Doctor Who: Flux, Part 1 – THE HALLOWEEN APOCALYPSE Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

Doctor Who: Flux, Part 1 – THE HALLOWEEN APOCALYPSE Review

“Don’t think,” says Tony. “Think and you’re dead.”
There are things to say immediately about The Halloween Apocalypse.

Firstly, the energy level is off the charts, to the point of marginal incomprehensibility. That’s something that would hamper a series of individual episodes, but which you can do in a six-part arc, because people are tuning in for the whole thing, the overall journey, so you can afford for your first episode to be five or six beginnings and a lot of running around. Which is just as well in this case.

Secondly, we’ve come a long way in the off-screen interim between Series 12 and Series 13. The Doctor and Yaz have been around the universe quite a bit, because Yaz, who was still finding her feet in the wider universe during Series 12, is now relatively blasé about opening booby-trapped alien prisons and helping to co-pilot the Tardis. She describes herself as “formerly PC Yasmin Khan,” so it seems she’s given up any hope of going back to a life on the force, and thrown herself into the wider universe. The two have developed a kind of trust, but the Doctor is still hiding the revelations of The Timeless Children from her – and Yaz is pretty hacked off about it. Both those things – her greater experience in the universe and her calling the Doctor on her secretive nature – feel foregrounded here, something that will come back to haunt them in future episodes, and maybe even be the Thirteenth Doctor’s great mistake.

The pre-credits sequence of The Halloween Apocalypse is (ahem) barking mad and lots of fun, with voice-activated handcuffs and a witches-on-broomsticks sequence that won’t have been lost on anyone.

Karvanista’s… interesting. For all those wits on the internet who said he looked like a Wookiee, the whole ‘Jedi mind tricks’ moment felt like an extra bit of fun, but his motivations feel a little crowbarred in to deliver mystery and peril. Also, he’s the only Division operative still alive? Since the Division, as far as we know, was from a time at around the dawn of the Time Lords, or at least significantly before our Doctor became the Doctor, one has to ask – how long has he been alive, in dog years?

Prisoner Swarm is interesting, though there is precisely no explanation of either why people are checking on him, how he has nullified his containment cell, or what his connection to the Flux might be. Or, come to that, how he establishes mental contact with the Doctor. Time Lord telepathy, maybe?

Sam Spruell though makes him a compelling villain by force of sheer performance, and he bodes well for the future of the arc.

There are additional questions about Swarm that spring to mind the more you think about him. He’s known the Doctor since pre-Time Lord times, and they battled across the stars back then – but he has a sister who’s been hiding as a woman in the Arctic Circle, whose persona apparently had no conscious knowledge she was a persona. Interestingly, there’s no mention of the sister when Swarm is taunting the Doctor.

Dan, played by John Bishop, makes an impressive entrance – in particular, his lack of freak-out and his attitude when caged makes him feel like a natural companion already. His life on Earth is full of extra questions, though, about which it’s best not to think just now. We’ve been told he has a trade, but all we’ve seen of him is his doing good deeds at a food bank (could there be a more 2021 reference?), and, which is slightly odder, pretending to be a museum guide, simply out of enthusiasm for the city and the history of Liverpool.

There are historic Liverpudlians too, one of whom is convinced a cataclysm is coming, and is making preparations for it. Nnnno idea what they’re about yet, but they’re there.

Then there’s Claire (Annabel Scholey), who we’ll meet again in the past, since she’s been zapped by a Weeping Angel. Why, and what she’s done to draw their attention – no idea. Also, she knows enough about them to know the advice about not blinking. Intriguing,

Vinder, played by Jacob Anderson, may be important at some point, but his entire contribution to The Halloween Apocalypse is more or less mysterious – he’s making log entries on observation platform Rose (and the conspiracy Who-fans go wild, having been primed by an early mention of Nitro-9) when the universe goes totally tonto, thanks to the Flux. If he’s to be of importance, we’ll find out more about him in coming episodes.

Then of course, there are the Sontarans.

Yesss, the Sontarans.

