Yes, Flux, Survivors of the Flux, Flux, Flux, there’s a lot of Fluxing about here, but what else can you do, eh? That’s its title, dang it.
Anyway, the penultimate episode of Doctor Who Series 13 gave us a lot to mull over. Or scratch our heads over. UNIT. Division. An Ood. Jodie being explained to. The Caddy from Line of Duty. But what made it out alive from Survivors of the Flux? And why do I keep spelling the title wrong then have to correct it so no keen-eyed readers spot my ineptitude?
In his review, Peter Shaw had mixed feelings about Survivors of the Flux:
“Yaz is the best she’s ever been in this six-parter, this episode in particular. She looks commanding and comfortable in her Edwardian garb and jaunty hat. Dan comes across as a likeable everyman and supercharges not-quite-so-funny lines into proper belly laughs. I love Kevin McNally as Professor Jericho — can we keep him?
“Last week, as a family, we all stood up from the sofa in disbelief when the Doctor was turned into a Weeping Angel. What will happen now, we thought? Will she stride across time and space in a new evil form, but inside, desperate to escape? Would her companions even recognise her? They certainly can’t come near as she won’t send them back in time; they will simply die. What did we get? The Doctor emerged seconds later in human form, perfectly fine. That was a stunning idea wasted. And it can never happen again.”
(No one tell him about what happens to Jericho, okay?)
Did the DWC collective have similar ups and downs? Let’s find out…
SPEC SCRIPT: THE DUMPING GROUND, SERIES 9, EPISODE 1
INT. ASHDENE RIDGE – JODIE’S BEDROOM. DAY
[We’re in a functional-but-brightly-coloured bedroom at the local children’s home. JODIE, a sullen blonde teenager in a t-shirt and jeans, is standing in front of a mirror, holding up a variety of outfits to her chest.]
JODIE: No… not this one… nope… oh, it’s no good. I’m never gonna find an outfit that works.
[Enter JO, Jodie’s African roommate.]
JO: Still looking?
JODIE: Still looking. Ooh. What about this one?
[She holds up a pair of incredibly baggy trousers, hung by a set of braces.]
JO: You have got to be kidding. You look like Mork from Ork.
[Jodie sticks out her tongue, and leaves.]
JO: Oh. Mike wants to see you!
INT. LOUNGE. DAY
[Jodie passes by MONK and SACHA, two boys of about 12 or 13, both ensconced in a video game.]
JODIE: God. Don’t you two ever do anything except sit in front of that thing?
MONK: We’re grounded. Ever since the incident with the toaster.
SACHA: Which was your fault.
MONK: You were the one who switched it on! During an official visit!
SACHA: How was I supposed to know it’d explode?
[Enter MIKE, the long-suffering lead carer. An anxious-looking MAY-LI follows in his wake.]
MIKE: Jodie? Can we see you in the office, please?
[Jodie sighs, and follows May-Li.]
SACHA: Can we go out, Mike?
MIKE: Absolutely not. You two aren’t going anywhere until all the vice-president’s missing limbs are accounted for. Oh, and your room could do with tidying, while you’re at it.
MONK: We’re building something.
MIKE: I know what you’re building. Look, I’ve told you both. You’ll never get Sebastian to fit inside a Dalek case. He’s got no opposable thumbs, and he’s a Doberman.
[As he leaves, Sacha holds up a laser screwdriver and points it at the screen, whereupon Monk’s character explodes.]
MONK: Sach! You’re such a cheat!
INT. OFFICE. DAY
[Jodie slumps sulkily into a chair. Mike sits opposite; May-Li perches in a corner.]
MIKE: Now. You’re not in trouble. We just want to know what happened.
MAY-LI: What were you thinking, running off like that?
JODIE: [shrugs] Don’t know. Got bored.
MIKE: Do you mean bored like when Rani gets bored? ‘Cos we all know how that goes.
MAY-LI: Actually, where is Rani?
MIKE: Out in the workshop. Scraping up bits of rabbit.
MAY-LI: Jesus, that’s the third this week! Where’s she getting them?
MIKE: She mentioned something about Teletubbies. Can we, you know, focus?
