Timestamp #304: Flux – War of the Sontarans

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Doctor Who: Flux
Chapter Two – War of the Sontarans

(1 episode, s13e02, 2021)

Timestamp 304 War of the Sontarans

It’s history, but not how you remember it.

Following last chapter’s cliffhanger, the Doctor gazes upon a giant, misshapen, dilapidated house as the Cloister Bell rings. She comes to on a battlefield with Yaz and Dan. The TARDIS stands nearby as the Doctor scans the surroundings, but the team is interrupted by a woman named Mary Seacole who accuses them of robbing the dead.

The Doctor deduces that they have been thrown back in time to the Crimean War, specifically Sevastopol in 1855. Unfortunately, the British aren’t fighting the Russians in this history. The enemy is an army of Sontarans, led by a commander on horseback.

We next catch up with Vinder, who has somehow landed inside a stone temple with a floating diamond-shaped entity called a Priest Triangle. The central chamber contains six plinths with humanoid holographic figures. The triangle explains that the Mouri must never be compromised.

The Doctor and her team arrive with Mrs. Seacole at the British Hotel, leading Yaz to wonder if history is being rewritten. Both Dan and Yaz vanish in a blue glow, the result of vortex energy combining with the Flux. The Doctor tries to enter the TARDIS, but the doors are not visible. Dan rematerializes outside the remains of his former home but finds that time has been rewritten due to the Sontaran invasion. He escapes an army of enforcers after his parents knock out the Sontarans with cookware.

Yaz materializes inside the temple where Vinder did, encountering Joseph Williamson from the year 1820. The temple floor plan keeps shifting and Williamson runs off, leaving Yaz to deal with a Priest Triangle. She agrees to help after reading the letters “WWTDD” on her hand.

The Doctor returns to the British Hotel and meets Lieutenant General Logan of the Light Division. They discuss the general’s battle plans, finding Sontar on a map where Russia and China should be. Since Seacole and Logan vaguely recognize the name Russia, the Doctor concludes that the temporal disruption must have been a recent event.

The Doctor accompanies Seacole on nursing rounds and finds a Sontaran foot soldier named Svild. The Sontaran was captured after being hit by a cannonball, and he asserts his right to silence under the Shadow Proclamation. That decision is quickly rescinded when he hears that the Doctor is nearby. She frees him under the promise that he will relay that information to his commander, allowing her to meet the commander on her signal.

The Doctor and Seacole follow Svild across the battlefield. They find the Sontaran camp under a camouflage shield and with it, a fleet of ships protected by hundreds of warriors. The Doctor asks Seacole to stand watch overnight while Svild relays his intel to Commander Skaak. The commander is impressed but executes Svild for his disgrace.

Back to the future, Dan hides with his parents and learns that the Sontarans arrived after the Three Minute Eclipse (the Lupari shield) and Dan’s subsequent disappearance. Eileen and Neville have learned how to kill Sontarans by hitting the port on their necks. They go to where the Sontarans first appeared, the Liverpool Docks, and Dan decides to scout ahead alone with his father’s wok. He eventually encounters Commander Ritskaw, a Sontarn who executes three innocent humans for spying, and learns of the Temporal Offensive. He then tries to find his way onto a Sontaran spaceship.

In the temple, Yaz meets Vinder. Together they learn that this is the Temple of Atropos on the planet Time. The Mouri, the people on the plinths, harness and control time in the universe. Two of them, however, are broken, and the triangle claims that time is evil and must be harnessed.

In Sevastopol, the Doctor uses her sonic screwdriver to signal for parlay. The Doctor and Skaak meet across the wide, empty battlefield, and the Doctor reveals herself. Skaak tells her they knew of the Flux and took advantage of the Lupari shield to slip onto the planet and embed themselves in a period of deep conflict. Skaak claims Linx first made a claim to Earth in the 13th century, and he chose the Crimean War because he wanted to ride a horse. General Logan ambushes the Doctor and apprehends her, leading to a human massacre.

The Doctor escapes by using Venusian aikido on her guard and meets with Seacole. With the Sontarans engaged on the battlefield, they decide to enter one of the ships. Due to the Temporal Offensive, the ships that Dan and the Doctor are invading are linked, so the two share what they’ve learned. The Sontarans are building ships to invade the entire history of humanity, using Crimea as a springboard. The call is interrupted by Ritskaw, leaving Dan to face off against a handful of Sontarans, but he is soon rescued by Karvanista.

Swarm and Azure visit the Temple of Atropos with a silent black-clad figure called a Passenger form. They promptly destroy a Priest Triangle with a touch. They encounter Yaz and Vinder and display their non-linear knowledge by revealing the WWTD marks – What would the Doctor do? – on Yaz’s hand. Azure and Swarm dodge Vinder’s gunfire and find the quantum-locked Mouri. Swarm kills one of them.

The Doctor and Seacole regroup at the British Hotel. General Logan arrives in distress, and the Doctor details an action plan. Since the Sontarans need to rest for 7.5 minutes every 27 hours, they will be vulnerable in approximately 38 minutes. The Doctor plans to drain the Sontaran supplies while they rest thus leaving them vulnerable to Earth’s atmosphere.

The Doctor faces off with Skaak while Dan and Karvanista destroy the Sontaran fleet and create a temporal explosion. Skaak orders his fleet to evacuate, but Logan gets revenge by destroying the Crimean fleet. The Doctor is furious with Logan but leaves him when the TARDIS calls. She arrives in Liverpool with a sopping-wet Dan and Karvanista, offering the human space on the TARDIS. The Lupari remains behind to protect Earth.

The TARDIS is in a bad state, and whatever is corrupting it hijacks the time capsule. The Doctor and Dan emerge in the Temple of Atropos where Azure leads them to the central chamber. Yaz and Vinder have replaced the two flickering Mouri, and Swarm and Azure count down before allowing the full force of time to blast through them.

This chapter does well by splitting up the heroes and making connections with the secondary characters. The Doctor and Dan get the lion’s share of the work in this episode, but Yaz gets shorted despite connecting with this miniseries’s main character in a major setting.

There are also plenty of mysteries to layer on, including the connection between the miniseries villains and the temple. The Sontarans make a great return here, including ties back to the classic era with both Linx and the same makeup style. It’s a wonderful love letter to the classic seasons.

Historically, this episode’s events could be the inspiration for Lord Alfred Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade, which dramatizes an actual event in which the Light Brigade marches into certain death during the Crimean War. Notably, the Second Doctor had ties to the same conflict in The Evil of the Daleks and The War Games.

Logan’s revenge on the Sontarans reminds me of Harriet Jones and the retreating Sycorax (The Christmas Invasion) and the Brigadier’s destruction of the Sontarans (Doctor Who and the Silurians). The Doctor is rightfully angry about the murder of combatants who chose to disengage, and it’s good to see her acting the role as this era matures.

All told, I really enjoyed the story and the groundwork it continues to lay for the overall Flux storyline.

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

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Flux – Once, Upon Time


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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