“Doctor Who: Flux” manages something we haven’t seen for a while on the show. The pacing is tight, and the cliffhangers are genuine shockers that leave the audience wanting more. That isn’t a complaint about the quality of the last few seasons. It’s just the difference between self-contained, for the most part, episodes and an entire series devoted to one story. The people arguing against show-runner Chris Chibnall’s approach to “Doctor Who” will have a difficult time after “War of the Sontarans.”
“War of the Sontarans” picks up following the Flux enveloping the TARDIS. Instead of the instant destruction we saw in “The Halloween Massacre,” the Doctor, Yaz, and Dan have moved through space and time to the Crimean War. Now, instead of fighting Russian soldiers, the English are fighting against Sontaran soldiers. They haven’t just arrived in the Crimean, though; Liverpool (and the rest of the planet) are Sontaran dominated in 2021. We know this because Dan is transported home by a “collision between Flux and Vortex energy.” Yaz also gets ‘beamed’ away, but we’ll visit that in a bit.
In previous series, an episode like “War of the Sontarans” would have been neatly wrapped up in about 43 minutes. The main plot of the episode clocks in slightly less than that. The Sontarans leave Earth in under 30 minutes. Still, nothing feels rushed – a critique often leveled at the show in the past. The Sontarans emerge from comic relief back to genuine villains with some nice nods to their past incursions. Knowing this series is short (There are only four episodes left!), it’s difficult to say who will be back and who won’t. It would be fun to see Skaak again at some point.
Can we also take a moment to celebrate Dan? I suppose one never prepares for traveling with the Doctor. Dan certainly wasn’t expecting it; he was just an innocent pet in a cage until the Doctor came along. All things considered, Dan adapts pretty quickly. You can’t quite say he singlehandedly stopped the Sontaran invasion of Liverpool, though he probably would. Were I in his situation, I’m not sure I’d be chasing after aliens armed with only a wok. It would be nice to see more interactions between the Doctor and Dan, though. Hopefully, that is coming.
It’s the last quarter of an episode that gets to the heart of “Doctor Who: Flux.” The Mouri from the planet Time keeps the flow of time regulated. Swarm, Azure, and The Guardian show up to either disrupt or repair what the Mouri does. What we’ve seen makes it difficult to tell because it feels threatening, but it could be a misdirect. Writing this review later in the week (sorry readers, if you’re expecting breaking reviews, this might not be the place) has given rise to some speculation about some connections to the fifth Doctor. I don’t want to spoil anything for people later than me, but I’ll hold those ideas for the following review.
Why, though, were Yaz and Vinder also pulled here? Well, one reason was to put them in the position of replacing the broken Mouri. All of time flowing through their bodies puts them in jeopardy the Doctor needs to begin to fight. Not that she wasn’t before, but it will give her a focus she may have been missing. It may also give her an advantage. Yaz and Vinder will know what is coming next and how to deal with it. It doesn’t appear that Swarm and company have that detailed of an advantage.
“Doctor Who: Flux” has done a great job of delivering on its promise of a cliffhanger a week this series. There are a lot of threads dangling here, and it almost feels like there are too many to pull. There is the mystery of what is happening to the TARDIS. Why do Swarm and company know the Doctor when she doesn’t know them? What was that house the Doctor saw? How can Yaz and Vinder survive all of time channeling through them? Why does Karvanista remind me so much of Barf from “Spaceballs”? Indeed, Chris Chibnall will answer not all of these questions this year. If we can get answers to most, it will be a very satisfying venture.