Doctor Who: Flux has not been easy to follow. There have been frustrating times before, Doctor Who Season 7 and Clara's "Impossible Girl" immediately come to mind. But the first three episodes of Season 13 have been some of the most indecipherable and downright irritating in recent memory. Last week's episode, which I recapped blindly, was perhaps slightly worse than the premiere, which wasn't an episode at all, but a bunch of random beginnings to too many ideas. But this week, things started to gel again or at least found a direction.
Yaz: I mean, at least there's houses; it could have been the dinosaurs.
Last week's episode ended with a Weeping Angel grabbing the controls of the TARDIS and taking the Doctor, Dan and Yaz someplace else. It opened this week with the Doctor rebooting her beloved box to get the Angel out of the system. They landed in a small village in 1967, where Claire (whose premiere appearance had little context) has been residing for two years since that incident. She's under the care of Professor Jericho (Kevin McNally), who is trying to understand her premonitions about angels, the Doctor, and a specific blue box.
For reasons no one cares to discuss, Yaz and Dan do not join the Doctor in her Claire/Jericho adventuring, taking them off to find a missing child Peggy (Poppy Pollynick). Her grandparents (Vincent Brimble and Jemma Churchill) are irritated and concerned by turns at her disappearance. After rambling around the countryside a bit and failing to run from the dozens of Weeping Angels infesting the town, all four discover that Peggy is alive and well, except the Angels sent her back to 1901, in the same village, where everyone has disappeared. She'll survive, though. Mrs. Hayward (Penelope Ann McGhie), who has been haranguing the vicar Reverend Snow (Alex Snow) about the coming Angel swarm, is Peggy, 66 years later.
What happens in this part of the adventure isn't all that important, though McNally and Scholey are superb. It's a lot of yelling "Don't Blink" and everyone failing to do so at some point or another and winding up in 1901, where the town is disappearing into quantum extraction. But what does matter is that the Doctor mind-melds with Claire, who, it turns out, is harboring a rogue Weeping Angel in her mind. This Rogue Weeping Angel is the one who seized the TARDIS and piloted the Doctor here and claims to be who the Angels are chasing. She needs the Doctor to save her (and, by extension, Claire). You see, she was once a member of the Division, and these Angels have been sent to get her back.
The Doctor faithfully falls for all this, as the Doctor is wont to do. But by episode's end, it's all one carefully laid trap. The Rogue Angel already made a deal with the Division, so long as she brings them someone they want more than her: The Doctor. who is being recalled into the Division after going rogue lo these many years and regenerations. One might think that she'd be dragged away, disappear, or something. But instead, to top all the bizarre things that have occurred thus far, she is captured by being turned into a Weeping Angel, leaving her companions lost in 1901, while Claire is still stuck in 1967, alone with older Peggy.
Does that make any sense? Yes and no. On the one hand, if you were going for a twist that'll leave everyone's jaws on the floor, having the 13th Doctor sprout Angel wings and cover her face with her hands is going to do it. But after three exhausting episodes and still no explanation for the Flux or much of anything, it feels a little like just one more thing that's happened in a sea of WTF. But it does give us one genuine horror moment. The companions are now stranded, lost without the Doctor and the TARDIS, and left to die out of time. But at least it's all a bit more linear and seems to have a point than the time mashup.
Unfortunately, the series isn't about to leave Swarm and Azure alone, nor is it about to forget about the romance introduced last week with Bel and Vinder. Bel lands on the very planet where the Doctor left Vinder off at the end of last week's episode, so the chances of finding each other are excellent. But then she runs into Namaca (Blake Harrison), who hasn't seen Vinder yet. But he has an escape from this planet, as a prophet woman comes daily to take them all away in her ship. Bel follows him, assuming she might find Vinder in the crowd. Instead, it's Azure with the Passenger, giving a sermon on the mount type speech to an exhausted group of Flux survivors who want to believe they're all going to a new universe.
Bel, as we know, will not fall for this. (Apparently, she's heard of Passengers before and knows they are prisons.) She rescues a very ungrateful Namaca who sends her off angrily but not before leaving a message for Vinder. In one of the very few mid-credit scenes in Doctor Who history, he finds it, with a bit of assistance from the now chastened Namaca, who realizes Bel probably saved his miserable life. Her message says she's gone off to find Azure and the Passenger and rescue all those the Ravengers have kidnapped, and Vinder has no choice but to give chase.
Bel's mission puts her in the Doctor's path, with Vinder eventually finding her. But with the Doctor trapped in an Angel, it seems like we're not solving much of anything yet. (Also, this whole premise of bodies as TARDIS-like prisons with the Passenger and Claire is not my favorite.) But each time I am about to give up hope this season, we get some light in the darkness. Maybe next week will bring answers with it.