Honestly, for me the Sontarans are a split game. The new look aims for The Time Warrior, but for me ends up somewhere between The Two Doctors and Shakedown. But that doesn’t matter as much as you might think. For me, Dan Starkey’s performance as Kragar feels Sontaran in a way that echoes Kevin Lindsay’s original. Johnathan Watson as Ritskaw, the other Sontaran we see, seems vaguely parodic in this episode, up to and including the gratuitous tongue-waggle.

How many plots are we up to now?
Oh yes. While it’s at least understandable that Carbonara the Space Pomeranian would willingly engineer a complex death for the Doctor and Yaz, just to stop the Doctor asking him questions about the Division, his eventual revelation that the Lupari are here to rescue the humans rather than invade does several weird things. Firstly, it makes all the build-up to that announcement feel false, and like it’s there specifically to create false peril. The one-line rationale that just because they’re here to save humanity it doesn’t mean they have to like them feels like what it is – a ‘reverse the polarity of the neutron flow’ explanation to plaster over the fact that the fake peril has been central to his character portrayal up to that point. That doesn’t bother you on the first run-through, but on subsequent watches, you stop and go “Wait – hang on a minute…”

You do the same when the Lupari’s plans are revealed. Number 1, that’s a lot of spaceships, fuel etc to each carry A SINGLE human being.

And number 2, wait a second. The Flux destroys whole planets, suns, anything it comes into contact with. Even vortex energy barely makes it burp.

But the Lupari happen to have made ships out of something that’s “designed to repel anything the Flux throws at us.” Well, how freaking convenient. What is this wonder metal that ripples with time energy and repels the all-consuming Flux – and how can the rest of the universe get hold of some?

Any more plot-questions? Just the one. If Dan Lewis is nothing out of the ordinary, why does the sister of Swarm decide to pick on his maybe-girlfriend, Dianne (Nadia Albina)? And on a similar point, “I had a friend once who had one of these [Tardises]; I think his was a bit bigger.” Scouse sarcasm, or something more significant?

What’s the point of all these questions?

Ultimately, nothing much, because while we’re here, can we formally record the fact that The Halloween Apocalypse looks like several million bucks have been spent on it – the ships, the make-up, the effects, the weird things happening to the Tardis, the Flux itself. It’s all glorious carbohydrate for the eyes – it fills them up and satisfies them like nothing else. The fact that Karvanista looks like a Classic era animal-person (the relentlessly tedious Tharils spring to mind) has to be a deliberate move, rather than a failure of make-up and masks.

The episode bangs right the hell along, throwing everything and the Sontaran sink at the screen and the viewer in an attempt to start off a whole bunch of plotlines.

The regulars seem to have gelled into their roles because, as with Capaldi’s Series 9 (and again in Series 10), Jodie Whittaker in particular feels like she’s found more of her Doctor. There are whole new facial expressions, a cavalier ‘third series’ Doctor’s certainty of her abilities, and, in the tweaked-by-off-screen-time Yaz, a companion as competent and clear-minded as Clara or Sarah Jane.

That makes them a little more fun to be with – again, there are parallels with Peter Davison’s Doctor once he was free of an overly full Tardis. There’s room for each character to breathe, to speak, and to develop now. How that will progress as Dan and potentially Vinder too join Team Tardis, we’ll have to see.

For now, it’s worth rejoicing in the eyeball-carbs, and switching off your brain.

That’s what we’re saying. Switch off your brain. Don’t ask the questions to which you’ll eventually either get the answers or you won’t. You can judge the success or failure of the arc based on how well it finally answers those questions, but don’t demand all the answers in advance – that’s now how a series with an arc is supposed to work.

Maybe allow the question about the previous adventures of Swarm and the Doctor to linger, to pull you through into the next few episodes, but otherwise, let go of the overthinking and over-analysis that fans usually indulge in when any new episode of Doctor Who drops.

Thinking too hard is going to get you nowhere with this series. Whether that’s because it ultimately makes insufficient sense, or because of the way the arc can be, and seemingly is, structured, we can judge when we’re out the other side of it.

For now at least, just enjoy the ride. Doctor Who is back. It’s rarely looked better, it has lots and lots of stories to tell, and an arc to travel. Go with it on its joyous, scary ride and don’t think too hard. You’ll have a lot more fun.

Tony lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad