Doctor Who Flux Season: The Good and the Bad, Review
Just as suddenly as it began, Doctor Who: Flux has ended its shortened and serialized season. This story was the crystallization of everything Chris Chibnall has done as showrunner. There were moments of brilliance, and heartfelt emotion, that was often bogged down by over-exposition and cheesy dialogue. New and intriguing characters were introduced, but not explored fully. There was a ton of retconning, and additions to established mythology that were interesting, but often unnecessary. And it increasingly raised the stakes to the point where it felt overstuffed and overwrought. It was wildly entertaining, and maddening at the same time. Let’s dig into the good and the bad of this season of Doctor Who: Flux.
Doctor Who: Flux Season – New Characters Enrich The Universe
Image via the BBC
One thing that worked fairly well in Doctor Who: Flux was the addition of new characters to the series. As the story continually raised the stakes with each successive episode, these characters helped ground the narrative and give us people to root for. It is also nice to see the Doctor working with people whose entire lives do not revolve around her – as often happens with her companions.
Dan was a new official companion introduced this season. However, he seemed to be more of a buddy for Yaz than the Doctor. Given how much the Doctor was separated from her companions this season, they had to give Yaz someone to work with. Dan was a good choice, he is charming and nerdy and cares deeply about other people. He had great chemistry with Yaz and other human characters. Although it was a bit puzzling how little he actually interacted with the Doctor this season.
Doctor Who: Flux Season: Few Standouts From The Ensemble Cast –
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There were other compelling additions to the cast like Claire – the woman who was thrown back in time by the Weeping Angels and has some latent psychic powers. Alongside her is Professor Jericho, who almost feels like a stand-in for the classic Doctors of old. Both of these actors were great in their roles, adding depth and much needed humanity to the story.
However, the stand-out new characters of Doctor Who: Flux were absolutely Vinder and Bel. Their story was an unexpected joy this season, as we got to know both of them during their search for the other. Along the way, we got a sense of the honorable and heroic nature of both characters. They are determined to find one another, but they also want to help others and make the universe a better place. They were both funny, complicated, compelling, and extremely relatable. I would have loved to spend more time with them individually (and together) but the overstuffed nature of the Flux prevented that from happening.
The Bad: Too Many Villains And Ideas Stuffed Into Six Episodes
Image by Ben Blackall via the BBC
I think that Doctor Who: Flux would have worked far better as a story without Sontarans, Cybermen, Weeping Angels, or Daleks involved. If Chibnall had honed in on the Doctor’s search for the mysterious Division, and her relationship with Swarm and Azure then everything would have made more sense. Keep the stellar ensemble cast, make Division and the Grand Serpent the big baddies. It would have been a tighter story, with a more coherent conflict.
As it is, we got familiar aliens crammed into every single episode. And that did the story a disservice. We never really got to know Swarm and Azure. Where are the rest of their people? What was their history with the Doctor’s lost identities? Why do they have crystals growing from their skin? And most importantly: what exactly was their plan? They droned on a lot about how Time would defeat Space. They wanted to end all spatial reality… but why? There is some religious fervor to this element, and a desire for vengeance against the Doctor. But it’s all so unclear. Their plan never made any sense. If Chibnall had taken the time to explore these characters, the entire core conflict would have come into sharper focus.
What About Division?
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The same problem arises with the mysterious Division, an organization founded by the Time Lords that the Doctor once worked for. Towards the end of the season, we met the Time Lady responsible for Division and the Flux. It turns out that she was the very same woman who found the Timeless Child and raised the Doctor’s first incarnation. She is the closest thing that the Doctor has to a mother.
While this is an interesting idea, the fact that the current Doctor has no memory of her means that there is no emotional resonance to this plot point. Again, if Chibnall had focused more on exploring this character and the history between her and the Doctor we might have cared. Instead, she just became a one-dimensional villain set on destroying the universe with the Flux because… the Doctor affected the flow of history too much? Her motivations were still a bit murky, despite her lengthy exposition.
Playing With Time And Space
Photo by James Pardon via BBC America
One of the most interesting elements of Doctor Who: Flux came from the way the series split the Doctor across Time and Space. We saw the Doctor working within multiple timestreams, her psychic awareness shifting suddenly from one to the next. The visual metaphor worked very well, to show how fractured the Doctor is. And it also reminded us of the immense power contained within the Doctor, as she literally works to hold together the fabric of the universe. This came to a head in the finale where actually had multiple versions of the Doctor working together.
I suspect some of this came about from Covid restrictions, it was easier to have Jodie play against herself (although it would have been amazing to see her with David Tennant here). Each version of the Doctor is racing against the clock to solve a myriad of problems at once, by utilizing her ensemble cast to their greatest strengths. Rarely have we seen a Doctor giving orders to a large team, as she does in the season finale. And it is a new side of the Doctor, one informed by the missing lives she cannot remember.
The Companions Get Their Own Adventures
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At the midway point of Doctor Who: Flux both Yaz and Dan are separated from the Doctor. Thrown back in time by the Weeping Angels, they are stranded in the past with no way home. Alongside them is Professor Jericho, and the three of them set off to hunt down clues left by the Doctor across time.
I really loved these scenes where Yaz, Dan, and the Professor desecrate archaeological digs, and trek up mountains to talk to prophets. It was a fun adventure story, that allowed the characters to breathe. However, it was a little disconcerting that the Doctor was not with them. They got to have all the fun, while she had to deal with the literal weight of the universe.
The same goes for my new favorite characters of Bel and Vinder. The two of them put in a lot of work this season, investigating the Flux, saving people from the bad guys, and just generally being the best. It shows us that the Doctor cannot do everything… even though it definitely felt like she should have been the one doing these things. In a way their storyline felt disconnected from the Doctor’s narrative, and it would have been nice to see all of this ensemble cast interact with her more.
Doctor Who Flux Season: The Questionable: Retconning Everything
Photo by James Pardon via BBC America
From the beginning, Chris Chibnall has been changing Doctor Who mythology and lore. The Timeless Child started this. We learned that the Doctor is not actually from our universe, that she is an anomaly. From this came the concept that the Time Lords obtained their regeneration abilities from the Doctor, instead of the other way around. And then we got Doctor Ruth – proof that the Doctor could be both a woman and black despite the naysayers.
Doctor Who: Flux went even further this season with changing of the lore. The entire concept of Division upends the history of the Time Lords and their intentions. It also introduced an entirely new entity in the Grand Serpent – who was involved in the creation of UNIT. Altogether, these changes fundamentally shift the nature of the series… but how long will they last?
Where Does Doctor Who Go From Here?
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So we are left wondering: where does Doctor Who go from here? Doctor Who: Flux marked the last “full” season for Chibnall and Whittaker. They still have a few episodes left, that will eventually lead to a 60th anniversary special. I suspect this is when we will see Whitaker regenerate into a new Doctor. At that time, Chibnall will hand the reins back over to former showrunner Russell T. Davies. And it remains to be seen how much of Chibnall’s canonical changes will remain intact when that happens.
The story of Doctor Who: Flux may be over, but the season isn’t complete without a holiday special. We will see Jodie Whittaker back in the TARDIS on New Year’s Day in a standalone episode called Eve of the Daleks.
Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.