Timestamp #308: Flux – The Vanquishers

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Doctor Who: Flux
Chapter Six – The Vanquishers

(1 episode, s13e06, 2021)

Timestamp 308 The Vanquishers

The end of a story with little resolution.

Picking up immediately at the cliffhanger from Chapter Five, the Doctor dodges Swarm’s attempt to disintegrate her and rescues the Ood to find a way out. The Doctor nearly escapes from the Void, but is lured back by Swarm and Azure as they hold the Doctor’s fob watch. Swarm touches the Doctor as the Ood finds a way home for her, forcing her to materialize on Karvanista’s ship where a pitched battle is underway. Unfortunately, the Doctor is phasing.

Meanwhile, Yaz, Dan, Jericho, and Williamson are under Sontaran assault in the tunnels under Liverpool. Yaz lassos the door labeled “Death Rays” – a sort-of Chekhov’s gun hung upon the mantle in Chapter Five – and kills the invaders. The team rushes through the tunnels, trying various doors that transcend time, before entering one labeled December 5, 2021. The team finds Kate Stewart and the TARDIS as she leads a human resistance against the Sontarans.

The Doctor appears in the modern-day tunnels and meets the team (with a hug for Yaz) before bouncing back to the Division station. Swarm and Azure are pleased with their inadvertent results as the Doctor flashes to Karvanista’s ship and flies into Stenck’s command ship with Karvanista and Bel.

Sontaran Commander Stenck calls on the Cybermen and Daleks to join his assault on Earth. Stenck and the Grand Serpent defeat the Doctor’s assault as she offers Bel the chance at a covert mission. As the Doctor flashes back to Division, Azure opens the fob watch but the Doctor refuses to absorb the memories. Swarm begins shredding the memories, which inflicts pain on the Doctor.

Flashing to Liverpool, the Doctor investigates the tunnels and learns about Williamson’s and Stewart’s efforts. The group decides to send undercover operatives into the Sontaran ships, exploiting a weakness thanks to the invaders’ fascination with corner shops. It turns out that Sontarans are obsessed with sugar, and the Doctor bargains with Commander Shallo to trade chocolate for an operative. The team travels to 1967, picks up Claire, and enlists her psychic abilities for 2021.

The Doctor flashes to the Sontaran command ship in 2021 where she’s in a cage with Karvanista. She asks him about his time in Division, but he cannot talk about it due to a device in his brain that will kill him if he discloses his secrets. She flashes back to Division where Azure restores her to consciousness. Azure and Swarm plan to move the final Flux event from Earth to the planet Time, releasing the physical embodiment of Time and using it to replay the universe’s destruction in an endless loop, forcing the Doctor to witness it for eternity as revenge for their incarceration.

Flashing to the Sontaran ship, the Doctor meets Stenck and the Grand Serpent. Stenck reveals that they killed all of the Lupari, leaving Karvanista as the last of his kind. The commander takes the Doctor for interrogation as Karvanista howls in sorrow for his people.

Taking a detour to the Passenger form, Diane and Vinder search through endless landscapes and realize they are alone in their vast prison. Everyone else was used as energy but Diane was determined to be insignificant. Diane reveals she’s been busy exploring the bioform’s systems and defenses, and they use her knowledge to escape to the real world.

Jericho and Claire are taken to Stenck’s ship and tasked with determining the time and place of the final Flux event. The psychic work is intrusive and painful. Meanwhile, the Grand Serpent interrogates the Doctor about Kate Stewart’s location. She taunts the Grand Serpent and he tries to kill her with his serpents, but because the Doctor is split across three locations, the effort fails. The Liverpool Doctor fragment arrives in the TARDIS with Dan and Yaz, incapacitates the Grand Serpent, and rescues the Sontaran Doctor fragment. They also rescue Karvanista and Bel and make contact with the psychic agents.

In the TARDIS, the Doctor fragments witness the Sontaran message to the Daleks and Cybermen, then make telepathic contact with the third fragment and learn how the Flux is made of antimatter. Meanwhile, Claire finds the data about the final Flux event and Stenck recalls his troops. The Grand Serpent uses artron energy readings to find Kate Stewart.

