Timestamp #303: Flux – The Halloween Apocalypse

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Doctor Who: Flux
Chapter One – The Halloween Apocalypse

(1 episode, s13e01, 2021)

Timestamp 303 Halloween Apocalypse

He’s not quite Dan’s best friend.

Of all the odd places, Yaz and the Doctor are trapped, upside down, dangling over an ocean of acid.  As an alternative to the locks releasing their ankles in 79 seconds, a supernova is about to consume the planet. As an alternative to that, Karvanista’s kill disks will blast them into oblivion.

The death trap is reminiscent of something from Batman ’66.

After some shenanigans including voice-activated restraints and a well-placed mattress in the TARDIS, the Doctor and Yaz escape and set a course for Karvanista’s next target: Earth.

In Liverpool, 1820, Joseph Williamson digs a tunnel in preparation for the “cataclysmic”, reasoning that would supposedly drive anyone else mad. Two centuries later, Dan Lewis leads a tour group around the Museum of Liverpool. He’s not a real tour guide, however, and a museum employee named Diane escorts him out. Dan just wants to make people happy. The pair make plans for Halloween drinks later that night.

En route to Earth, the TARDIS refuses to land. The Doctor receives a psychic vision of two agents on a planetoid checking on a prisoner named Swarm. The prisoner has been contained in the Burnished Rage battleground since the dawn of the universe, but today is when he breaks free, restoring his vitality by consuming their life forces. The two women were apparently agents of the Division. When the vision ends, Yaz tells the Doctor about a black fluid leaking from the TARDIS. The Doctor scans it and sets their new course for October 31st.

Dan volunteers at the Jenning Street Food Bank, turning down a food box for himself. As he and Wilma lock up, a device scans them. Dan goes home and gives out candy for Halloween, though he refuses a man holding a carton of eggs. He later regrets not taking food from Wilma since his fridge and cupboard are bare, but his lament is short-lived as Karvanista breaks down his door and reveals his canine-like Lupar visage. Dan soon ends up in a cage.

The Doctor and Yaz follow Karvanista to Dan’s house and find evidence of a Lupari fleet waiting to invade Earth. They spring a trap and escape just as Dan’s house is miniaturized. Meanwhile, Dan wakes up in an electrified cage on Karvanista’s ship. Unfortunately for him, the hunter explains that he’s totally irrelevant.

Jumping to the Arctic, two researchers named Jón and Anna hear an alert from a glowing device in their garage. They seem to recognize it, but Anna smashes the device and ignores the warning.

In Liverpool, the Doctor investigates the house. Yaz and the Doctor meet a woman named Claire who claims to know them from the past. The Doctor rushes off at a signal from the Lupari, but the TARDIS seems to have some dimensional issues. Together, the Doctor and Yaz pilot the temperamental TARDIS to find the fleet. Yaz berates the Doctor for keeping secrets from her, but the argument is interrupted by a temporal field around Karvanista’s ship.

Claire returns to her house and finds a Weeping Angel. She seems to know something is coming for her, and the Angel eventually sends Claire back in time.

Next up, we visit Observation Station Rose in the depths of the universe. Observation Officer Inston-Vee Vinder makes (yet) another status report, finding the beauty of the universe a balm to his otherwise overwhelming boredom. He detects an error and watches as a dark cloud consumes Thoribus Minor.

Jón and Anna receive a visit from Swarm. Jón is consumed, but Anna is revealed as Swarm’s sister Azure.

The Doctor and Yaz land on Karvanista’s ship. The Doctor rushes off to confront Karvanista while Yaz seeks out Dan. It turns out that the invasion fleet is a recall fleet, bonded to humanity as guardians to rescue them in an ultimate crisis. Dan is the designated human to which Karvanista was bonded. Also, Karvanista is the only living Division operative left and the Doctor wants answers about her past. Instead, Karvanista tells the Doctor about the Flux.

The Flux, the ever-consuming cloud, bears down on Vinder’s station. With only a few minutes to survive, he launches an escape pod.

The Doctor, Yaz, and Dan escape from Karvanista’s ship on the TARDIS (which having more dimensional issues). They head to the edge of the solar system as, thirty trillion lightyears away, Sontaran Commander Ritskaw and Psychic Surveyor Kragar prepare to take advantage of the pending destruction. The Cloister Bell sounds as the Doctor receives another vision, this time of planets and entire civilizations being destroyed. She also sees Swarm on a desolate landscape, who reveals himself as her nemesis from the Doctor’s Division days.

The Flux changes direction and pursues the TARDIS, forcing the Doctor to set course for Earth. On the planet below, Azure lures Diane into a trap, but the planet is saved as the Lupari encase the Earth in a protective formation. Unfortunately, the TARDIS is unable to escape the Flux, even as the Doctor uses pure vortex energy as a weapon.

The Doctor stares down the end of the universe as the Flux rushes toward the TARDIS.

The vibe of this introduction is creepy and frantic. It does the job of setting up the game board and building tension as the Flux bears down on Earth, but the stakes are all too familiar in modern science fiction. How do you come back from demolishing the entire universe?

The relationship between Yaz and the Doctor has obviously strengthened since Graham and Ryan left the TARDIS. Yaz has learned to pilot the TARDIS (like Donna and Nardole before her, as well as several others in the audio universe) and has no problem calling the Doctor on her bluffs. It’s a welcome reprieve from being in the backseat for many of the previous adventures.

It’s definitely a good start and plays well into Chibnall’s strengths with long-form television. The only question that remains: What’s up with the well-placed mattress?

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Flux – War of the Sontarans


The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

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