Review: Doctor Who Flux: Season 13, Episode 6 – “The Vanquishers”

Before you read on, there are spoilers ahead for this week’s review of Doctor Who: Flux. We’ll begin with the Sontarans. Those pesky, potato heads, as it was revealed during last week’s “Survivors of the Flux”, have formed a sneaky alliance with the Grand Serpent (Craig Parkinson), who’s just taken control of UNIT, while the sinister Time Lord agency, the Division, set into motion the final stages of the Flux event.

Fair to say, from that sentence alone, there was a lot going on. With the majority of the universe wiped out from the Flux, the Sontarans use Jericho and Claire to discover the final location of the Flux event, and it’s aboard one of their command ships where we sadly say goodbye to Kevin McNally’s wonderfully brilliant Professor Eustacius Jericho, but more on that later. 

The Sontarans open negotiations with the Daleks and Cybermen, luring them under the pretence of protecting them from the Flux when in actual fact, the Sontarans are preparing a trap to destroy all of their enemies in one fell swoop by the incoming Flux. It’s a power grab on a universal scale that’ll set them on course to becoming the dominant, ultimate life-form in the universe, and it almost works too. Of course, the Doctor has something to say about that. 

The Sontarans. Doctor Who Flux.
The Sontarans. Doctor Who Flux. (Pic: BBC).

As mentioned earlier, we need to take a small moment to mention Professor Eustacius Jericho (Kevin McNally). McNally has been a delight to watch on screen and would have served as a wonderful companion if they’d decided to keep him alive. Sadly, he meets his fate as the Flux wipes out the Sontaran fleet. If I had any negative feedback to make on the finale, then it’d be Jericho’s death. It’s a great shame he’s gone so soon. McNally has been absolute perfection, and I’ll say no more than that. 

On the flip side of perfection, we’ve got the disappointing Passenger, a silent, hulking form with the ability to imprison infinite amounts of matter (including the last survivors of the Flux) within its form. In short, Passenger has been boring and forgettable in this series of Doctor Who. Can the alien even be considered a villain? hardly. Forgotten by Swarm and Azure (who are getting carried away in their own dastardly plans), Passenger’s only redeeming quality is in the solution to the finale, as the alien absorbs the final wave of the Flux and effectively saves the universe.

As for Swarm and Azure, they split their time between torturing the Doctor with memories from within the fob watch and taking far too long with their own deadly agenda, engineering the Flux event to loop forever, destroying the universe over and over again without end. Later, there’s an ominous warning from a sentient, cosmic embodiment better known as Time (introduced on Atropos during War of the Sontarans), of the Doctor’s future that may or may not confirm the return of the Master. Sacha Dhawan deserves one last appearance as the Master during Whittaker’s final run of episodes, so here’s hoping with all fingers and toes crossed, that’ll be back soon.

Professor Jericho. Doctor Who Flux.
Professor Jericho. Doctor Who Flux. (Pic: BBC).

We’ve also got Karvanista, who we learn is the last of the Lupari following the Sontaran’s assault against the fleet of ships protecting the Earth. He exacts his revenge against the Sontarans as they meet their deaths in the Flux, and later disbands for new adventures with Bel and Vinder, who are sweetly reunited during the finale. Sadly, the same cannot be said for Dippy Dan and Diane. But there are still three more episodes to go, and maybe she’ll say yes to a date…, eventually.

Much like the sorely missed Paternoster Gang from Matt Smith’s seventh series (Vastra, Jenny, and Strax), one imagines a spin-off featuring Bel, Vinder, and Karvanista, it’s amusing and sort of works. Take my money. I’d watch it. It’s realised that Karvanista was, in fact, a companion to the Doctor during her lost years with the Division, however, has been under the threat of instant death by a synaptic collider implanted in his head if he ever spoke of the Division.

As for the Doctor, she’s in many places at once. Escaping the Void and making contact with Swarm at the very same moment, causes the Time Lord to become displaced across various dimensions in a fight to keep control of countless obstacles. She’s juggling multiple proverbial plates at once, hopping between the Division, the Lupari fleet, and Joseph Williamson’s tunnels in 1820s Liverpool. I’m exhausted just writing that line, let alone watching the episode unfold. The first six minutes of this finale are by far the most frantic I’ve seen in Doctor Who since Moffat’s “The Big Bang” finale in 2010. One minute we’re here, then we’re there, then here, then everywhere. 

Karvanista. Doctor Who Flux.
Karvanista. Doctor Who Flux. (Pic: BBC).

There are some sweet interactions as the Doctor reconciles with Yaz, admitting that she’d been shutting her out regarding her plans to track down agents of the Division but fails to disclose the existence of the fob watch and the secrets it contains to her companion. There’s a touching moment as the Doctor bids farewell to Joseph Williamson. As for answers about the Doctor’s lost memories and forgotten incarnations, the closest we come is discovering that the house from the Doctor’s vision in Episode 2 is the source of the forgotten secrets.

So, we’re effectively no closer at all. Sigh. With three episodes to close out Whittaker’s tenure as the Thirteenth Doctor. you can likely see where this is going. However, afraid to uncover the truth of her past, the Doctor instructs the TARDIS to bury the watch deep within the console, only to be returned to the Doctor when she asks for it.

As for Craig Parkinson, a highlight of last week’s penultimate episode, the Grand Serpent, who single-handedly overthrew UNIT, is this week reduced to a secondary character who fails to make much of an impact, primarily as a result of being lost within the slog of subplots competing for screen-time. Parkinson has been a marvel to watch and will stand as one of the best villains to grace our screen during Whittaker’s era. For now, he has to contend with exile on a lone asteroid in the middle of deep space. 

The Grand Serpent. Doctor Who Flux.
The Grand Serpent. Doctor Who Flux. (Pic: BBC).

I’ve been quite critical of Doctor Who this year, but I’ll be the first to admit that “The Vanquishers” was a strong, entertaining hour of television, and served as a suitable finale to what has been at times, a troubled season. It’s not without its imperfections, but these fail to attract attention away from the fact that the Flux story ended on a high. The pacing was as frantic as a Moffat-era finale. There have been, much like the rest of the series, far too many subplots to juggle, and far too many dumps of expositional dialogue.

The Flux story arc is a reminder of both the good and bad components of Chris Chibnall’s tenure as showrunner. We’ve been blessed with his unique and darkly twisted concepts, (the Sontarans and Angels), while bogged down by a confusing and convoluted storytelling technique. “The Vanquishers” is not the perfect finale, and it only just wrapped up proceedings in a satisfying and engaging hour of television, but it was fun and exciting with a dash of the wibbly-wobbly eccentrics thrown in for good measure. Plus, we met a Sontaran addicted to corner shop chocolate bars. What did you think of Doctor Who: Flux? Give us your thoughts in the comment section below!

The Doctor. Doctor Who Flux.
The Doctor. Doctor Who Flux. (Pic: BBC).
Matt Bailey

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