Television

Doctor Who 13.5 Review: Survivors of the Flux (Flux: Chapter Five)

After four weeks of questions, conundrums and mysteries (and some top notch cliffhangers to boot), the ongoing Flux storyline starts to barrel towards some kind of conclusion in Survivors of the Flux. However, anyone hoping for definitive answers to Flux‘s many ongoing questions will be disappointed to find not that many are forthcoming here. Survivors juggles quite a lot of plot threads throughout its 55 minute run time, and whilst it entertains, it does occasionally infuriate as well.

One of the big non-surprises with Flux has been how much the story has really doubled down on the Division/Timeless Children arc that was introduced in Series 12, and it’s here we start to get more in the way of answers (albeit vague ones) as the Doctor meets her apparent adoptive mother Tecteun (Barbara Flynn). The scenes featuring the two are the real highlight of the episode, as both Flynn and Jodie Whittaker spark off against one another in a fiery, devastating exchange that reveals the true origin for the flux phenomena and reveals a lot more about the Division then we’d previously known. Whittaker is marvellous here, giving a beautifully pitched, pained performance as she rails against her abuser, and the scenes between the Doctor and Tecteun sparkle despite the rather info-dump nature of the dialogue.

Yaz and Dan also appear throughout the episode but their story appears to have hit a wall, as their globetrotting adventure with Jericho (Keven McNally) doesn’t really go anywhere until the final moments of the episode, and even then, none of the scenes feel particularly perilous or important in the grand scheme of things. There are hints of an answer regarding the various time-hopping appearances of the recurring Joseph Williamson (Steve Oram) and the connection the Liverpool tunnels have to the flux, but nothing definitive is revealed here, just teased. There are moments that work, in particular the sad yet optimistic scene of Yaz replaying back the Doctor’s hologram message, but nothing featuring the two companions feels particularly salient to the story at this point, which is concerning considering we’re entering the endgame now.

This is, arguably, the core concern at this point in the grand scheme of Flux – nothing appears to be heading towards a final conclusion. Every time any of the various story elements start to coalesce, Chris Chibnall throws in another new element – in this case, the return of the Grand Serpent (Craig Parkinson) and his nefarious attempts to infiltrate and influence the development of UNIT. Whilst it’s intriguing enough idea in its own right and features the welcome (albeit brief) return of UNIT and Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave), it’s difficult to see how this new development will do anything for the overall plot other then muddy the waters and overly-complicate it. Even throwing in the Sontarans for a rematch at the end of the episode just feels like too much at this point.

With all this in mind, there’s no escaping the concern that there’s too much still in play to wrap up in just one final episode, and one desperately hopes Chibnall can stick the landing in next week’s finale. Survivors of the Flux feels more like a recap then an episode in its own right, as Chibnall starts to move some of the pieces into place for a big conclusion, but at this stage, its difficult to see what the overall end point will look like and whether every question or thread will be answered and wrapped up in a satisfactory manner. Simply put, it all feels too congested at this late stage.

That said, Survivors of the Flux still entertains with its surprising revelations, creepy moments (the Grand Serpent’s modus operandi for murder is gloriously gross) and sense of fun (the Hermit scene). Whether it all gets paid off next week is another question entirely, but with so many questions left to ponder anyway, perhaps we’ll be best to just wait and see on that one!

Doctor Who returns to BBC One next Sunday at 6.20pm. Join us for our series blog review next week.

One thought on “Doctor Who 13.5 Review: Survivors of the Flux (Flux: Chapter Five)

  1. Pingback: Doctor Who 13.6 Review: The Vanquishers (Flux: Chapter Six) | critical popcorn

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