MAY-LI: Right, yeah, sorry.
JODIE: I just wanted to see my mum.
MIKE [sighing]: Your mum. Listen, we told you. She’s a bad influence.
MAY-LI: All that stuff she made you do! Those… outings with the Division! All the stealing, the breaking stuff!
JODIE: She’s still my mum! Not my real mum, but the nearest I’ve got!
MIKE [exchanging a glance with May-Li]: We know that. But she’s proved again that she’s not able to look after you. You’ll have to come back here until she can show us she can be a responsible guardian.
[Close-up on Jodie’s face as we cut to a garish Nick Sharatt animation: Jodie smashing some windows in the company of TECTEUN, who wears a wide-brimmed hat and an evil expression. All of a sudden her sneer vanishes as a gigantic crack blisters its way down the screen and the universe is pulled in half; Tecteun is wrenched into a black hole, away from a screaming Jodie.]
JODIE: So what? You’re gonna wipe my memories again? Send me back to the academy like a good girl?
MIKE: Well… not quite. There’s been a bit of a development.
MAY-LI: Jodie… we found your mum. Your real mum.
JODIE: My – my wha…?
MIKE: She made contact with us about a week ago. Just turned up out of the blue. She never stopped looking.
[The doorbell rings.]
MAY-LI: That’s her now.
INT. HALL. DAY
[Jodie walks up the corridor, heart pounding, as the bell rings again. She turns to look at Mike and May-Li.]
MAY-LI: We’re right here.
[Jodie opens the door on an unseen figure.]
JODIE [stunned]: You?!?!?
Over the course of the last four episodes, we’ve had some brilliant moments and cliffhangers, one of which was the Doctor being turned into a Weeping Angel! What Chris Chibnall seems to struggle with here though is wrapping up those endings. Survivors of the Flux is a great example of that, with the Angels explaining they only turned the Doctor into one of them… just because they could.
Luckily, the rest of the story makes up for a slightly lacklustre conclusion to the last episode. Yaz, Dan, and Jericho shone throughout, giving us an interesting look into how their lives have been since arriving in the early 1900s. Undoubtedly the standout moments were those that took place aboard the ship they were travelling on. Rightly there wasn’t too much emphasis of what they had do to survive; I think they relied on Jericho, who had been born around that time, to navigate what would have essentially been a whole new world. I was a little disappointed that the hermit in Tibet wasn’t Padmasambhava — that would have been a good nod to the classic series, but I’ll forgive it!
It was also great to learn more about the Division, an aspect of this series I’ve found more entertaining than the Timeless Child storyline despite the two being virtually the same thing. Barbara Flynn was excellent as Tecteun, and while it probably wasn’t a big surprise to anyone paying attention, my mother who has watched this series with me – she is more of casual viewer – let a little gasp learning she was the Doctor’s mother, so that probably was a surprise moment for anyone who was more a casual viewer than a hardcore fan.
Learning the Division was based in the Void, a space that the Doctor told Rose you couldn’t travel to and you wouldn’t want to get stuck there, added a sense of mystery to their power. When the TARDIS falls through the Void to the Parallel Earth in Rise of the Cybermen, the Doctor had explained that it should never happen. So learning that what he believed to be wrong could actually happen was interesting. I’d like to know what Tecteun made of the millions of Daleks and Cybermen hurtling through the Void at the end of Doomsday!
And the UNIT dating was back — I was pleased that it seemed to be the incident with WOTAN and the War Machines that led to a taskforce being put together, when previously it was believed to be the events in The Web of Fear that lead to the formation of UNIT. The actions of the Grand Serpent do seem to muck up the UNIT dating problem even more, but they are never explicitly called UNIT in Web, so I think they can just about get away with it. Maybe? Ish? No, okay, then. Also a nice touch was including a line of dialogue spoken by Nicholas Courtney!
Kate Stewart is finally back. And not only that: Chibnall gives us a reason why UNIT had been sort-of disbanded in Resolution, making it a plot thread, rather than a funny line about Brexit! Survivors of the Flux might have had its problems — the scatter-gun editing was seriously getting on my nerves — and some plotting and pacing issues aside, there is still plenty to enjoy here… and that cliffhanger! The Sontarans have finally conquered the Earth; that’s a proper ‘get-out-of-that’ moment!
