I sat with my husband on the couch, watching the Thirteenth Doctor regain her composure as she pressed a lever on the TARDIS console. As the familiar theme song started up with the credits, there was one word in my mind.
It was the same reaction I’d had after every episode in the Flux series. Every single episode was jam-packed with so much that it took me a while to process each one. Moreover, with each episode acting like a single piece to a jigsaw puzzle, it was hard to know just how much I liked it when I hadn’t seen the whole picture yet.
But after taking a day to think about it all, I was sure. Flux was my favourite Chibnall series, and it was a wonderful final complete series for the Thirteenth Doctor. Of course it wasn’t perfect, but nothing is, and I’m still marvelling at what the entire Doctor Who team was able to accomplish during the pandemic in this series.
So, without further ado, let’s take a dive and look at where Flux excelled and where it may have fallen a bit short. Note: spoilers ahead!
Bad News First
Let’s get the things I didn’t like out of the way before we move on and end with all of the good things! Keep in mind that I don’t talk critically about things just to do it, but to learn.
The whole of Flux had a frantic feel about it, trying to fit in as many things as possible into each episode. I don’t necessarily mind that as long as it’s not overbearing.
What I do mind, however, (and have become increasingly sensitive to as it happens more often in media) is that the ending was very rushed. I can’t say it was a surprise; I could tell pretty much from the very beginning that it was going to happen, and I was positive by the end of Survivors of the Flux. Also, Chibnall is rather infamous for his rushed endings.
I definitely would have liked them to spend more time on actually stopping the Sontarans as well as some interactions with all of the central characters at the end, as it was pretty much, “Okay we saved the universe, goodbye!”
However, I do have to say that this series was pretty suddenly cut from eight to six episodes; that’s quite difficult to manage once you already have everything planned. I think Chibnall pretty much did the best he could here, considering the circumstances.
The swift wrapping up also left a lot of unanswered questions. Is the Division just over now? What happened to the Division ark thingy? Is the Ood okay?! And, uh…most of the universe has been destroyed by the Flux, including the Daleks, Cybermen, and Sontarans. Yet, the New Year’s special features good ol’ Daleks once again. So…what does that mean??
Granted, it’s possible that some or all of the upcoming three specials will deal with some of these questions, but there seemed to be a lot that was dropped at the end in favour of the Sontaran plot. I just hope that this really monumental catastrophe isn’t casually explained away somehow.
To be clear: when I say “useless,” I don’t mean that I don’t like the character, I just mean that I don’t like how they were used within the series.
First up: Tecteun. It was inevitable that the Doctor would run into her at some point, but it was rather disappointing for her to vaguely tell the Doctor some stuff, criticise her, and then just die. In my opinion, it would have been way more interesting for her to survive the Flux, or at least live a little while longer, and see the effects of that on the Doctor. As it was, she just seemed kinda useless.
Then there’s the Grand Serpent. I actually think he’s a pretty interesting character – but why the heck was he there? The whole plot with him and UNIT seemed out of place, as it had nothing to do with the Flux storyline. And then in the end, what did he do that a Sontaran wouldn’t have been able to do instead? It seemed like he was supposed to have some great significance or bearing on the Flux, but he didn’t. Kinda boggling to me, to be honest. I imagine he’ll probably show up again soon, but even then, it doesn’t explain why he played such a “major role” when he didn’t really do anything.
And finally…*sigh*…Kate. Okay, I love Kate Stewart. I think she’s incredible and I actually screamed when I saw her in the Next Time trailer for Survivors of the Flux. But once again, the UNIT storyline was very random to me. I liked it on its own, but it seemed like it was meant for its own episode and not as part of the Flux series. And then in the finale, Kate did…nothing. I mean, if you’re going to bring in a character as amazing as Kate Stewart, you’d better give her something better to do than answer the Doctor’s question and force a snake man through a door at gunpoint. Kate’s appearance seemed to be more fan service than anything, which is disappointing, as I love her character – and the whole UNIT gang – so much! Once again, I have a feeling she’ll be back soon, so hopefully they’ll write her in properly next time.
The Good Stuff
I feel like this series immediately slapped us all in the face because it was just so different than Series 11 and 12. Chibnall certainly kicked it up several notches for this one – kinda literally, actually. To me, both S11 and S12 seemed very slow-paced, while Flux started off running and didn’t stop.
In addition, this was the first series-long arc in New Who. Sure, there have been loose overarching storylines, but this was the first series to actually be one story since the days of Classic Who. I tend to really like these series, and this one was no different. It’s really refreshing to get a change in pace like this every now and again because it changes up the normal flow of the show.
Also, there were just some great ideas, weren’t there? The Ravagers looked awesome and reminded me of Classic Who-type villains. Time is a planet?! Species bond – hilarious. And don’t even get me started about the Doctor turning into a Weeping Angel, holy cow that was amazing and unexpected. Chibnall pulled off a lot of cool things in this series that simply can’t be recreated.
On the whole, I think that the ensemble cast this series was handled very well. Everyone got a nicely fleshed-out story, and it was really neat to see how all the threads intertwined at the end. I enjoyed all of the different kinds of people and personalities that were created for this series, and I really hope they all return before Thirteen’s regeneration!
Ensemble casts are difficult to do in the simplest of settings, so it’s quite a feat to be able to handle one in something like Doctor Who where the characters are all spread out across time and space.
I wasn’t quite sure what to think about the bombardment of old monsters in this series, but I must say that I was impressed by the handling of the Sontarans and the Weeping Angels, specifically.
It hit me suddenly during the finale that I loved how the Sontarans were the ones coming up with the best plan. Sometimes, the Sontarans are painted as really stupid and they fail in pretty much everything. But these guys are literally bred for war! I liked actually seeing them have a brilliant strategy for once, because they would.
And then there was Village of the Angels, possibly my favourite episode in the series. Chibnall managed to take monsters we know very well, incorporate all of the lore around them, and make them absolutely terrifying all over again.
As I said earlier, Flux hit the ground running. There wasn’t a second wasted in the entire series (except for the UNIT storyline, but I’ve already said my piece about that). It was impossible to look away because every second held new information. It was an absolute whirlwind, but I loved it! And there were twists and turns around every corner, too, with cliffhangers making it so hard to wait a week until the next episode.
In Summary… Wow
Flux was an absolute rollercoaster and I’m really looking forward to “Flux marathons” now. I have a feeling that the story will mesh together even better watching it all at once.
I think that Flux was a great series of Doctor Who – but even more importantly, it was a complete step in the right direction for Chris Chibnall’s run. While I’ve enjoyed S11 and 12, Flux felt like it had everything that Chibnall’s first two series were missing. I dearly hope that I enjoy the coming specials just as much!