In Review: Doctor Who: Flux, Episode Six – The Vanquishers

In the final epic chapter in the story of the Flux, all hope is lost. The forces of darkness are in control. But when the monsters have won, who can you count upon to save the universe?

Reviewed by Tim Robins

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

The final episode in the “Flux” storyline revealed the story to be an exciting mix of Excel spreadsheets, PERT planning tools, GANTT charts and Zoom calls. The project management at work was awesome, and kudos to Chris Chibnall for bringing Doctor Who to our screens during a pandemic – but I wasn’t sure the result was worth the time, or effort.

Image: BBC

“The Vanquishers” was more watchable than some of the previous episodes, perhaps because there was some sense of an ending to the numerous plot threads. Indeed, a lot more was tied up than I actually expected. So Bel and Vinder were reunited across space and time, “The Grand Serpent” got his comeuppance, The Daleks, Cybermen and Sontarans were all defeated, if not wiped from existence, and the beings-known-as-Ravagers got what was coming to them, for not successfully doing whatever it was they did. Professor Jericho died stoically and other characters stood about in various sets and locations feeling relieved or a bit sad, depending on the circumstances.The Doctor’s role in events was at times exciting and, at times, bathetic.

Image: BBC
Image: BBC

The previous episode ended in a similar way to the episode before that, with Swarm reaching out with his hand of disintegration. Episode Four’s cliff-hanger was resolved by The Doctor pulling Yaz out of harm’s way; Episode Five’s cliff-hanger was resolved by The Doctor dodging Swarm’s outstretched finger. Surely a better cliff-hanger occurred moments later, when Swarm bombarded The Doctor with waves of forgotten memories, identities and information? I’m not sure what Chibnall’s thinking was here.

A pleasing treat was the episode giving us The Three Doctors II. I enjoyed The Doctor teaming up with herself. I cannot bear characters talking out loud to themselves, but when their self is just across a TARDIS console, the result is a dialogue and one that provided clearer exposition than anything that Whittaker’s usual brand of breathless mumbling usually delivers.

What hasn’t worked is the “I can’t remember anything about everything” plot device which has been about as interesting as the Seventh Doctor’s “I’ve got a secret that you don’t know” mystery. This is just bad writing.

If the audience doesn’t know a secret that a character has, but that hasn’t impacted anything we’ve seen so far, or if a character has no memory of things the audience has never seen then, all that the audience is left with is a big, fat nothing.

To add insult to injury, The Doctor ended up throwing her secret forgotten stuff away and instructing the TARDIS to hide it somewhere she will never find it. It would have been more interesting if tbe TARDIS had just coughed her commemorative timepiece straight back up at her.

Image: BBC

Some of the metaphysical stuff was also just daft. Chibnall has gone from explaining basic electronics in his first season to anthropomorphising Space and Time as engaged in a personal vendetta with themselves while Time is revealed as having a personal beef with The Doctor.

Frankly, I’m at a loss for words at this point. Current physics and cosmology is so much more interesting than two characters in garish monster masks from a gift shop at Halloween. I’ve only just got my head around the relationship of time, space, velocity, mass and gravity, so camp temporal beings strutting around the place and foppishly waving their fingers in the air really doesn’t help. I had no idea what Swarm and Azure’s plan for the death of all spatial things would mean, or even if it were achievable.

Perhaps the most shocking revelation was that everyone was exactly who they had said they were. The Grand Serpent was The Grand Serpent, Bel and Vinder were Bel and Vinder, and cuddly humanoid dog warriors were cuddly humanoid dog warriors. The plot line involving the Lupari vs. every other big name Doctor Who monster was a lot of sound and furries, signifying nothing much at all.

I liked the cosmic scope of the conflict, but not the declamatory dialogue that went with it. No sooner had a Sontaran shouted that it was time for the grand betrayal than the Daleks started squawking “We have been betrayed!” At least everybody was on script.

Tim Robins

Dear reader, a review is an opinion. Other opinions are available, including your own.

• Doctor Who – Flux on SteelbookBlu-Ray and DVD are available from 24th January 2022 (AmazonUK Affiliate Links)

• Doctor Who is available to watch on BBC iPlayer Official Web Site: www.doctorwho.tv

Doctor Who Official YouTube Channel

The Doctor: Jodie Whittaker
Yasmin Khan: Mandip Gill
Dan Lewis: John Bishop
Professor Jericho: Kevin McNally
Awsok: Barbara Flynn
Prentis/Grand Serpent: Craig Parkinson
Bel: Thaddea Graham
Azure: Rochenda Sandall

Writer: Chris Chibnall
Director: Azhur Saleem
Executive Producer: Matt Strevens
Executive Producer: Nikki Wilson
Executive Producer: Chris Chibnall

More Reviews and Production Information

Wikipedia: Doctor Who Series 13 Overview

Radio Times – Doctor Who: The Vanquishers’ 16 biggest questions

Is the Master back? Is Karvanista a companion? And what’s the future of UNIT?

Reviews…

The Guardian: Doctor Who recap: Flux chapter six – The Vanquishers

“Chris Chibnall’s foray into a 21st-century multi-episode Doctor Who series mostly works, but leaves plenty of unanswered questions for next year…”

The I: Doctor Who: Flux finale, BBC1, review: Chris Chibnall’s tenure ends not with a bang but a whimper

Confusing character choices and an unclear plot made for a rather disappointing finale

The Independent: Doctor Who review, ‘The Vanquishers’: Series finale is more funny than terrifying as Jodie Whittaker fights for the universe

Jodie Whittaker’s Time Lord is under threat as her last full series stumbles to a close

Doctor Who Magazine Issue 571 Variant - Skaak

Radio Times: Doctor Who – The Vanquishers review: Flux draws to a satisfying, if frenetic, conclusion

• Doctor Who Magazine Issue 571 reveals more about the first two “Flux” episodes, The Halloween Apocalypse and War of the Sontarans, Chris Chibnall’s production notes about crafting modern Who’s first six-parter, and interviews with Sam Spruell (Swarm) and Rochenda Sandall (Azure).

Three variant covers are on offer, all available from newsagents and Panini direct | Azure | Swarm | Skaak

Doctor Who Magazine 572

Doctor Who Magazine Issue 572 is on sale from the 9th December 2021 and can be pre-ordered here from Panini

Highlights include: New Year’s Day Special preview; Jamie Magnus Stone; Azhur Saleem; Annabel Scholey; Ray Holman; The Dengineers; Collectivity: Christmas Presents; Apocrypha: The Curse of Kanbo-Ala; The Doctor Who Magazine Christmas Quiz; The Fact of Fiction: The Husbands of River Song; Comic Strip: It’s Behind You!

Plus – there’s a giant double-sided poster, too!

• Doctor Who – Flux on SteelbookBlu-Ray and DVD are available from 24th January 2022 (AmazonUK Affiliate Links)

Coming Soon…

Doctor Who - Eve of the Daleks - Promo with Date

A freelance journalist and Doctor Who fanzine editor since 1978, Tim Robins has written on comics, films, books and TV programmes for a wide range of publications including Starburst, Interzone, Primetime and TV Guide. His brief flirtation with comics includes ghost inking a 2000AD strip and co-writing a Doctor Who strip with Mike Collins. Since 1990 he worked at the University of Glamorgan where he was a Senior Lecturer in Cultural and Media Studies and the social sciences. Academically, he has published on the animation industry in Wales and approaches to social memory. He claims to be card carrying member of the Politically Correct, a secret cadre bent on ruling the entire world and all human thought.



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