Doctor Who: Flux, Part 5 - SURVIVORS OF THE FLUX Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Doctor Who: Flux, Part 5 - SURVIVORS OF THE FLUX Review

Tony’s strapped in for the ride.
When you have a single series-long story-arc, there comes a point when you have to start bringing things to a higher pitch, ready to deliver your finale. In the six-part Flux arc, that’s what Survivors of the Flux does.

While the cliff-hanger of Episode 4 is quickly dispatched with in the first scene of Episode 5, the Angels are delivered well again, their really vicious sense of humour coming through in their brief appearance.

But this is an episode that, like Episode 1, barely stops for breath as it begins pulling together of strands of the story.

That said, the quest on which Yaz, Dan and Jericho find themselves feels a little like a gap in the script that was filled with [INSERT ADVENTURE HERE] – a quest for a prophetic pot, a quest for the person who can decipher the prophetic pot, and then a slightly out-of-nowhere quest to find a hermit with a dad-joke sense of humour, who rather perversely comes out with a line that may be the most use so far.

The quest for the day of destruction more or less gets left behind halfway through, though if we know it’s 5th December, it’s not rocket science to assume it’s 5th December 2021, when Episode 6 is broadcast. The logistics of the hermit telling them to fetch their dog has a whiff of Moffatty Woffatty Timey Wimey about it – we’re forced to wonder if, once Flux is done, the Doctor will have to take a trip to visit the hermit and tell him to mention the dog.

The side-quests for Yaz, Dan and Jericho, while giving a certain Da Vinci Code, National Treasure artefact-quest vibe to the episode, really get to the meat of their interest when they’re attacked by a snake-tattooed steward on board ship – who goes to the extremes of using a poison capsule to avoid giving them information.

We’re starting to get more and more interested in these snake-tattooed people, especially because the Grand Serpent (Craig Parkinson) is popping in here and there throughout the development of UNIT, killing his way to power by 2017 (when, New Who Christmas Special fans will know, was when UNIT was unreachable by the Doctor). Back in 2017, this was played as a sliiiightly lame Brexit joke, so it’s good to see that what was really going on back then is a touch more serious and integral to the trans-temporal shenanigans of the Big Snake himself. Seriously, with the Mara vibes about this guy – snake tattoos all over the place to mark those who are under his control, manifesting snakes inside people, etc. At this point, if he turns out NOT to be the Mara, it will probably feel like a slightly lost opportunity.

There’s some lovely stuff in the potted history of UNIT too – obviously, the voice clip of Nicholas Courtney, but also the referencing of The War Machines. These things tie the episode in to the history of the show with a touch of sugar on top.

What is clear by the end of Episode 5 is that we have layers and layers of storytelling going on here. The Grand Serpent is working with the Sontarans to weaken Earth’s defences in the form of UNIT. The Doctor is in a battle of her own, being taken to either Division or The Division – it seems to be used interchangeably, as fans shout at their screens that people should make up their damn minds. We get an answer to who Barbara Flynn plays – she’s Tecteun, the person who first found the Doctor and gifted the Time Lords with regeneration. And she’s in charge of the Division.

We get a lot more detail on what the Division actually IS, and what its plan is with the Flux too – and a scene that flips the viewpoint on its head. Imagine the universe without the Doctor. And then imagine that’s the way it was INTENDED to be. The Doctor, her compassion, her strength, her morality – is viewed as a virus, corrupting the universe we have.

When you come down to it, that’s quite the inversion. And it’s one that’s acknowledged, too – Tecteun tells the Doctor she inspires people, and that that can be problematic. It’s so antithetical to how we’ve always thought of the Doctor, it’s right up there with the Master’s viewpoint, or Davros’.

We get a tease here, too, of how Russell T Davies’ ideas of playing in a multiverse could work – if the Doctor is seeded into all the other universes, while ‘our’ version saves her universe, there’s nothing to stop us from a future of multiple concurrent Doctors (Which is to say, nothing but the potential nervous breakdowns of writers).

And just when it looks as though the Division (screw it, we like a definite article!) will be the Big Bad, up pop Swarm and Azure to take over the Division, kill Tecteun and threaten our Doctor. Plans on top of plans on top of plans.

Meanwhile, we also finally get some understanding of Joseph Williamson, his tunnels, and his magic doors to different points in space and time. He’s seen something coming, and has a bunch of doorways under Edwardian Liverpool. But there’s also some very odd temporal stuff going on there, because while it’s 2021 when Snakeboy allows the Sontarans to penetrate Earth’s defences, the Sontarans also march in through one of Williamson’s doors in 1904. What gives with that, and why one of the Lupari ships suddenly and without explanation breaks formation, we’ll hopefully find out. Also, why – apart from scripting convenience to keep Bel and Vinder apart again – Karvanista doesn’t take remote control of the ship that’s broken formation, rather than the very-much-more-distant one with Bel aboard would be useful to know on a more niggling re-watch of the Flux arc.

But let’s focus while we can on the big reveal – no, not the fact that Tecteun was behind the Division, and is now in control of it, allowing her to righteously suggest that the Doctor does with her human friends exactly what she herself did with the Doctor.

No, we mean the presence of a pocket watch, containing the whole of the unseen, unremembered history of the Doctor. Our guess is that we won’t find out all the secrets it contains, because part of the joy of the Timeless Children storyline is that it allows an almost endless supply of potential pre-Hartnell Who. What might happen – and what might infuriate the anti-Chibnall section of the fandom even more – is a Morbius-Doctors-style montage, with Chris Chibnall, Matt Strevens, Azhur Saleem and some of the prosthetic-covered cast immortalised as Doctors. That’d be fun as an Episode 6 Easter egg.

Whenever you introduce a MacGuffin as big and powerful as a pocket watch, you have to have it reveal important things – which, from the Next Time trailer, looks like something we’re definitely getting in Episode 6. Usually when it’s been used before, it’s contained the personalities of Time Lords who were hiding as humans, rather than just memories of previous incarnations. What surprises does Episode 6 have in store behind the face of the pocket watch?

Yyyeah, we’re not about to call it.

As the Flux arc goes on, that’s becoming more and more the way to enjoy it to the fullness of its potential. Don’t think too hard, don’t try to call it ahead of time – just stay on the ride and see where it goes. Every episode so far has been a belter, while still delivering the light and shade, the historical, the futuristic, and the highly esoteric type of story that defines the scope of Doctor Who. So where’s the bad? Embrace your Inner Kid and just follow the story as it expands.

With Episode 5 more or less paralleling Episode 1 – a whole swathe of storylines, starting and progressing – it feels like we’re on the ride of our Chris Chibnall Who-life, and we don’t want it to end. But Survivors of the Flux ramps up the stakes enough to make us jump up and down at the same time, waiting for the series finale. By far Whitaker’s best series so far, the Flux arc is building layers on layers, which also makes it the best series arc in Doctor Who history.

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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