Doctor Who: Flux, Part 6 - THE VANQUISHERS Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Doctor Who: Flux, Part 6 - THE VANQUISHERS Review

Tony’s been vanquished good and proper.
When you build a whole series around a single story arc, the finale is where you really, truly, absolutely have to knock it out of the park.

If you don’t do that, however great you’ve made everything that comes before it, it’s going to fall down, and can leave your audience feeling deflated, like they’ve come with you all the way only to be left stranded and underwhelmed.

So, did The Vanquishers measure up to all the mystery, energy and power that the Flux arc has given us?


It’s an odd episode and no mistake. The energy’s still mostly high, and the screen is frequently filled to bursting point with exciting visuals. But some of the plot progressions lead to end-points that are JUST end points, and leave you wondering what the point of their arc was in the first place.

The Grand Serpent? There’s no resolution to who or what he is, he just gets packed off to an isolated asteroid – the end.

Swarm and Azure? Dementedly powerful supervillains that have dominated in style, performance and cruelty all through the series. But when confronted by their master, they’re dissolved (or ascended) with the same casual destructive power that they’ve used against people all along the way.

The Lupari? All bar Karvanista slaughtered off-screen in a heartbeat.

And in case it was looking like a bloodless finale, Professor Eustacius Jericho gets sacrificed to the Flux, in a move which, were you to look at with cynical eyes, could be thought of as button-pushing.

Perhaps more concerning than any of that, the efforts to elevate the Sontarans to the first rank of Doctor Who villains here depends on the diminution of the Daleks and Cybermen. While it’s feasible that in a universe that’s disintegrating, both species would take the opportunity of the only safe house in town, what’s not as feasible is that those species wouldn’t a) see Sontaran betrayal a light year off, and b) either individually or in a private sub-alliance, take the Sontarans out as soon as they arrived and simply steal the safe house.

That the two top evils in the Doctor Who universe would not only go along with the Sontaran power play BUT ALSO be suckered into losing their entire fleets feels like stretching the envelope of belief a little too far, for the simple purpose of making the Sontarans into the on-screen tactical geniuses they’ve always been described as, usually just before their plans go spectacularly up the Orion Nebula.

Alongside all that though, there’s some lovely stuff in The Vanquishers. Character relationships are highlighted, as couples, potential couples and long-lost friends are reunited. There’s a simplicity and joy about Bel and Vinder’s reunion, and Diane meeting back up with Dan feels powerfully happy when it happens. But by far and away the most affecting reunion in the episode in that of Yaz and the Doctor, which is intense and beautiful, and can easily be read as either close friends or something more. That comes to an impressive head at the end of the episode when the Doctor admits the secrets she’s been keeping, and apologises for shutting Yaz out all this time.

There’s also significant advancement in the Doctor’s story. The creepy ghost house turns out to be the repository of the Doctor’s erased memories, and by the happy, easy destruction of the Ravagers, the Doctor is able to take possession of the pocketwatch that can give her back those lives.

Perhaps the most significant, the most lastingly impressive thing in The Vanquishers though is the back-and-forth speech between the Doctor and Azure. If every Doctor, sooner or later, gets to give a speech that will define them, whether early, like David Tennant’s “It is defended!” or late, like Peter Capaldi’s “I do what I do because it’s right!”, then Jodie Whitaker’s passionate declarations in favour of life, development, progress and peace, when faced with the flatly opposite philosophy of the Ravagers may well stand as her Doctor’s perfect moment of self-definition.

The Vanquishers is also a clever episode in terms of what it DOESN’T do. The much-touted rumours that Bel and Vinder are the Doctor’s bio-parents are, while not entirely scotched, certainly not in any way confirmed. And similarly, the wise decision is made not to reveal those pre-Hartnell lives, but to create an instant MacGuffin of the pocketwatch, that can be activated any time in the future (presumably at some point during the next three specials). It promises much, without giving away the store.

The actual plot is, if we’re honest, nothing like as special as many of the episodes in the Flux arc have been – Sontarans conquer, with the aid of His Lord High Snakiness, Kate Stewart is a little wasted in the episode, the great Sontaran Flux Betrayal, etc. The whole Passenger-absorbing-the-remaining-Flux-event is a touch convenient, but it does at least make for a rational conclusion to two strands of the story. And there never seems a reasonable explanation for the triple-split Doctor, beyond the fact that it allows Jodie Whitaker to be in lots of places at once, co-ordinating events on three separate fronts.

So, perhaps the thing to say about The Vanquishers is that while it under no circumstances and really on no levels knocks the conclusion to the Flux arc out of the park, it does… just about enough to give a solid solution to a series that has had significantly higher highs. You’re probably likely to rewatch it only as part of a complete series rewatch, where there are other episodes you might watch solely for their individual delights, but as a finale, it manages to dot its i’s, cross its t’s, and dangle enough seeds for the next three special episodes (especially the Doctor’s prophetic meeting with Time, echoing the Tenth Doctor’s increasingly doom-knelling references to the song that’s ending soon and death knocking four times).

While it will be unlikely ever to top anyone’s list of Best Flux Episodes, it’s workmanlike in its solutions, spectacular in its visuals, and gives us quite the kick of Doctor-trauma to push us into our inevitable dive into the specials that will see this brightest, most life-enthusiastic Time Lord driven to her death.

The Flux arc has darkened the 13th Doctor’s bouncy, optimistic universe. But it’s also brought out the most positive Doctoring from Jodie Whitaker’s incarnation, proving what weas always obvious – that she really can stand among the top rank of incarnations. The Vanquishers, and in particular the confrontation with Time, has darkened it yet further, with the threat of the oncoming end.

While The Vanquishers isn’t the best of the Flux episodes, in giving Jodie Whitaker her battle of spitting ideologies with Azure, it has given Whitaker one of the defining 13th Doctor moments. On top of everything else, that’s quite enough to make it memorable.

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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