Tripwire’s Man In Los Angeles Reviews Doctor Who: Flux Episode One

Trick Or Treat?

Tripwire’s man in Los Angeles Robert Cave grabs his sonic screwdriver and takes a look at the first episode of Doctor Who: Flux

Writer: Chris Chibnall
Director: Jamie Magnus Stone
Chapter One: The Halloween Apocalypse

A lot has changed since the last full series of Doctor Who was on our screens back in the beginning of 2020. That batch of episodes, as well as the most recent festive special, were all filmed long before the advent of Covid-19, and while I didn’t spot any on-screen acknowledgement of the pandemic itself in this week’s instalment, the virus has nevertheless had a massive impact on the shape and structure of the show’s output this year.

A shorter season was probably always going to be the inevitable consequence of costly, but necessary, Covid-safe filming protocols, but showrunner Chris Chibnall has actively leaned into the constraints and limitations the virus has foisted upon him. Instead of the usual array of vaguely interlinked but largely standalone stories, he has opted to produce what is billed as a single season-long six-part narrative. A story of scale and significance. A further welcome change, at least for US-based Who fans, is the decision to air new episodes simultaneously in the UK and in the US. Now we all get to share in the excitement of new Who and avoid the flood spoilers cascading through the internet in advance of the US broadcast.

The first episode drops us right into the middle of the story, with The Doctor (Jody Whittaker) and Yaz (Mandip Gill) handcuffed and upside-down and at the mercy of Karvanista (Craige Els), a humanoid dog-person from a species known as the Lupari, although we don’t get to know much about him, or a decent look at his furry face, until a good while later into the narrative. It turns out that far from being a bad guy with an invasion fleet bent on conquering the Earth, Karvanista and his fellows are on a rescue mission to save humanity from the encroaching annihilation by an entity known as the Flux.

This is another one of those Doctor Who stories where things happen out of sequence. I suspect we may only appreciate the full extent of this nonsequential narrative once the whole tale is complete. However, even in this opening episode there are plenty of indications that this series might have a distinctly timey-wimey flavour. We have a Weeping Angel, a creature that feeds on the potential energy released by sending people into the past, and we see it sending an unfortunate woman named Claire (Annabel Scholey) back in time. We are led to believe that Claire has met the Doctor and Yaz before at some point in her past, but in the time-travelling twosome’s personal futures, but that is a temporal mystery to be solved another time. Then there are Sontarans, who have been established as time travellers since their first appearance on the show all the way back in the 1974 Jon Pertwee story The Time Warrior. Their new look here, realised once again by the now-veteran Sontaran actor Dan Starkey, wonderfully evokes the appearance of Linx from that initial outing in all its lip-licking glory. 

Then there is the mysterious new skull-headed villain called Swarm (played by Matthew Needham and Sam Spruell). I say, “new villain,” but it is clearly stated that Swarm, and presumably his sister, are both incredibly old – old enough to have been held in various forms of captivity for much of the lifespan of the universe. But it seems that Swarm and The Doctor met, fought and formed some form of mind link in some previous adventures (or perhaps even some previous incarnation) that our favourite Time Lord no-longer remembers. Could this have something to do with Jo Martin’s Doctor? I guess we will have to wait to find out.

But before we meet all the monsters in the show we are introduced to Dan, a middle-aged stand-up bloke played convincingly by the middle-aged stand-up comedian John Bishop, (see, it’s not just TV shows that can do this not-in-the-right-order stuff). Dan’s got a passion for his hometown of Liverpool, and life in general, but doesn’t appear to have a job or much in the way of an income, something all too many of viewers will be able to relate to. He does have a potential love interest in Diane (Nadia Albina), but as soon as we hear him promising not to miss their not-a-date date we already know in our heart of hearts that Dan will not be getting there on time. In fact, did I imagine, it or did Diane refer to her friend as “the late Dan Lewis”? An ominous sign for the future?

Another ominous development this episode are all the indications that something is very wrong with the TARDIS. However dimensionally transcendental you might be, oozing black liquid from your innards and spontaneous developing multiple new points of ingress are not usually signs of robust health. Worse, it is by no means certain come the episode’s end that the TARDIS has been able to endure contact with the Flux – certainly the power of time vortex, which once turned the Doctor’s former companion Rose Tyler into the Dalek-atomising god-like entity known as Bad Wolf, had no discernible effect!

And speaking of Rose, it surely cannot be a coincidence that the Observation Outpost Jacob Anderson’s Vinder is stationed at shares her name – there is even a passing resemblance between the station and the big red button The Moment manifested back in the 50th anniversary extravaganza The Day of the Doctor.

Other stray observations of note – the TARDIS control room has a double bed! Yaz is no in the Police, although we still don’t know if she passed her probation before leaving the service. There are some tunnels that were dug in Liverpool over 200 years ago whose true purpose remains shrouded in mystery to this day!

Ultimately, it’s a little difficult to accurately rate the success of this episode in isolation, since so much of what was is doing revolves around introducing characters and setting stuff up for future instalments. We saw the Flux destroying various planets, including some that looked worryingly like they were part of our Solar System! It strikes me that saving the Earth would be a hollow victory indeed if the Flux still managed to wipe out The Sun. And then we have Swarm. What are he and his sister planning? What did they get up to in the past that led to their lengthy imprisonment? I suspect it may be a few episodes before we get much more of an explanation. But, in the meantime we have an exciting story in prospect next week as the Sontarans (on horseback!) get stuck into the fighting in the Crimean War, and the Doctor, Yaz and Dan get to meet the healer and hotelier Mary Seacole. I can’t wait.

The post Tripwire’s Man In Los Angeles Reviews Doctor Who: Flux Episode One appeared first on TRIPWIRE MAGAZINE.

Trick Or Treat? Tripwire’s man in Los Angeles Robert Cave grabs his sonic screwdriver and takes a look at the first episode of Doctor Who: Flux… Writer: Chris Chibnall Director: Jamie Magnus Stone Chapter One: The Halloween Apocalypse A lot has changed since the last full series of Doctor Who was on our screens back
The post Tripwire’s Man In Los Angeles Reviews Doctor Who: Flux Episode One appeared first on TRIPWIRE MAGAZINE.Read MoreTRIPWIRE MAGAZINE

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