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

Back To The Past

Tripwire’s man in Los Angeles Robert Cave grabs his TARDIS key and takes a look at the third episode of Doctor Who: Flux

Writer: Chris Chibnall
Director: Azhur Saleem
Chapter Three: Once, Upon a Time

So, now we get seriously into the story. After one episode of introductions and another episode of Sontarans riding horses and fighting British soldiers, we at last have a decent opportunity to explore this series’ main plot. Well, maybe not the main plot exactly, but certainly we get a better insight into the forgotten past of the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker). This is largely accomplished via the Doctor’s cliff hanger-obviating decision to shove her friends right into the timestream and jump straight in after them.

What we see next is subject to a lot of storytelling shenanigans as our principle cast of Yas (Mandip Gill), Dan (John Bishop) and Vinder (Jacob Anderson) pull double duty, playing both their regular characters, now unleashed amidst their own personal timelines, as well as lending their appearances to the Division, A.K.A. the companions of the Fugitive Doctor (played mainly by Jodie Whittaker with her coat on inside out, but with Jo Martin making an appearance via a mirror or two). This is probably the sort of acting challenge that appeals to many performers looking to stretch their abilities, but I suspect it could also be a little alienating for more casual viewers. Certainly, there seemed to be a significant number of tweets from people professing their inability to follow what was going on during the episode’s initial broadcast.

The Fugitive Doctor has been a tantalising enigma ever since her debut in 2020’s Fugitive of the Judoon, in which she was revealed to be an earlier incarnation of our favourite Time Lord, but one with apparently even more mysterious past and a darker moral compass to boot. The glimpses of Jo Martin’s Doctor and the fur-covered Craige Els as Karvanista probably helped clue a further chunk of the audience into the notion that we are viewing a series of suppressed and otherwise mangled memories from the Doctor’s distant past, with her filling in any blanks that remain with the faces of her current crop of companions. This is a pretty high-risk, high-reward narrative gambit for what is ostensibly still a mass-market family viewing sci fi, but I must admit to the occasional nagging worry that showrunner Chis Chibnall is moving this away from merely rewarding repeated viewings and towards actively requiring repeated in order to fully comprehend the story.

Speaking of story comprehension, plunging into the timestream also offers a chance for some much-needed character development for of the current TARDIS crew (plus Vinder) and that is something there has been little opportunity for so far this series. As the Doctor herself notes, she hasn’t even been properly introduced to Vinder yet. Nor has she met new character Bel (Thaddea Graham), who is apparently someone significant from Vinder’s past. Bel traverses the Dalek and Cyberman dominated sectors of the post-Flux universe. I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of her yet.

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 09/10/2021 – Programme Name: Doctor Who S13 – TX: n/a – Episode: Doctor Who – Ep 1 (No. n/a) – Picture Shows: Yaz (MANDIP GILL), The Doctor (JODIE WHITTAKER), Dan (JOHN BISHOP) – (C) BBC Studios – Photographer: James Pardon

Perhaps the biggest revelation we get this week is the idea of a war between the forces of time and space, with Ravagers’ Swarm (Sam Spruell) and Azure (Rochenda Sandall) very much on team-space. The whole notion of time and space being two separate things might not jibe particularly well with Einsteinian physics, but it is embedded in the very fabric of Doctor Who. The two concepts are kept firmly apart and at the opposite ends of the acronym TARDIS: Time And Relative Dimensions in Space.

Ultimately, Swarm and Azure’s attack on the temporal guardians of the Mouri from last week’s cliffhanger is foiled through the use of a Passenger, a kind of walking, infinitely large prison, like the Genesis Ark, from Army of Ghosts/Doomsday, back in 2006. Unfortunately for our heroes, it seems the Ravagers plan is merely a feint to unleash/release further spatial forces from their flesh-bound Passenger prison. Yeah, ok, I can see how some casual viewers/TV journalists have found this series a little hard to follow.

Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor, Mandip Gill as Yasmin Khan, John Bishop as Dan – Doctor Who _ Season 13 – Photo Credit: James Pardon/BBC Studios/BBC America

Once the Ravagers have got what they want; the release of their nameless fluorescent cloud buddies, they depart in a visual effect that seems very similar to the disintegration effect used by The Flux, the fluorescent clouds and the Ravagers themselves. Maybe the clouds are in fact the same thing as The Flux, and maybe what looks like disintegration is just some kind of massively powerful teleportation effect. I guess we will have to wait and see if any of this speculation hold water.

Away from the Ravagers, it is nice to get more into Vinder’s backstory working for The Grand Serpent (Craig Parkinson), a ruthless, corrupt intergalactic politician. At first glance Vin might appear a very broad strokes good guy, a man of principle versus moustache twiddling amoral villain, but these scenes give Vinder some much-needed context. The same could probably be said for this episode as a whole. It fills in the character motivation and plot holes left deliberately empty by the previous two parts of Doctor Who: Flux. It challenges its audience to make overall sense of all the narrative fragments they are presented with and, while the clues are all there, Chibnall doesn’t seem interested in making many concessions to them. This is ambitious storytelling, that requires a level of active engagement and commitment from those that watch it.

Eventually, the Doctor drops Vinder off at the desolate remains of a planet of his choosing so he can go off and find Bel. Yeah, it would probably make more sense for him to just stay on the vehicle that can easily travel through all of time and space, and wait for Bel to come to him, but you do you Vinder. 

And then, finally, we have a Weeping Angel that climbs out of Yas’s phone. The angel first glommed onto her in the middle of her flashback in the timestream halfway through this episode and now it seems to have piggybacked a ride into the TARDIS. Part of the power of the Weeping Angels is that they are largely silent. That makes them extra creepy, but it also makes them difficult to write compelling stories about. It’s hard to explore the motivation and individual identity of a creature that cannot speak and can only emote when you aren’t looking at them. Do they even have names? I hope we will find out in the not-too-distant future as the Angel in the Tardis appears to be set on seizing the TARDIS’s controls and taking it, and its occupants, to a very particular village in the late 1960s, judging from the trailer for next week’s episode. It all looks quite exciting. I just hope we also get to see more of the Fugitive Doctor along the way too.

 

Read his first and second episode reviews here

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

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

 

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

Back To The Past Tripwire’s man in Los Angeles Robert Cave grabs his TARDIS key and takes a look at the third episode of Doctor Who: Flux… Writer: Chris Chibnall Director: Azhur Saleem Chapter Three: Once, Upon a Time So, now we get seriously into the story. After one episode of introductions and another episode
The post Tripwire’s Man In Los Angeles Reviews Doctor Who: Flux Episode Three appeared first on TRIPWIRE MAGAZINE.Read MoreTRIPWIRE MAGAZINE

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