Well, they maintained the breakneck pace. You certainly can’t say there’ve been lulls. Loads of moving parts whizzing around.
Thus… my appropriately scattered thoughts…
Not sure how Yaz, Dan, and Jericho got away from the island in space, or were able to afford traveling around the world to find clues to Earth’s destruction. How did they know where to search for anything? I guess the only thing that counts is they found the old guy with the tunnels that seems to be a nexus point for entrances… to somewhere. Still, a bit muddy, that.
After three whole seasons, it’s good to finally see Yaz kicking some butt — did you know she used to be a police officer? Yes, she was. Really, you shouldn’t have to work this hard to legitimize a character being there after all this time.
Interesting — Yaz, Dan and Jericho have now spent so much time together, (over three years), that they’re closer to each other than Yaz ever was to the Doctor.
Skunk hair Preston infiltrates UNIT for 50 years just to be there to fire missiles — there had to be an easier way. I know he was Vinder’s evil superior, but I feel like I missed a chapter with him becoming the guy who oozes serpents. Maybe I missed something in the last breakneck paced episode?
Also not sure why the Sontarans need an alliance with this guy.
It’s official. Don’t care about Bel, Vinder, funny doggy, or Diane anymore.
Nice to see Kate back, sharp as a tack this time, and seemingly prepared for a fight. But none of that seems very important to me.
No, with everything going on, the only thing that had my interest was Tecteun’s clubhouse sitting in between two universes (however that works).
Tecteun, the immoral scientist, who tortured and killed the Timeless Child over and over, just to unlock the secret of regeneration!
Tecteun, who has the latest iFob with the greatest memory capacity of any past iFob, capable of holding the memories of hundreds of thousands of the Doctor’s past lives!
Tecteun, who will surely offer far more intrigue as her character’s import—— OH, she’s dead already.
Chibnall, ever the comic fan, felt the need to jump on the Multiverse bandwagon, a la Marvel and DC. I’m sure someone around here will be able to list all the elements borrowed from past showrunners and comics for this, but here are a few…
- The iFob from the RTD era, specifically The Family of Blood.
- Setting up the reboot of the old universe again a la Moffat/the Pandorica.
- Preston infiltrating UNIT from the beginning, like Hydra infiltrating SHIELD.
- Swarm turning people into ashes, as did Thanos, etc.
On the whole, I think this episode felt more like a disjointed effort, maybe because of the breakneck pace. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either.
I do feel you need that solid ending that can legitimise the tantalizing circus so far. We’ll find out if that happens…
This one almost passed me by. Oh I watched it, but didn’t feel particularly involved in what was happening on screen. The cliffhanger resolution confused me. Suddenly, the Doctor wasn’t a Weeping Angel anymore and eventually we learn something about her being disguised so they could transport her to the Division. Like I said, events were unfolding before me but I was having trouble working out what they meant.
The Yaz and Dan plot carried on. Much like them, it wandered around and took in some sights. I was reminded of the way The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was plotted (particularly the early radio series): a series of events with no real thread pulling them together. It worked then because of the strength of Douglas Adams’ script, the performances of the central cast, and the stunning soundscapes of BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Here, it worked less so. Most of what Yaz and Dan did in this episode had no real consequence. What was the point of writing the message to the Lupari bonded to Dan when the pay-off was, “I don’t have time travel”? As a joke, it just didn’t land for me. Similarly when they met the hermit on the hill the humour felt forced and lacked the lightness of touch you would get in an Adams script (or a Moffat or Davies script for that matter).
When we eventually get to the end of Yaz and Dan’s journey, they meet that chap from the tunnels that we saw in earlier episodes. By this point I was lost. Of course I recognised him, but couldn’t remember who he was and what his significance to the plot was. This has happened to me a lot in this series; none of the characters are memorable enough for them to stick with me from week to week. I’m left with the frustration of seeing someone and desperately trying to remember why I should care about them being there.
