Across Time and Space

By Tony Cross

An Unofficial Doctor Who Companion with and introduction from Daniel Hardcastle

Tuesday, 9 November 2021

Flux: War of the Sontarans

Another highly entertaining episode in Part 2 of Doctor Who: Flux aka War of the Sontarans. 

This episode has slightly less threads to it as the focus is on the battle with the Sontarans it still has more to it than just one simple storyline. The story starts with a black and white 'dream' sequence where we see an enormous, wooden wreck of a house and the Doctor reaching up to it. This is a beautiful shot. If you saw it in isolation you'd think it was from a film. Obviously what this house is we don't discover. A favoured theory is that it is Lungbarrow (from the Virgin New Adventures series), which is the ancestral home of the Doctor's family, but in reality who knows? Since Chibnall make the Morbius Doctor's canon I suspect there is no part of the extended Doctor Who multiverse that he might not pull into the end of his era as showrunner. 

We then find ourselves on a battlefield. The Doctor, Yaz and Dan arrive outside the TARDIS, but the TARDIS is there. But the TARDIS is not well, which I think is the consequence of what is happening elsewhere in this story. Again, I suspect what is happening here will be revealed later on. 

It turns out we are in the Crimea. During the Crimean War. Except, as we find out when we meet Mary Seacole, played superbly by Sara Powell. Mary Seacole is a real historical figure whose story is worth studying. Obviously we get the Doctor Who version of Seacole, but hopefully that will encourage some people to look up more about the real person. Interesting Seacole gets to be the defacto companion to the Doctor in this story, because Dan is whipped forward to 2021 Liverpool and Yaz ends up...well...later.

The British Army isn't fighting the Russians in the Crimea though. Oh, no. It's the Sontarans. Russia is gone. Indeed neither Mary nor General Logan have heard of Russia, although there is a faint echo there. That suggests timey wimey shenanigans and it turns out that the Sontarans are planning to conquor the Earth throughout its timeline via a series of time ships it is building in Liverpool docks. 

I like the Sontarans in this story. The balance of nasty and pompous jingoist potatoes is perfect. Jonathan Watson does a fine job as Skaak and Dan Starkey more than ably supports him as Svild. They both get good comedy to do, but Watson gets more of the serious and nasty stuff. 

General Logan, played by Gerald Kyd, is a bit of a cliche. The closed-minded military officer that Doctor Who is fond of. The new series more so than the old (although they are there too.) My view is Logan is a bit too much of a two-dimensional character but his arc within the story doesn't hurt it too much. 

Dan gets to play his part in defeating the Sontarans with the help of his parents, played by Sue Jenkins and Paul Broughton. Both familiar British TV faces. They get the bulk of the episodes comedy. There's also the reappearance of Karnavista. Dan's role is more convential companion one in this story.

Yaz meanwhile has found herself in a mysterious set of tunnels. These are the same tunnels that Vinder (Jacob Anderson) has found himself in earlier. This turns out to be the thread of the story that involves the big season wide baddies the most. This is the planet Time. A concept that I've still not got my head around but I'm sure at some point it'll all be explained. As will the Morai (who have a role to play in keeping Time in check.) They talk about Time as though it is a person. Time is evil. All of this is an interesting development in Doctor Who mythology. I'm tempted to say though that Time will turn out to be someone we already know. Time is a character (briefly glimpsed) in the Virgin New Adventures. The Doctor in those books is refered to as 'Time's Champion.' 

Swarm and Azure, who always drezz for the occasion are on Time too. Their plan seems to be to break the Morai and unleash messy Time upon the Universe. Again, I suspect more to come on this. I love Swarm and Azure. They seem to be enjoying themselves and their work.

We get another glimpse of Steve Oram as Thomas Williamson in the tunnels of Time. I'm predicting that Williamson's tunnels in Liverpool are going to play an important part in the solution to this story. They're real. Worth a Google. 

The Doctor and Dan are hi-jacked and find themselves on Time. Someone is in peril. Cliffhanger. The end. 

Doctor Who is better with cliffhangers. 

I really enjoyed this. The question with Flux is whether Chibnall is going to be able to land the dismount. Ending Doctor Who stories is much harder than beginning them and he is giving himself a lot to do. And there is still The Timeless Child thread untied out there somewhere. 

This story was also aided by strong performances all round. Jodie's Doctor in Flux so far has been a little less nice than previously. I feel slightly though like John Bishop is having to be slightly unnatural because I suspect they worried about how strong his Liverpool accent is. I still like Dan. I like that his response to most things is to be sarcastic. Mandip Gill has, at last, been given stuff to do. The smaller TARDIS crew and the longer run time really benefits this season. 

And it looks amazing. Considering this season was put together during lockdown the quality of the production is pretty damn high. 

The question is...can Chibnall keep this up? We shall see.

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Comments

Tom McPhillips
 Tom McPhillips says:

I’m rather torn on this series. I had to watch episode 1 twice. I know I will need to rewatch episode 2 just before the third. Is it so complicated? If it is then will Chibnall alienate younger viewers? If not am I just an old Whovian whose brain is now addled.I genuinely feel this series needs to be digested rather than watched. I will watch (and wait) until the end but it’s been tough.

posted 9th November 2021

Louise Romana Wade
 Louise Romana Wade says:

When Flux was being teased as being an epic story, I knew they were just using marketing buzz words, but I have been enjoying the way this series harkens more to the days of Classic Who with the long running stories, whilst sticking to the monster of the week format of New Who. This is how Doctor Who really should be done, a mix between the two formats. We still have 4 more weeks to see if Chibnall manages to pull off something good or if he just disappoints, but so far it's going somewhat decently. I wasn't born at the time of Classic Who, so never got to experience long form Who stories in the way that those who grew up watching it as it aired did, so whilst I've seen them all (or listened for the missing ones), I got to go through them without the waiting inbetween and getting that on a larger scale than the odd two or three parter is quite nice to have, even if I'm spoiled by the fact I can rewatch parts inbetween, which wasn't doable back in the day (not that I have been, but the option is available if I wish). Here's hoping the series continues going ok, so Chibnall's era can end on a sort of high note compared to the rest.

posted 9th November 2021

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