter of Flux.
Here we find that Claire has been transported to the 1960’s, where she is living in a village that is under siege by Weeping Angels looking for the Rogue. The idea of an Angel seeking help from the Doctor is a novel one, but it’s not disappointing when it turns out that the thing is up to no good all along, seeking to trap the Doctor because it turns out that they were both agents of “the Division”, and there’s nobody the Division wants more than the Doctor.
Along the way we get some nifty frightening sequences and a very well realised guest character in Professor Jericho, who gets to go all Gandalf on the Angels, making one bold pronouncement after another about how he won’t be outwitted by the creatures. I was so impressed that Jericho survived the story–this is exactly the sort of figure who normally gets killed off by the monsters to prove how scary or powerful they are. The fact that Jericho is played by Kevin McNally who previously performed the insufferable Hugo Lang in The Twin Dilemma somehow makes it even more impressive.
For the most part the episode does a decent job explaining the Angels’ role in all of Flux so far, including who Claire is. It’s actually quite an efficient wrap-up which frees up our attention for what is to come. It was also fun to see the Angels up to some of their lesser known but still classic tricks–like manifesting through images of themselves, or speaking through someone, or slowly coming to life through a powerfully imprinted image of themselves in someone’s mind.
The only part of the story that does not focus on this material with the Angels is the sequences with Bel and Vinder, which pushes forward the idea of the evil activities of the Ravagers. I think putting Vinder’s scene as a mid-credits sequence is a bit unnecessary–it could have easily been folded into the main story, and there’s nothing happening in that bit of the story to justify keeping it until after the credits started. I think if you are going to do mid- or post-credit scenes, it’s not too much to expect them to do something special to the story–like bringing back the Master or revealing that Bel could regenerate (thus pushing along the theory that she and Vinder are the Doctor’s parents). To be clear, I don’t want to either of those things to happen, but they are examples of the sort of “big moments” that I mean.
Next week we move onto Chapter Five of the story, which is saddled with one of the weaker titles I’ve heard for a while, “Survivors of the Flux” (especially after the last episode got the awesome monicker Once, Upon Time.) I’m looking forward to it, especially if it helps to make clear how the Flux is impacting the universe–is it an event that is just happening at a single moment in history, or is it spread out throughout time as well, and so on?
The show has got a lot of elements to pull together so this might be where it all begins to fall apart. I’m afraid it’s all going to go a bit silly with a whole slew of Timeless Child-type revelations and the unwelcome return of the Master, but even if it goes bad it might have been worth it for the four episodes so far. These have been easily four out of my five favorite Thirteenth Doctor episodes, so maybe the show will be able to keep that level of quality.
Just two more weeks!
Parting Comment #1 – Like Face the Raven from a few years ago, the story here seems to be about a character’s efforts to trick the doctor to being in a certain place at certain time. Can I just comment that it seems to me that getting the Doctor to just “show up” somewhere should not be all that hard. He / She is always going everywhere!
Parting Comment #2 – I assume that the image of the Doctor being turned into stone and appearing to become an angel at the end is just an indication of some sort of crude, angel-specific imprisonment / time travel mechanism, and not a reveal that that she was an angel all along…because that would be ridiculous. That actually hadn’t even occurred to me as a possibility until my daughter shared that thought, with more than a little concern.
Parting Comment #3 – Like in War of the Sontarans, I appreciated the fact that in the thick of the difficulties, the Doctor’s hair gets mussed up. I just think that’s very realistic and makes her look a lot cooler than she would have otherwise.