'Doctor Who: Flux' Finale Recap: The Vanquishers

Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor in 'Doctor Who: Flux'

In the end, Doctor Who's final regular-season episode of the 13th Doctor's time in the TARDIS ended now with a bang, but with a Multiple Doctors episode. It was a slightly different take on the already-done material, splitting the 13th Doctor into three instead of guest-starring older versions. (This time, all were Time Lords, not a humanized replica when one needed to use one's extra hand.) Like Episode 2 and 4, Episode 6 was not the worst of the season — that seems reserved for the odd-numbered episodes. But like the premiere, Doctor Who: Flux tried to end multiple stories at once in a 50-minute hour. It was a feat that was never going to work, even if the season had been good.

The Doctor: Talk about not letting a good catastrophe go to waste.

With the Doctor technically trapped, a passive captive in need of rescue, at the end of Episode 5, the show did the only thing it could — it made two more so that she could rescue herself. The second Doctor went to The Williamson Tunnels to grab Yaz, Dan, Jericho, and Williamson. The third went to Karvanista's ship, met Bel, and picked up the TARDIS, and somehow they all ended up in a friendly mishmash group, with a quick pit stop back to 1967 to pick up poor Claire and up the fabulous fashion quotient. Add in Kate Stewart popping round from the vestiges of UNIT, and the gang was basically all there to do a spot of Universe saving.

There were bright spots in this week's episode. The scene in the corner shop with the Sontaran getting drunk on chocolate bars was cute and brought a sorely needed dose of Sontaran syntax to the proceedings. ("Your delicious and appealing mouth snacks wrapped in paper will never weaken us" is something I hope to hear a small child in a Sontaran costume say to me come next Halloween.) Kevin McNally continued to be a bright spot in the TARDIS as Jericho and brought a touching moment to his inevitable noble sacrifice. And lest the BBC think it shall never again be home to the Hollywood Handshake, the Doctor was there to provide. 

(Photo Credit: James Pardon/BBC Studios/BBC America)

Unfortunately, like an Ood offering refreshments, these moments were few and far between. Swarm and Azure finally went off the rails completely, their "big bad plan" of Fluxing out the Universe taken out at the knees while they had their backs to the camera. Mostly they just stood around, grabbing the Doctor by the shoulder and swinging the watch fob in her face. As if that watch could hypnotize someone, anyone, into thinking their storyline was worthwhile or that the writers put any thought into their cool-but-meaningless "Space vs. Time" war.

And then they died, killed by Time, who formed out of those particle swarms of the Time Force that appeared for five seconds back in Episode 3 and then forgotten. Time then not-so-cryptically planted a seed for Whittaker's retirement and hit the road. Like the Grant Serpent, whose job mainly seemed to stand around and model futuristic disguised alien dictator fashionwear, Time's real contribution to the discourse was to remind us all The Doctor's coat is reversible. 

Much like the Grand Serpent (and Time), Vinder and Bel also mostly petered out, as did the Di-trapped-in-a-Passenger stuff. There was a momentary flash of what could have been, had Vinder and Di been given more than thirty seconds of running around inside the Passenger. (How cool would it have been for her to dump Dan because she's going to teach at Bel and Vinder's alma mater in a Galaxy Far Far Away?) Instead, the entire thing was reduced to Vinder and Bel adopting Karvanista as the family dog while Di went back to the museum. All this with little to no discussion of the revelation Karvanista was RuthDoctor's companion or that the series casually killed off his entire race of puppy people, leaving him as the last of his kind.

(Photo Credit: James Pardon/BBC Studios/BBC America)

And that's where the show left it, with another crisis managed and the random characters left off to go about their lives. Dan (who Di did dump for being late to their Halloween date) moves into the TARDIS, with nary a consideration if anyone ever put his house back or if it's still in somebody's pocket. Yaz and the Doctor continue to stare moonily at each other without ever doing anything about it. The Doctor hugged her just a little too long and promised to open up a little bit and explain Division. But exactly when and if that'll happen will probably be left to the fanfic writers.

As for the running never-resolved storylines around the Divison, the Timeless Child, the RuthDoctor, and all the rest, the Doctor still has that fob Azure was carrying about. Conveniently, unlike other Chameleon Arches the show had pulled out to restore the Doctor's sense of self, this one did not insta-upload decades of memories upon opening. Instead, it contains an Impossible House (with an Impossible Girl in it?) the Doctor must enter to fetch her memories.  The upshot is all this can be saved for a further adventure or dropped down a memory hole conveniently located in the TARDIS console and never talked about again.

With only two more specials between now and showrunner Chris Chibnall's exit, chances are whatever the show does with it won't be satisfying. (The series will also pass out of the BBC's hands to Bad Wolf Studios and Sony Television, which will probably mean a complete soft reboot with the 14th Doctor's arrival.) Considering the New Year's Special looks to be another holiday with the Daleks, and the Centenary regeneration devoted to the Master (as well as Whittaker's farewell), at this point, the best hope for Ruth-Doctor fans is for the show to wrap it up at all. Though, if it turns out to be another episode like this one, perhaps it might be best if they don't.


Ani Bundel has been blogging professionally since 2010. A DC native, Hufflepuff, and Keyboard Khaleesi, she spends all her non-writing time taking pictures of her cats. Regular bylines also found on MSNBC, Paste, Primetimer, and others. 

A Woman's Place Is In Your Face. Cat Approved. Find her on BlueSky and other social media of your choice: @anibundel.bsky.social

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