Doctor Who: Flux, Part 4 - VILLAGE OF THE ANGELS Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Doctor Who: Flux, Part 4 - VILLAGE OF THE ANGELS Review

“It’s a trap!” yells Tony, popping in from another franchise altogether.
When did you last smell a flower, watch a sunset, eat a well-prepared meal?

Someone somewhere once said that small, beautiful events were what life was all about.

Someone somewhere has watched Village of the Angels.

First of all – anyone else loving how much the 13th Doctor is actually Doctoring this series? Sure, she developed her own way of being the Doctor in her first two series, but for any fans of Classic Who, there’s a lot more Doing Something Clever in Flux, by which people everywhere immediately identify the Doctor in a crowd.

Exhibit #1 – the angels have the Tardis. The Doctor grabs two very dangerous things that should never, ever, ever be grabbed and, oh, y’know, casually REBOOTS the Tardis. That’s pretty Classic Doctor, while at the same time being totally 13 in its joyously reckless, no-plan-like-the-plan-I-have-right-now, grab-the-arcing cables expediency. For anyone who felt the ending of Kerblam! was a bit rushed and convenient, this is how you nail what you were going for with that ending. The pacing, the punch, the sense of it being colossally ill-advised but the only option there is – it’s nailed to the page and nailed to the screen. The angels may have the Tardis, but the Doctor’s in the house.

And that’s scene #1!

What we have in the main body of the story is a beautifully constructed three-layer temporal trap, of the kind that would have also worked on Doctors 9, 10, 11, or 12 – but with an extra 13th Doctor twist to make it fresh and pull the series-arc forward with an agonising potential, a chilling double-cross, and an ending that will go down in Who history as among the most shocking, jaw-dropping what-the-hells the show has ever delivered.

Here's the thing. Stories in Series 11 and 12 frequently suffered from pacing issues, with a ponderous mid-section and an overly rushed ending. Often, that was down to the fact that however many directions the show sent the companions off in, they always had to come back for an exposition-heavy debrief, leaving little time for the kind of solutions that delivered satisfaction.

This just in: Chris Chibnall’s fixed his pace-ometer.

Forcibly separating Yaz and Dan from the Doctor, while having the freedom to feature Bel and Vinder only briefly, lets you mostly seal off the Doctor with some new characters and have them do the ‘psychic forces, creepy house, base-under-siege’ thing for some claustrophobic, breathless energy in 1967. Meanwhile Yaz and Dan are hopping from period to period courtesy of the touch of an angel, while looking for a lost little girl, Peggy, who’s significantly more lost than anyone in her home time of 1967 realises.

Gratifyingly though, while both strands would be fine on their own, there’s a very distinct Series 13 twist to each of them that elevates the episode above just the sum of its parts.

For the Doctor, there are lots of Classic Who problems to solve. There are really a lot of Weeping Angels in this story, and many of them are intent on finding Claire.


Claire Brown (Annabel Scholey), the woman who ran up to the Doctor and her new Fam in The Halloween Apocalypse, before the Doctor had even met her.

In that episode, we saw her touched by an angel and zapped back to who-knew-when.

Zapped back to 1965, as it happens. She’s been going the long way round for a couple of years, so when she meets the Doctor again, both of them are on the same page, having met before. Claire is undergoing the psychic experiments of Professor Eustacius Jericho (seriously, how epic a name is that?!), played by Kevin McNally in his second Doctor Who story (entirely obliterating the infamy of The Twin Dilemma in a single performance), in the Devon village of Medderton.

The…*ahem*… CURSED Devon village of Medderton.

The village where (Claire happens to know from newspaper footage) the entire population vanished overnight in 1967. Just… like it did in 1901. Seriously, as far as cursed villages go, it’s pretty high up there.

But then that’s understandable. Because Medderton is the Village of the Angels.

The Doctor’s story in this episode is a perfect homage to everything we’ve seen the Angels do before. They’re great as jump scares, and there are PLENTY of jump scares here, including the Angel that half leaps out of the TV towards Professor Jericho and the emerging of Angels out of stone walls.

But we’ve also seen them do other creepy things, like drip stone dust out of people’s eyes, assert their destiny by being ‘born’ inside anything that captures their image, and use captured human voices to speak. All of those things are here too, completing the ‘Angels’ Greatest Hits’ reel – but doing it with purpose and reason, rather than simply so the episode touches all the Angel bases.

All of this would have made for a Reasonable Angels Story – but not much more.

But Village of the Angels actually gives us a LOT more than that, taking both the Angels themselves and the Flux storyline forward.

Firstly, in a storming piece of writing from Chris Chibnall and Maxine Alderton, the character of Professor Jericho is given enough depth in a line or two to have a battle with the Angels. The Angels when we hear what they’re thinking are callous and cruel. When Professor Jericho faces off with them, they try to make him cower, try to make him weaken so they can get him, but with a straightened spine and a subtle piece of acting, McNally gives us a man unafraid of his own record, defying them all the way.

And secondly, we get angels with a grand plan, and angels with an individuality.

An angel being pursued by other angels because of the secrets it holds – including those the Doctor needs. An angel hiding in the only place it can think of to go – inside a human mind. Humans hallucinating themselves with Angel wings. And Angels working for the Division, setting up the question of whether, when all is said and done, the Division are good guys, bad guys, or somewhere in between guys.

It also, in the Yaz and Dan timeline, answers that niggling fan question of what happens if you get your lifetime energy zapped out of you TWICE by an angel.

Talking of the Yaz and Dan timeline, the standard Angel fare of zapping children backing time goes distinctly non-standard when Medderton in 1901 becomes the victim of a quantum extraction – an island taken out of time and space.

If that feels like it takes us down a dead-end storytelling alleyway, there are some things to ponder for future episodes. The next episode apparently has Yaz and Dan spending at least a number of years in the 1901 timeline. What happens to them if, as seems eminently possible, there’s no friendly time traveller on hand to rescue them? Do they, like Peggy in this episode, simply have to take the slow path to wherever they’re going? Is this effectively the end of their journey with the Doctor?

And while this episode delivers Angel goodness by the absolute sackful, it also helps progress the Bel/Vinder storyline. In particular, Bel continues to be epically cool, rescuing Blake Harrison’s Namaca from becoming a prisoner in the Passenger-form accompanying Azure.

Again, while her actions here are questionable, especially in light of previous episodes, they do suggest an interesting dichotomy. The Ravagers are picking up survivors of the Flux and capturing them in Passenger-forms. But for all Bel’s assurance, are the Passengers prisons? Or are they lifeboats from the devastation that the Flux has left in the universe?

Oh and yes, by the way – the more we see of the Bel/Vinder timelines, the more shading there is around the question of whether they will in fact turn out to be the Doctor’s parents.

More than anything though, this is an Angels Greatest Hits album that puts its Stairway To Heaven as the last track on the disc. That ending, where everything makes a sinking kind of sense in real time as the Doctor figures it out and as Claire confirms the springing of a trap. The notion that the Doctor could be re-enlisted into the Division – and the mind-bending visual that that entails – is something that nobody who watched it will ever forget. It’s up there with the best cliff-hangers in all of Doctor Who history.

Village of the Angels had the potential to be a claggy mess of a story. But the addition of Maxine Alderton to Chris Chibnall’s writing, the punchy performances from Kevin McNally and Annabel Scholey, the evolution of both Angel and Flux storylines, and that utterly stunning cliff-hanger all help the story raise its game significantly, and make it an absolute belter.

Most of all though, the writing for Jodie Whitaker’s Doctor, and her increasingly assured performance as the cleverest life-form in the room is finally giving us a Doctor with the seatbelt and the training wheels off.

Watching Whitaker in Village of the Angels, you’re watching not ONLY an absolutely top-notch Doctor, but one who’s been around the universe once or twice. While she’s still travelling hopefully, she’s not about to mess about anymore. She’s a Doctor on a quest, trying to STAY the cleverest life-form in the room, despite the absence of great chunks of her past and her memory, which all of a sudden seem important. She’s a Doctor who fills up your screen and makes you high-five whoever’s available, while yelling “She said ‘Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow’ and sounded like she understood it!”

And Village of the Angels – along with the rest of Flux so far - also shows us something about Chris Chibnall.

When Russell T Davies was showrunner the first time, there wasn’t a series without a story arc. Bad Wolf, Torchwood, Harold Saxon, and the Disappearing Planets.

When Steven Moffat took over, oh my word, the story arcs. Cracks in the world, Amy’s baby, a whole unseen Doctor, the mysterious Missy, the Hybrid, the potential rehabilitation of Missy…

When Chris Chibnall came in as showrunner, he was determined at first to have no story arc. For some, that was a welcome return to Classic Who style, while others felt it lacked impact and consequence.

In his second series, he determined to bring back some old favourite monsters and villains, and give us a light arc that would end by completely re-writing the canon of the show. Again, some thought it was brilliant, others bemoaned a wrecking ball to the Who they had loved and believed in.

For his third series, Chibnall has gone all-out series-long story arc, not just as a motif throughout otherwise unconnected stories, but as a full-on, one-thing-after-another arc – and it’s brilliant. It’s won back previously disenchanted fans, while making the fans who had loved the whole of 13’s time roar with excitement and triumph.

Because while Chris Chibnall’s individual episodes of previous Doctor Who were frequently at least OK, if rarely the shining stars of any series, and while his stories for Torchwood included some of the highlights of the first two series, he also wrote Cyberwoman and End of Days, both of which were low impact.

But just before he got the showrunner gig, Chris Chibnall wrote Broadchurch. A series-long mystery with endless diversions, complications, layers and significant character development. It’s what won him plaudits, audiences, and really put his name in the frame as a potential Doctor Who showrunner. It’s a form of drama he understands, arguably a lot better, pacing-wise, than a standalone episode format.

Give Chris Chibnall a single episode to write, and what you get is The Battle Of Ranskoor Av Thingummy Whatsit.

Give Chris Chibnall a series arc, and what you get is Flux.

While there are plenty of fans who still prefer the choices he made in his first series, to stick to single-episode stories, it’s entirely likely that future Who-historians will regard Flux as Chris Chibnall finally getting his version of Doctor Who dead on the money.

And given that Flux has delivered us episodes like Village of the Angels, it will be absurdly difficult to argue with them.

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

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