Doctor Who: Flux chapter 1 review: Promising start to ambitious series
*Warning: spoilers for Doctor Who: Flux: The Halloween Apocalypse (episode 1) ahead.
Doctor Who: Flux has officially kicked off, the end of the universe is nigh and doesn’t it feel great to be back?
Series 13 is going to be very different from any of showrunner Chris Chibnall’s reign so far, with the writer departing from the traditional episodic stories to bring us a full-blown six-chapter epic.
Is it working so far? Mostly yes.
The Halloween Apocalypse saw the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and Yaz (Mandip Gill) tracing the mysterious Karvanista only to stumble across non-terrestrial activity in Liverpool.
They find lovable resident Dan Lewis (John Bishop) gone, seemingly kidnapped by the monster – only, it turns out, he’s actually saving him from the Flux or, basically, the end of the universe, which the Doctor and co now have to try and stop.
Along the way, we meet Claire (Annabel Scholey), who’s met the Doctor and Yaz before – only they haven’t met her. Before long, we have the glorious return of the Weeping Angels and Claire is presumably sent back in time, on her way to meet Team Tardis and, as she puts it ‘take the long way back’.
Meanwhile, things are going majorly wrong with the Tardis and the Flux is clearly wreaking havoc across time and space, from 1800s Liverpool to present day in the Arctic Circle. Basically, ‘nothing’s as it should be, Yaz’.
We’re left, of course, on a massive cliffhanger slightly reminiscent of Doomsday, with Yaz and Dan hanging on for dear life as the end of the world approaches.
Chibnall’s writing has been divisive with fans and there were definitely a few moments that were a bit jarring, including the mass of exposition in the first scene. He’s pointed out that he wanted to throw us straight into the story with a beginning that felt like a finale, but we could have figured plenty of bits out for ourselves.
From then on out, though, it gets good.
While plenty were keen for an all-female Team Tardis after the departure of Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Graham (Bradley Walsh), John fits seamlessly into the gang. The Liverpudlian comic brings some humour, and his genuine excitement shines through.
Meanwhile, Mandip gets plenty of chances to shine. Yaz has been with the Doctor long enough that she knows her inside out – and knows exactly when she’s not telling her something. The pair play off each other perfectly, and it won’t be a surprise if we see Yaz responsible for saving the day at some point this series, while the Doctor is otherwise occupied.
We had a brief encounter with new character Vinder (Jacob Anderson) which was honestly kind of forgettable, but here’s hoping we get to see more of him.
One of the most exciting parts of the episode, though, was the dramatic return of the Weeping Angels. As a complete fan favourite, and a creation of former showrunner Steven Moffatt, it was a risky move, but it seems so far that Chibnall is staying very faithful to the angels, which has got us optimistic. They’ve always been terrifying and, unlike the Daleks, there’s no real need for them to change to stay horrifying.
For die-hard fans, there were some heart-wrenching moments that we can’t help but love – first a reference to ‘Observation Outpost Rose,’ surely named after Billie Piper’s character Rose Tyler, and an almost word-for-word reference to Russell T Davies’ first episode, Rose, which saw the return of Doctor Who onto our screens (‘Nice to meet you, Dan. Run for your life!’).
With a classic Doctor Who cliffhanger, we’re fully on board and we’re staying hopeful.
As for the verdict? The Halloween Apocalypse is a very promising beginning to Chibnall’s most ambitious series yet. As we’ve often found throughout Chibnall’s reign, there were plenty of moments of dialogue that didn’t sit quite right, but it’s clear he’s playing to his strengths with this format. The strength of the cast and the terrifying monsters may be what makes this series and we’re so hopeful that it will see Jodie out into the 2022 specials in style.
The adventure is set to continue next week in War of the Sontarans, which will see the Doctor come face to face with the iconic monster once again.
Doctor Who: Flux continues Sunday at 6:15pm on BBC One.
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