Survivors of the Flux
Episode 5 of Doctor Who: Flux begins with the Doctor freeing herself from stone. She’s inexplicably no longer a Weeping Angel and her friends are lost. When the Doctor awakens, she finds an Ood scanning her down. She’s in Division.
Anyway, Yaz is in Mexico with Dan and Professor Jericho. The year is 1904 and they drop into a temple and uncover a special pot. And the next scene, they’re in Constantinople. Apparently this pot Yaz has taken is able to decipher the exact date the world is going to end. It’s been 3 years since they’ve seen the Doctor and after finding out a date (5th December. Get it? When the season comes to an end?) they’re forced to flee from a rogue explosion, planting by an assassin.
As they board a boat and head off, the trio are blindsided by an assassin. After thwarting him, an adaptive hologram (aka exposition dump) from the Doctor helps to understand a little of what’s going on. Apparently there’s going to be a big battle for the Earth, off the back of the Flux destroying the universe, and they need to find out the date that will occur. If not, then things are going to get very ugly.
Eventually the gang make it to Nepal where they meet a hermit with 3 words for them “Fetch your dog.” The gang realize what this mean and leave a message for Karvanista. He inexplicably manages to see this same message from his console, and growls that he’s not able to time travel. So how is he seeing the message? And what was the point in this whole mission then? No time, onward to more exposition!
We then jump across to 1958 England, where a guy called Prentis is out hunting. He’s offered the opportunity of setting up a task-force by a mysterious guy we later find out is colloquially called “Grand Serpent.” This task-force happens to be UNIT, which we see in another individual scene in 1963.
The Division seem to have invaded UNIT, as this slippery serpent continues to influence UNIT from the inside, killing off key members of the group. Kate though realizes they’ve been invaded as the year reaches 2021 and confronts him, promising to get payback and call in a favour to the Doctor if he’s not careful.
Nestled in the midst of all this is yet more exposition with the Doctor and the leader of Division, It turns out Division actually began back on Gallifrey as a group to ensure the safety of our galaxy.
The Operatives get involved in civilization and interfere across space and time. Apparently thy recruit all different creatures and species, but they’re also not in the universe either. They’re outside this Universe, or “Universe 1” as she calls it. With this Universe about to be destroyed, they’re moving onto a new one. Kinda like that big speech in The Matrix Reloaded, eh?
Anyway, apparently the Doctor is a virus and this woman happens to be Tecteun, the woman the Doctor used to call Mother. It seems like thee Flux is converging onto Earth, as the ultimate apex of destruction. It’s the final place where the Flux will end
. This is ironic because in episode 1, if you’ll remember, the Flux wave showed up moving from outside the solar system through the planets. So that means Venus and Mercury would be hit after the Earth right?
Anyway, it turns out Tecteun has one of those pocket watches that hold more of the Doctor’s memories. She has a choice – she can either return to the dying Universe and try to save her friends or she can rejoin Division with her memories restored. Tecteun tries to persuade her, urging the Doctor to press on and explore this second universe, which could hold her origin. The Doctor chooses to save her friends of course.
Meanwhile in 2021, Karvanista tracks down the rogue Lupari ship which happens to be Bel. Vinder meanwhile, starts talking to himself, finding all the missing townsfolk. Swarm and Azure are there, using them as a power source to increase the time-force. When Vinder is spotted, Passenger arrives and blasts him with a teleport wave, transporting him to a strange area where Diane, Dan’s date, happens to be.
Back in 1904, Dan, Yaz and the Professor head back on the boat and find themselves bumping into Joseph Williamson, the tunnel-expert from the opening scenes in episode 1. Dan believes he’s the key to all this so off they go, to Liverpool in 1904. They head there, reconvene with Joseph and descend into the tunnels.
Apparently he’s found a number of different doorways that lead off to different places. He outright mentions the Flux and what it’s caused, with Tunnel 9 in particular a no-go zone.
However, Sontarans suddenly return, bursting through the tunnels. They also board the Lupari ship too, all influenced by the Grand Serpent who promises they won’t be stopped this time.
A scene with Azure and Swarm are how this episode ends, as they show up at Division, kill Tecteun and prepare to go after the Doctor.
The Episode Review
Survivors of the Flux feels like a drunk Chris Chibnall trying (and failing) to emulate a Stephen Moffat script. I’m actually quite shocked at how bad this episode is. Now, forget the Timeless Child stuff for a second, the entire episode bounces around like a hyperactive child, exuding exposition across a 50 minute time-frame with very little rhyme or reason.
The Doctor’s separate story with Tecteun needs exposition, I understands that. Yaz, the Professor and Dan just randomly pop up in 1904 and travel across the world to find a McGuffin pot with a random, inconsequential date and painting the floor for Karvanista…who can’t even jump back and find them is pure nonsense.
So instead they stumble upon a lucky break when Joseph Williamson, the random miner from Liverpool, activates a teleport that sees him board the exact right ship, at the exact right time, in the exact right year to stumble upon our rabble of characters, giving them the next piece of the puzzle. Couldn’t they have just started with that? What happened to our characters in those 3 years? There’s a nice moment with Yaz and the hologram but why not expand on that? Why is Dan just the comedy centerpiece here? Why not expand his character?
Then you get the interspersed UNIT stuff, which honestly has had very little set-up and just seems to come out of nowhere. Even worse, it actually makes for a narrative rife with plot holes.
If the Grand Serpent’s plan involves the Sontarans taking over…why not get involved in the Poison Sky story-line? I mean, the Sontarans have pretty much won at that point and all it would take is some smarts too keep the Doctor away.
And that’s before mentioning the holes involving a rogue TARDIS inside Unit. So what happened during the Troughton/Pertwee era then? Pertwee in particular was grounded the entire time and he never once saw nor thought about using this Tardis? And how did the Brigadier and the Doctor not know about the Grand Serpent, given he’s been running the show all this time? These sort of questions just show how messy the scripts have been this year – with this episode the epitome of bad.
I’ve been back and forth on this series, but between last week’s decent Angel episode and episode 2’s better-paced Sontaran stand-alone, everything in between has been awful. In fact, it feels like that scene in The Dark Knight when Joker burns stacks of cash just to show he only cares about chaos. And thus, that typifies Chibnall’s run. Not with a big triumphant fanfare but with large flames destroying everything that’s come before.
Thankfully Chibnall is nearly gone and when he finally disappears, let’s hope Russell T. Davies can build this show back up from the smoldering ruins that have been left behind.