Thank goodness then for Barbara Flynn’s appearance as Tecteun. The sheer strength of Flynn’s cameo a few weeks ago meant I immediately recognised the character and had a sense of her importance. Flynn brought a freshness and gravitas to these scenes that I felt was lacking in the rest of the episode. I was so engaged, I became irritated when we left the Division and went back to watching the B-plot wander aimlessly in search of a climax.
This is the penultimate episode of Chibnall’s final full season. This is the point where we should be building up to something big. At the moment, I am curious about what secrets the fob watch will reveal, but not overly excited. Previous eras ratcheted up the tension tenfold at this point in the run. In their final seasons, Davies and Moffat gave us a surprise regeneration and turned a companion into a Cyberman. Those eras built up to a crescendo, with jaw-dropping cliffhangers leading to the season finale. This episode felt like it was treading water.
Not so much building to a climax; more meandering towards the finish line.
Phil: As headlines go, dull. Accurate, but dull. Where’s the homework?
Bar: That was the homework; you want more?
Phil: This is a premier, well-regarded site (loosely speaking) in the great community that is Who. You can’t get away with ‘Bitty.’
Bar: Chris Chibnall did.
Phil: You’ll need a better excuse than Chris Chibnall.
Bar: Aw but Sir! There’s been a massive power cut, for days and days. No heat, no light, just cuddle up in bed and …
Phil: This is a family site.
Bar: … read The Thursday Murder Club — it’s brilliant. Especially when you have no telly or radio, no internet, so no means of watching Doctor Who.
Phil: You could stream it on your mobile telephonic device.
Bar: Phone masts down too. No signal. No data.
Phil: You could have gone to a place with power. I know you live in The North, but they have cars, don’t they? Or is it donkeys? Whippets with saddles?
Bar: We were snowed in. We have Llamas. Power came on last night, so the first thing we did was–
Phil: Watch Doctor Who!
Bar: No, have a shower. Then watch Doctor Who.
Phil: I think we’ve established that.
Bar: Oh, alright. [She takes a deep breath, which is odd because this is all written down.]
The Comic Book Adventures of Yaz, Dan and Jericho were fun. But Jericho was the one person who knew enough about the ‘Noughties’ to guide Yas and Dan. He was born in the next decade, certainly grew up influenced by them, knowing how to get around and survive. Probably had relatives there. And I think I made it clear how much I liked the character as written, presumably, by Maxine Alderton. So this week, instead of making his professorial research and personal experience key, Chibs puts Yas in charge and relegates the boys to comic relief. McNally still knocks it out of the park though, making the most of tiny moments of depth. Okay, Yas in charge was good, finally coming into her own, and for the first time ever I got the impression that the Doctor did actually care about her and miss her.
Phil: Too little, too late?
Bar: A bit, yeah.
Phil: So what else were you thinking about?
Bar: The Forbidden Corner.
Phil: Come again?
Bar: The Forbidden Corner. It’s a great tourist attraction in Yorkshire. Probably snowed in at the moment. It’s designed by a landowner with real imagination, a genuine adventure for small persons, above and below ground, country house, secret passageways, Follies, underground lake, over-sized characters, puzzles, a room, and a statue that pees on you.
Phil: A room?
Bar: You didn’t question the statue?
Phil: Look, Bar, you’re writing this. I have no control over my own sentences. I’m sure there’s big philosophical question over free will hidden in this paragraph, but I’m trying to prepare for Christmas so I’ve no time to enquire about statues. So: a room?
Bar: Which turns. You go in one of seven doors, and the floor turns. The doors all look the same, so you don’t know which one you came in, and where any of the others will lead. Williamson’s tunnels, for real. Though I don’t think any of them go to Atropos. There’s one door that doesn’t open though. Suspicious.
Phil: Is this going anywhere?
Bar: Yes, that’s what people tend to say in there. Oh, you mean the review?
Phil: I’m beginning to wonder if this is ever going to make sense.
Bar: Yes, there might be a few people thinking that about Flux. Chibs might yet stick the landing, but he’s a bit shaky on re-entry.
