Doctor Who: Flux – Once, Upon Time Review

The Flux storyline barrels on then and with this latest episode, “Once, Upon Time” we get more Fugitive Doctor and more pre-Hartnell Doctor timeline stuff to go along with the current crisis. Is it interesting? Is the rest of the episode beyond that good? Only one way to find out!


Atropos has fallen, once again. The Doctor has thrown herself into a time storm in a desperate bid to save her friends. As Time itself comes apart, she finds much more than she bargained for.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

The Doctor falls into a Time Storm, which for some reason in this screenshot makes it look like she has gigantic hips…

So the main revelation of the episode was well done. The Doctor has taken herself, Yaz, Dan and Vinder into a “time storm” and to save them from it she tries to put them in their own timelines to stabilize them while being under the impression she herself had ended up in someone else’s, seeing the planet Time and the temple of Atropos long before the current period. It turns out that she didn’t mess it up, she was in her own timeline but way back in the now-established pre-Hartnell, “agent of The Division” period which is revealed to have been during the Dark Times, a time before the universe as we know it came to be. The mission on Atropos was to stop Swam and Azure from destroying the temple and stopping the Division’s plan to introduce the concept of time to space and create the universe and its rules as we know them, which is a hard concept to grasp (though earlier in the Dark Times we know what the concept of death was introduced a while in as well, so not that hard I guess)

The Fugitive Doctor (before she was a fugitive, I guess) succeeds in her plan and Swarm and Azure are captured and time is introduced. This gives The Doctor an idea of how to save everyone, which she does, but she tries to see more of her forgotten past before she returns to reality but only ends up meeting a mysterious old woman who is seemingly responsible for the Flux or at least sees no issue with it as the universe is like anything else: finite, and has to end eventually. The Doctor wakes back in Atropos in time for Swarm and Azure to taunt her, reveal to Dan that they’ve captured his love interest (inside the large walking masked things I thought was a henchman but turns out are human-shaped storage containers for thousands of people… who knew?) and then bugger off. The Doctor, Yaz and Dan head off after them, dropping Vinder off on his now-ruined home world on the way.

This core storyline was genuinely interesting and once again I enjoyed Jo Martin as the Fugitive Doctor, even if the idea of pre-Hartnell lives calling themselves The Doctor with a police box shaped TARDIS still doesn’t sit right with me. Also we got to see Vinder’s backstory a bit, showing he was a loyal soldier who couldn’t stand for the corruption of his superior and was therefore dumped on the outpost we saw him in at the start of the story. It was fine, and at least gave him a bit of purpose. The cliffhanger sees a Weeping Angel pop out of Yaz’s phone and begin to operate the TARDIS…

The Bad:

It’s the Cybermen! … They didn’t actually play a big role in the story, but as I’m busy on Mondays I do have to take the screenshots from the coming soon trailer before I see the episode, so… it’s a bit of a guessing game (as I’m sure you can tell by the thumbnail being a Passenger which turns out to be rather unimportant…)

Sadly a lot of the rest of the episode wasn’t that interesting. Dan and Yaz being stuck in parts of their own timeline didn’t do anything for me, it just existed to remind us why Dan would be upset when his would-be girlfriend is shown to us again and establish that a Weeping Angel is stalking Yaz for the cliffhanger pay-off. Otherwise it just took up time for the sake of it.

There was also a subplot with a woman named Bel (Thaddea Graham) which showed us the universe after the Flux had ravaged it, full of Daleks, Cybermen and Sontarans vying for what little’s left, and how she was ignoring all that and searching for her lost love. There were some really cheesy bits, especially when she takes out some Cybermen with two guns like an action hero bad-ass despite looking twelve, that just didn’t work at all in my eyes, but the revelation that her lost love was Vinder was fair enough. Got to justify his role in the story somehow, plus give him an inevitable happy ending.

The Continuity:

Yaz finds out that a backseat Weeping Angel is far more annoying than a backseat driver.

Beyond the Fugitive Doctor first appearing in “Fugitive of the Judoon” there isn’t much else. Well, apart from stuff connecting to other Flux episodes, but I’m not linking those each time… that’s why I’ve created the Flux tag at the bottom of these reviews! If your interested in more Dark Times stuff then check out the “Time Lord Victorious” story stand I covered last year that started with “The Knight, The Fool and The Dead”, which you can then click on the Time Lord Victorious tag! Two handy tags for the price of … well, none, because they don’t cost anything.

I could also mention that the Weeping Angels first appeared in Tenth Doctor TV story “Blink” or that the Cybermen show in this episode match the new design that debuted in Thirteenth Doctor two parter “Ascension of the Cybermen / The Timeless Children”, which is also the third and so far only other episode to feature the Fugitive Doctor…

Overall Thoughts:

Swarm is delighted to hear of his own backstory a bit, even if it was a past failure.

“Once, Upon Time” did a good job of expanding the new idea of The Doctor’s hidden past, the Fugitive Doctor and even the Dark Times, but when it wasn’t doing that it also wasn’t being that interesting, and now everything has been revealed that can be revealed in this episode I can’t see myself in a hurry to watch it again. Still, it has kept the story arc moving well!

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