The fifth part of the Flux storyline feels less like part five and more like part one of a two-part finale as while the other Flux episodes have left things on a cliffhangers they have otherwise felt more standalone than this episode did. That’s not a bad thing but it does remind me why I normally cover two-parters in one review rather than two! Still, lets do our best to look at “Survivors of the Flux” without any knowledge of how these many plot threads will come together…
(Really plain) Synopsis:
As the forces of evil mass, the Doctor, Yaz and Dan face perilous journeys and seemingly insurmountable obstacles in their quest for survival.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
The Ood that stood in the middle of two Universes. That’s a weird sentence, even for a Doctor Who review…
Once again the big focus of the episode is on The Doctor and her new mysterious background. After being Weeping Angel’d at the end of the previous episode she is taken from the strange… angel dimension and arrives in a space station with just an Ood and that mysterious old woman from a few episodes ago. The reveals come thick and fast as the station is Division HQ and its currently sitting in between “Universe 1 and 2” and that this woman and the Division had initiated the Flux and intentionally destroyed Universe 1 because former agent The Doctor was running amok in it and was in the process of “moving” to Universe 2 to start fresh. The woman in question (played by Barbara Flynn for the record) is then revealed to be Tecteun, the woman who found The Doctor as a child in front of the mysterious gate and then acted as her mother. She reveals that the gate connected to Universe 2, where they’re heading, so to find out about her heritage The Doctor should let her universe be destroyed and join her. As a bargaining chip Tecteun offers to give The Doctor back her lost memories which are being stored in a fob watch (naturally). It was a lot to take in, and I’m still not loving the idea of putting The Doctor on such a high pedestal but am still willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. Swarm and Azure arrive and seemingly kill Tacteun as our final cliffhanger…
As for the rest of the story? Well, it mostly feels like filler as everyone comes together for the big ending, Yaz and Dan (plus Prof. Jericho still tagging along for some reason) finally meet up with the blundering 19th Century Liverpudlian known only as Williamson (Steve Oram) and find out deep in his mine he has doors that lead to different times and places and he is generally aware of what’s going on with the universe; giant dog-man Karvanista has met up with Bel and the two are above Earth facing down a Sontaran invasion; newly re-introduced Kate Stewart (still Jemma Redgrave, obviously!) is sans UNIT and on the run from the mysterious “Grand Serpent” (Craig Parkinson) who is now on Earth; and finally Vinder has met up with Dan’s love interest Diane inside the “Passenger”, erm, thing. If nothing else it has me interested in just how all these threads are going to tie together next week!
Yaz realises she and Dan have somehow managed to cross the world several times over in one year using 1904-era technology.
I have to say that while I’m interested in where they’re going the actual parts of the episode featuring some of the non-Doctor cast weren’t that interesting. Yaz, Dan and Jericho trek around the planet searching for someone who can foresee the date the Earth is slated to end though there is every chance it will be further than 1904 in which case they’d be stuck unable to do anything if they hadn’t have happened to run into Williamson and his magic doors. Plus I thought the village they were in was suspended in space the last time we saw it, so I guess it was just… placed back on Earth? Or was that just the 1967 version of the village? Whatever… Either way the scenes of this trio weren’t that interesting is what I’m getting at.
Beyond it being clearly so Vinder can get revenge in the finale I have no idea why the “Grand Serpent” is now not only on Earth but taking over UNIT from its earliest days through to its closure in 2017. While it was fun to hear callbacks to early UNIT stuff I’m pretty sure if an ageless man was in the hierarchy of UNIT from the 50s through to the 2010s someone would’ve noticed before Kate does in 2017, especially by The Doctor at some point during his stay. Again, this seems to be a make-good on Chris Chibnall scrapping UNIT from the series a few years ago as well as a way to give Vinder some closure but there had to be a better way…
Also the non-expressive Karvanista costume combined with Bel’s poor acting made those few scenes rather unenjoyable….
Kate Stewart waits for a chance to be relevant again.
Beyond all the many connections to the other Flux stories and the whole Timeless Child thing from other Thirteenth Doctor stories (specifically the “Ascension of the Cybermen / The Timeless Children” two parter) there isn’t a lot, but those two things do make up the very core of the episode, so… there is a lot of continuity but it’s easier for you just to click on the “Flux” tag at the bottom of the page than for me to create loads of links!
This story establishes that UNIT was formed in the late 50s/early 60s, with “Corporal Lethbridge-Stewart” being heard in the background at one point, which was nice. Also the UNIT General mentions being embarrassed they missed “that incident in the Post Office Tower”, referring to the First Doctor story “The War Machines”, which is often seen as an early example of what would become a UNIT story…
The last “Swam looking evil” picture before his inevitable defeat next week!
“Survivors of the Flux” was all setup for the finale and on that basis it was a really good story because it has made me interested in how it will all come together (especially The Doctor being a being from another universe now, apparently…) but there were scenes of characters treading water because they can’t do anything until the big finale. I’m giving it a 4 on the basis of doing its job as a first half of a story, but we’ll see if the build up was worth it!