Before you read on, there are spoilers ahead for this week’s review of Doctor Who: Flux. With last week’s frantic time -jumping “Once, Upon Time” leaving me deflated, I had a head full of questions going into the fourth week of Doctor Who’s Flux story arc. It’s fair to say that many of us had a bit of a headache at the credits. Happily, “Village of the Angels”, with such a neat, catchy title, answers some very big questions and propels us forward into the final two episodes of the Flux story with surprises, thrills, and scares and for one fleeting moment, a Weeping Angel on fire.
The Flux story has posed some big questions, and “Village of the Angels” provides us with some answers. At the top of the list is Claire Brown’s identity, a mysterious woman with a connection to the Doctor, and just as importantly, how the Weeping Angels are connected to the larger story at play. We’ll begin with Claire. She’s the central focus of Episode 4, as we learn that Claire has in fact got a rogue Weeping Angel hiding inside her mind. We first meet Claire in modern-day Liverpool in Episode 1. She’s swiftly dispatched by a lone Angel and sent back in time to 1965, living out her life for the next two years until the Doctor arrives. We pick up Claire’s story in Medderton, a smoky, creepy village in England, 1967. I’ve got to love a creepy English village. During the two years stuck in the past, Claire undergoes psychic experiments with the fearsome Professor Eustacius Jericho (great name, and played by the wonderful Kevin McNally).
The rogue angel in her mind hijacked the TARDIS to lure the Doctor to the village, a place with a sinister past. There’s a missing girl, Peggy, one more gravestone in the church graveyard that should not be there, and a historical event that leads to the disappearance of everyone within Medderton. In the episode’s most thrilling moments, we come to learn that the rogue Angel within Claire is in fact on the run from its own kind, from an extraction squad sent by the Division. The lone Angel’s target from Episode 1 was in fact not Claire, but the Angel hiding inside her mind. The Division has in fact employed the Angels and appears to have the ability to employ anyone and everyone throughout the universe to benefit their dark, as yet unknown cause, and it’s such a neat, unexpected twist.
The rogue Angel makes a deal with the Doctor for protection from the extraction squad, and in return, the Angel will provide the Doctor with all the answers she’s been searching for about the Divison, (including the lost memories of her past incarnations). As ultimatums go, it’s a game-changer, and it’s certainly got the potential to propel the Flux story to a groundbreaking conclusion. If Chibnall can stick the landing, then we could be in for a hell of a finale.
Two episodes to go. Let’s hope. There are other highlights worthy of mention, the Peggy/Miss Haywood twist, as devastating as it was, was smartly handled, Kevin McNally’s fearsomely defiant performance as Professor Jericho makes me hope he’ll return for later episodes, to the final moments of the episode, as the Doctor learns that the extraction squad has decided to take the Doctor with them instead of Claire, deeming the Time Lord as more valuable than the rogue Angel.
Elsewhere, we’ve got a meandering, largely uninteresting side-story involving the survivors of the Flux on a planet called Puzano. Our attention is so often pulled away from the village story to meander through this slow, sluggish back story that achieves very little and affects the pacing of an otherwise thrilling story with the Angels. But in the interest of fairness, “Village of the Angels” welcomes the return of the mysterious Azure and the silent, hulking Passenger, an alien with the ability to imprison people by the hundreds within its form.
Meanwhile, we’ve got Bel, who this week continues to search for Vinder (Jacob Anderson), the father of her unborn child, and survive the Flux. There’s also a dopey, largely unnecessary performance from Blake Harrison (The Inbetweeners) as Namaca Ost Parvess Po. His performance is reminiscent of his fellow The Inbetweeners co-star James Buckley in last year’s dreadful “Orphan 55”. He served almost no purpose whatsoever, and as it did back then with Buckley, it begs the question once again, was there any point to Harrison’s character?
“Village of the Angels” welcomes back one of Doctor Who’s most iconic villains, successfully installing them into a compelling hour of television that delivers some major developments and surprising plot twists worthy of praise. Chibnall has a unique ability from time to time to find a disturbing, twisted angle to play with some of Doctor Who’s best villains. We’ve had the Daleks (latching onto people’s backs to manipulate their movements and brainwaves), the Cybermen (the freaky Ashad), and most recently the secret Time Lord group known as the Division (the story we deserve for Series 13 and haven’t yet seen).
While this is not the single greatest episode ever written for Doctor Who, it is by far and away one of the best concepts the former Torchwood and Broadchurch writer has ever conceived. Sadly, it’s the execution of the concept of particular episodes, including “Village of the Angels”, that has stalled Chibnall over the past three years, from the poorly paced Series 12 finale, “The Timeless Children” featuring Ashad the lone Cyberman, and most recently, “War Of The Sontarans”.
However, it’ll be hard to forget this one once Whittaker bows out of the TARDIS. I thoroughly enjoyed “Village of the Angels”, and it’s hard to say any more than that. Chibnall has effectively rewritten the rule book on the Angels, a villain who became severely overused and exhausted during the Moffat era, despite the former showrunner being the one to create them. They were relevant and effective, creepy, and for one brief moment, on fire. Fire Angels, how awesome is that?
What do you think of Doctor Who: Flux so far? Give us your thoughts in the comment section below!