Phil: But as we can’t know that until next week, what about Flux 5?
Bar: AKA ‘What the Flux is it all about’? Well, to quote The First (Buffy S7.1) ‘It’s not about right. It’s not about wrong. It’s about power.’
Those who think they’ve got it being undermined by those who think they haven’t. ‘They’re so tiny,’ says Swarm, about one of those ‘Friends of the Doctor’ inspired to keep fighting even when all seems lost. Tecteun (still played brilliantly by Barbara Flynn, even if less well-written than she might be) said she was ‘right now’ in charge of Division – so who is really? A previous Doctor? Tecteun thinks the Doctor experiments with her ‘pets’ as she did with the Timeless Child, but the Doctor is always sowing seeds of revolution, siding with the underdog.
Phil: Karvanista’s more of an overdog, in charge of the fleet.
Bar: True, but versus the combined might of the Sontarans (I wonder if they’ve developed anti-wok defences since last time, or started to re-charge in shifts?) and the Deal with the Devil Grand Serpent. He’s still creepy, less effective versus cardboard one-scene ‘characters’ than against Vinder or Kate, but fighting the Camp-as-Christmas vibe with as much darkness as he dare. Is he the Doctor’s Mara-inspired Dark Side? Or just another wannabe? Can’t wait to see the Doctor face off against him. Jodie’s definitely finding her voice, some authority, some steel. ‘How much power do you think I have?’ – more than you did six weeks ago, Jodie.
Phil: You’re a Jodie fan now then? Dressing up in rainbows, flicking your sonic around, having people explain things to you?
Bar: Not entirely, but she’s no longer squeaky in stressful moments, flailing less and threatening more. Not static or passive, no longer totally overshadowed by guest actors. Talking of other actors Jemma Redgrave up for stunts too!
Phil: Kate’s great again, isn’t she? ‘Going dark.’
Bar: As Osgood said in her Art Tour, UNIT can go underground when necessary, like Williamson’s tunnels and Le Résistance. I want Osgood back. All the fan-service about the Brig, (in the credits again) and the correct signboard is fine and dandy, but the recent UNIT team is important too.
Phil: You think we’ll see Pertwee? Oh, not THAT dandy. Chibnall has done a lot more referencing the past this season.
Bar: I liked The Web of Fear cobwebs in the tunnels, the map journey to China reflecting Marco Polo’s to Cathay. I laughed at the very ’60s set for inside Passenger.
And I like him writing ‘I don’t get to tease people much’ or ‘I’m very good at pulling rabbits out of hats.’ Is he trolling us like Moff did? He really needs to hat-rabbit successfully next week.
Phil: Do you like the Timeless Child long plot stuff?
Bar: No, but it doesn’t wind me up as it does others. This choice presented in episode did seem to suggest the Doctor would choose to stay Doctor WHO than lose the universe she loves. Maybe Chibs has mummy issues.
Phil: Yes, that image on the tomb wall behind Dan looked a bit Sutekh didn’t it? Oh, you mean ‘mother.’ Er. I’m not qualified to judge. Was there anything you didn’t like?
Bar: Yes; The Exposition Monster is a pain, taking over characters and making them say stupid things, explaining the task to each other when they’re nearly finished, but I have to remember they did all this in lockdown, social distanced and bubbled. Hastily rearranged dialogue to cover gaps in planned filming might be forgivable. The original plan for the season was bigger. Compressed as it might be, I’m glad they have put so much effort into it, from grand CGI to tiny details in sets like Moebius strips, perpetual motion desk toys, snakeskin shoes, or weird May blossom ceilings.
Phil: Any final thoughts? We’ve all got homes to go to.
Bar: How do TROOPS of Angels move? Do they have a hive mind so that only the one at the front needs its eyes open? And has the word ‘Monolith’ changed meaning since the 21st Century?
Phil: That’s quite enough of that.
Bar: Some would say that of Chibs’ Who. But isn’t it great that people are talking about Who again? I’m looking forward to next week. Can he keep up the momentum? There’d better not be another power cut.
Phil: I see what you did there.
So that’s what a few of us thought. But what about you, dear DWC readers?