Timestamp #307: Flux – Survivors of the Flux

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Doctor Who: Flux
Chapter Five – Survivors of the Flux

(1 episode, s13e05, 2021)

Timestamp 307 Survivors of the Flux

Three twisting threads make one convoluted episode.

The Doctor’s Story

The Doctor, now in the form of a Weeping Angel, learns she is being transported somewhere and that her friends are stranded in time. The Angels deliver the Doctor to a space station built around a large cherry tree. She is returned to her normal form by an Ood and meets Awsok. The space station is Division headquarters.

The Doctor tries to interrogate Awsok for answers about Division. She learns that Awsok is the current leader and that Division spans innumerable species across time and space. In fact, it has outgrown the original goal of ensuring Gallifrey’s safety by guiding events in time (which contradicts the edicts of the Time Lords). The Doctor demands to know why she could not find evidence of Division in the universe and learns that they are not within the universe at all. The station is bridging the void between two universes.

Awsok explains how Universe One (the Doctor’s home universe) is being destroyed in an attempt to stop the Doctor. Anything that survives will be transplanted into Universe Two where Division will start over. Awsok reveals herself to be Tecteun, the woman who discovered (and experimented on) the Timeless Child. Tecteun confirms the Master’s story about the Timeless Child, which infuriates the Doctor.

The Doctor tries to reason with the Ood assistant to stop Tecteun. It eventually shows her a map of the universe, which is much smaller than it should be due to the Flux and houses Earth at its center. The Doctor is distracted by the whispers of a biodata module in the form of a fob watch. The Doctor’s lost memories are kept within and Tecteun offers an ultimatum: Return to Universe One and watch it fall or re-join Division and reclaim her memories in Universe Two.

The Doctor promises to stop Tecteun, but they are interrupted by Swarm and Azure who have used a psycho-temporal bridge powered by the energy of survivors to teleport aboard. They kill Tecteun and set their sights on the Doctor.

The Companions’ Story

Yaz, Dan, and Professor Jericho are raiding an ancient temple in 1904 Mexico after surviving in the early 20th century for three years. They find a mystical offering pot that they need to decode. They take it to Constantinople to decode it, then escape an assassination attempt. They avoid another attempt on a cruise liner and learn that the assassins have a snake tattoo. Yaz watches a glitched hologram of the Doctor while Dan and Jericho throw the assassin’s body overboard. Dan consoles Yaz, promising they’ll see the Doctor again.

Jumping to Nepal 1904, Yaz, Dan, and Jericho seek the legendary seer Kumar. The man is light-hearted and teases the trio. He gives them a message to “fetch your dog,” and the team travels to the Great Wall of China. There they paint a message: “KARVANISTA! DAN IS HERE – 1904, FETCH YOUR HUMAN!”

Karvanista gets the message but does not have time travel capability.

Yaz, Dan, and Jericho return to the cruise liner and encounter Joseph Williamson. The man vanishes, prompting the team to return to Liverpool and investigate the tunnels. After six and half hours, the team finds Williamson (who is long since dead by 1904), and the man is overjoyed to find others who understand the threats to time and space.

In Liverpool 1904, Williamson reveals his headquarters and the dozen doorways he has explored. He has been building defenses and mapping the various worlds and times, but his explanation is interrupted by a knocking at one of the doors.

In Earth orbit, 2021, the Lupari shield over Earth has a hole since one ship never responded to the Species Recall. That ship is the one Bel is flying across the universe, and Karvanista takes remote control of it to restore the shield. As a result, she barely misses Vinder on a monolith where Swarm and Azure have gathered survivors. Those survivors are disintegrated and fed to a series of beacons. Vinder is captured by a Passenger form and meets Diane. Together, they plan their escape.

UNIT’s Story

In 1958 England, the Grand Serpent poses as a man named Prentis. He discusses the formation of a United Nations-funded task force with another man named Farquhar. In 1967, General Farquhar leads Prentis through Ministry of Defence UNIT headquarters. They discuss Corporal Lethbridge-Stewart and the TARDIS, the latter of which was found in the remains of Medderton. Farquhar tests an alien detection device and is puzzled by Prentis’s results. The Grand Serpent kills the general with a spiked snake creature.

England 1987 finds the Grand Serpent holding a retirement dinner for Millington, the Chair of the UNIT Oversight Committee. Prentis wants the job, but Millington refuses so the Grand Serpent kills him.

In 2017 London, the Grand Serpent informs Kate Stewart that UNIT’s operations are being shuttered. Kate has been digging into the Grand Serpent’s history and understands who he truly is. She’s protected herself with a psychic manifest shield and promises to call in the Twelfth Doctor if he doesn’t stop. When she returns home, her house is bombed, so she calls Osgood and goes into hiding.

Bel’s ship is returned to Earth but the confrontation with Karvanista is cut short by an attack by the Sontarans. The Grand Serpent has lowered Earth’s defenses so the Sontaran fleet can take their revenge. A fleet of Sontaran ships, led by Commander Stenck, arrives and begins its assault on the Lupari shield.

Yes, this story is as big a mess as it seems. It pulls the viewer from place to place, time to time, and story to story without allowing much room to think or process. Even trying to unravel the tangle of timestreams was a challenge.

It’s indicative of just how convoluted the Flux story was. This is a shame considering how much better the overall concept is for this miniseries – a concept sabotaged by chaotic and confusing writing.

There is a lot to like here, including a bit of history for UNIT and an explanation of where they’ve been during the Chibnall era. I like the idea that UNIT may have been inadvertently influenced by the Grand Serpent over the years, but the goal isn’t clear. What is his vendetta against Earth? Does he just want chaos sown by the Sontarans?

The Grand Serpent also reminds me of the Mara, which headlined both Kinda and Snakedance. It’s a missed opportunity to tie those classic stories to this one.

I’m a big fan of exploring the repercussions of the Timeless Child revelation, and the return of Tecteun presented a huge opportunity. Unfortunately, it is wasted by killing her in the final minute of the episode and by using her for scant few minutes in the meantime. Does she care about the slaughter of her people, or does she think everything will be okay by taking over the Shobogans of Universe Two and using her DNA to create the new Time Lords?

This episode marks Nicholas Courtney’s first credit on Doctor Who proper since Battlefield, and it’s due to a line by the Brigadier that was lifted from Terror of the Autons. In the overall franchise, not counting Cyber-Brig, we last saw him in Enemy of the Bane.

Finally, I do like how the companions drove much of the plot. They aren’t just cooling their heels and waiting for the Doctor to save them, and I appreciate that about them.

All of these positives can’t really overcome the chaos in this episode, which presumably comes from trying to cram this immense story into six episodes during a global pandemic and period of reduced funding.

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Flux – The Vanquishers


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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