The plan had been to rewatch each episode of “Flux” – without BBC America’s ads if possible – and give each one their own post, but the kid and Marie were less than enthusiastic about the idea. I liked chunks of it – the first four episodes had some fine moments, and as much as I’d have liked a TARDIS without any men in it for a while, I think John Bishop’s Dan is great fun – but there was more grumbling around this parish than cheering. Then, in the way that most things Who go, it all fell completely apart at the end. Parts five and six were terrible. I mean, yay that we may be getting Lungbarrow on television, but that’s about it.
When it was good, though… “War of the Sontarans” was smashing, despite a weak ending, and “Village of the Angels” was the best thing done with those villains since series three. One day, someone’s going to get to do a deep dive into this season’s production, and unearth where these stories might have fit before COVID screwed with Chris Chibnall’s plans. Fitting these stories into the larger scale of “Flux” was awkward, and showed how the overall theme was a disappointment. That’s despite a couple of very interesting new villains in Swarm and Azure. I don’t think that they lived up to their promise. Events moved too weirdly and clumsily for that.
The biggest flaw is that “Flux” had quite enough villains already with Swarm and Azure, the Sontaran master plan, and Tecteun. Using the Angels as a side distraction worked to a point, but crowding the narrative with the Grand Serpent and UNIT just wrecked the flimsy premise. Suddenly, nothing in “Flux” had room to breathe, because some other random diabolical mastermind needed space. These were screen minutes that badly needed to be given over to make Tecteun a believable character with motives something other than what I’d expect from the Marvel movies, but instead we spend forever watching this guy set up a Sontaran invasion over the course of decades.
(Even worse, none of his material makes any sense, and I’m not talking about Chibnall’s frankly idiotic assertion that Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart was ever a corporal. The Sontaran invasion of 2021 requires Earth to not have a UNIT, so this guy goes back to the 1950s and builds one, to ensure that it is disassembled and scattered sixty-odd years later? The only thing about which we can agree is that we can thank God this fellow didn’t turn out to be the Master, which he probably was in an earlier draft of this balderdash.)
I guess the biggest disappointment is that the biggest Who story since “Trial” does the biggest job ever in ignoring what just happened in it. Okay, so Doctor Who always ignores the amazing consequences of the story it just told. That’s nothing new. “Logopolis” wiped out huge chunks of the universe and it hasn’t mattered once in the next forty years of storytelling. The British PM murdered the president and Anglo-American relations have not been shown to suffer. But the flaw, historically, has been that the show moves on and never acknowledges these wild dramatic change in future stories; the individual story that we are watching does feel the impact of the drama. This time, we seem to see two Sontaran invasions inside a week, along with the planet’s whole population rescued by single-person-and-dog spaceships, along with an alternate history where there never was a Russia, and a universe-snuffing extinction event, and at the end of it, that awesome museum in Liverpool is back open with business as usual instead of staying closed during the planet-wide “what the hell just happened” societal meltdown that this sort of thing surely should have prompted.
So I suppose there was another reset button of some kind along with the Flux destroying – slash – not destroying everything? It would help explain “Eve of the Daleks,” which we all enjoyed much more, because literally one year ago, a different British PM was exterminated on live TV by some Daleks, and the guest stars in this story act like they’ve never seen their like before. “Eve of the Daleks” was very entertaining for a lower-budget studio adventure, although, as time loops go, it was certainly no “Window of Opportunity”. I really liked the quiet stuff in this story: the mother who thinks cell phone lines will be busy at midnight, the storage units full of useless junk, Dan as the women’s wingman. I think it’s one of Chris Chibnall’s very best stories, and “Village of the Angels” right behind it.
But I am so glad that he’s going.
I think it might be Tecteun that’s been the final nail for me. I don’t believe there was really that much promise or possibility in the Division / Timeless Child idea, because it all still seems so incredibly unnecessary and complicated. It did give us the potential mileage of villains that the Doctor does not remember, but Swarm and Azure are gone already. They had promise, and “Flux” squandered it.
And Tecteun could have had a really unique perspective and point of view – and, in Barbara Flynn, they found a fantastic actress for her – but her motives didn’t make sense to me and her revelations of a multiverse just felt like jumping onto Marvel’s coattails. How much more interesting could this have been if the extremely rare parallel worlds in Who – “Inferno,” “The Age of Steel” – remained extremely rare and something that our players couldn’t put on a map and chart evacuation plans into?
Put another way, did anything about the Division that was revealed in this story surprise anybody watching this, or were we all able to understand the situation precisely because every other comic book and sci-fi media franchise has done stories so similar that this just seemed like business as usual?
I am so glad that Chibnall’s going, but I hope he does something really wild and completely unexpected before he goes.