The Doctors receive messages from Vinder and Kate, and they decide to split up to tackle each problem. Vinder and Diane are pulled back into the Passenger form, the tunnel doors fluctuate due to Flux effects, and Williamson returns home while he has time. The Doctor pilots the TARDIS inside the Passenger form and rescues the prisoners, resulting in a reunion between couples Vinder and Bel and Dan and Diane.

The Doctor also figures out that the Sontaran peace treaty is a trick: They plan to use the Dalek and Cyberman fleets to counteract the Flux event, leaving the universe as the Sontaran playground. The Doctor hatches a plan to save the universe as her Division fragment is taken to Time by Swarm as a sacrifice.

Claire escapes using a transmat ring, but Jericho is stuck on the Sontaran ship. The Dalek and Cyberman fleets are destroyed by the Flux, but the Sontarans are left outside the Lupari shell when Karvanista reprograms the fleet. The Doctor tries to save Jericho, but he’s unable to escape as the Sontaran fleet is consumed. Finally, Diane summons the Passenger form which traps the rest of the Flux.

Last stop is Atropos. The physical form of Time manifests as Swarm and reveals that the Flux has been defeated. Time consumes Swarm and Azure for their failure, then takes the Doctor’s form as the Time Lord retrieves her fob watch. Time teases the end of the Thirteenth Doctor at the hand of the forces that mass against her and their Master, then restores the Doctor by combining her fragments. Now in the TARDIS, the Doctor sets course to take everyone home.

In the tunnels, the Grand Serpent confronts Vinder and Kate Stewart but ends up stranded on a tiny asteroid forever. Vinder and Bel decide to travel with Karvanista, and Claire remains in 2021 with Kate as the Doctor expresses her hope of seeing both of them again.

Sometime later, Dan returns to the museum where he meets up with Diane again. Diane turns down his offer for a drink as she processes the adventure she just experienced. The Doctor and Yaz offer him a spot on the TARDIS. As Dan settles in, the Doctor finally apologizes for her secrecy. Yaz leaves to help Dan navigate the TARDIS, leaving the Doctor to hide her fob watch in the TARDIS console.

She instructs the time capsule to keep it safe and only give it back when she really asks for it.

This frantic episode shares Chapter Five‘s issue with a fast pace that doesn’t offer much room to breathe. Thankfully, it slows down near the end, offering some space leading into the disappointing ending. Why is it disappointing? I don’t like the Doctor running from knowledge.

So much of Doctor Who concerns a quest for learning and doing good in the universe, yet this epic story ends with the Doctor running away from her own history. The answers are right there, yet she hides them instead of facing them.

If I had three words to tell her, they would be “Brave heart, Doctor.”

The other disappointing part of the finale is the lack of resolution. Multi-part stories and episodic seasons should have an overall resolution, but this one leaves the universe in a state of flux (pun intended) with immeasurable destruction wrought throughout. We have no idea how much of the universe is left standing, let alone how much of the local solar system.  The whole thing is just passed off as the new status quo with hardly a mention.

Say it with me, now: Chris Chibnall has a problem with endings. It’s been apparent since he started, and even though I thought it might be better with long-form narratives, this proves that it’s not. I like the Planet of the Ood and Planet of the Dead-style warnings for the Thirteenth Doctor’s impending regeneration. They’re just cryptic enough to make you wonder what’s coming, but it’s only a lonely spark in what should have been a lovely fireworks show.

Concerning the Lupari, I like the drama created by the Sontaran genocide of Karvanista’s people, but it would have been more emotionally involved had we seen it instead of being told about it. Karvanista’s mourning howls are heartbreaking but somewhat hollow. It is fitting, however, that Vinder and Bel become his new family in the end.

I had similar thoughts about the TARDIS materializing inside the Passenger form. It just happens and the story moves on. No discussion aside from a one-liner about how the TARDIS doesn’t like it, and no tie-in to the TARDIS’s currently warped and/or broken state. Is that even still a thing at this point, or did that magically get resolved?

Flux was a ride, but it could have been more.

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

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Eve of the Daleks


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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