“The Halloween Apocalypse” manages, mainly, to deliver what you want from an opening episode of “Doctor Who.” Part one of a six-part serialized season, “The Halloween Apocalypse” lays out what we can expect coming up. However, attention to our main characters seems to be missing still, a criticism often lobbed at the Chibnall years of the show.
Yaz and the Doctor pick up right where we left them in “Revolution of the Daleks.” The trust Yaz had in the Doctor is eroding, but neither has done much about it. If anything, it isn’t entirely clear why she didn’t leave the TARDIS along with Graham and Ryan. The adventure must be alluring because it seems that Yaz has been operating solo in large part since we saw the team last. Time has passed, but not much has changed. It’s an unfortunate characterization of this Doctor. Her predecessors genuinely cared for their ‘companions’. Some even appearing to cross the line into almost romantic. This Doctor talks about it a lot but never really seems to show it. “Fam” this and “Fam” that, until she gets distracted.
The disconnection to the companions is something the show has explored before, most notably with the 10th Doctor and Martha. Here though, there’s been no explanation of why in one moment the Doctor expresses a more intimate relationship with terms like “Fam,” then leaves her mates in the absolute dark. It’s no wonder that a part of the fan base has had difficulty connecting to her Doctor. Hopefully, with it being a prominent issue right from the start, it’s something we’ll explore as the season moves on.
Dan’s introduction doesn’t fare much better in the explanation department. We get about the same amount of back story on him as we got for the “Fam.” There’s a chance for him to have some significance around the Karvanista sub-plot, but that turns into nothing as it could have been any other human being save a time anomaly. The Lupari’s bond with the people of Earth should see some exploration and expansion as the season moves on, especially considering the Lupari are all that currently stands in the way of The Flux destroying Earth, and yet this sub-plot feels entirely disposable. A long way to run for some jokes about man’s best friend. The costume for Karvanista: was it a joke, a throw-back reference to the more limited budgets of the classic era of the show, or completely serious? Whatever it was it didn’t help the situation.
It would seem that Dan is around to help ‘fix’ the relationship between the Doctor and Yaz. It would be odd to have that be the character’s sole purpose, but stranger things have happened. He’s got a bit of a Donna Noble or Rose Tyler vibe to him. Come into the TARDIS, burn brightly, leave shortly. It’s pretty clear that once Russell T. Davies returns, everything will change, so it is unlikely that Dan will get more than this one season. Will Chris Chibnall let him survive, or will he make a tragic hero of him? With the length of this season, it won’t take long to find out.
Lest we think that “The Timeless Children” was more of a one-off, The Division features prominently throughout the episode. The Doctor has been tracking Karvanista, thinking he may have been a Division agent. Division agents check in on Swarm (who only gets a ‘name’ in the credits) and die as he escapes. And one Division agent notes the beginning of The Flux. Fortunately, Vinder, as we’ll come to know him, gets away; otherwise, his introduction at Comic-Con would have been for nothing.
“The Division” is a curious name for this agency of Time Lords. There is an apparent difference between a race that has vowed non-intervention and those agents actively intervening. We’ve seen the idea before, but tied to the once again mysterious Doctor, it could mean even more. The Doctor’s past is the heart of “Doctor Who: Flux,” but that is a tricky rope to walk. There is a lot to unpack here. The new old Doctors. The Cyber-Time Lords. You could build an entire season around just that. Perhaps the hint the Swarm and the Doctor have history means that we are getting just that, but it’s unclear how The Flux plays in.
There are other things dropped in, seemingly randomly, that fill out the episode. Claire, a woman who knows the Doctor and Yaz, but the Doctor and Yaz don’t know her. Yet. Claire then encounters a Weeping Angel who becomes the first to be successful at their job since 2007. Good job! Something more going on with Claire? The internet seems to think she is the next Doctor, but wouldn’t that be a little too obvious? Then there are the tunnels of grave importance and the man digging them who seems to know something about the future. Let’s also not forget that Dan had a date scheduled, but his date ended up with other plans. Small details or hints at bigger things to come?