Spitfire review: Doctor Who – Flux

Spitfire review: Doctor Who – Flux

I didn’t plan on reviewing Doctor Who: Flux. I hadn’t lost complete faith in the show but my enthusiasm had waned under Chibnall’s writing. I no longer consumed every behind the scenes segment and cast interview. I didn’t watch the trailer for Flux until it appeared on my phone on auto play and when Flux eventually arrived on our screens I wasn’t impressed. Everything I disliked about Chibnall’s writing returned. The pantomime dialogue, the overblown plots and the terrible jokes. (I’ll just wok right out of here?’ Seriously Chibnall?) But then, for the first time in a long time, I found myself enjoying Doctor Who again if only briefly.

Here are my thoughts on Doctor Who: Flux.

Warning – spoilers ahead.

The Good

It is clear from Flux and from his writings in series eleven and twelve, that Chibnall is a fan of classic Doctor Who. This is understandable as although he wrote for New Who (42, The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood et al) he was brought up with the classic episodes and even chaired the Doctor Who Appreciation Society, once appearing on BBC’s public opinion show “Open Air” to criticise the infamous Sixth Doctor serial The Trial of a TimeLord.  It is therefore natural that Chibnall would want to incorporate elements of the classic series back into the show, the most notable of these being the return of the serial format. Although modern viewers are used to seeing episodes as one parters, two parters and occasionally three parters, most episodes of Classic Who were told in serials lasting between four to ten episodes. This allowed for grander stories, more monsters and a wider variety of settings. Normally this wouldn’t be practical for New Who but due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic the filming schedule was severely limited resulting in the perfect opportunity to bring back the serial format. For the most part I think this decision worked. We had six stand alone episodes linked together by one overarching plot. It was easy to follow and it was simple to differentiate one episode for another. There was the Sontaran episode, the Weeping Angel episode and so on. It made a nice change and if this format was to become the new normal, I really wouldn’t mind.

The idea to bring back the serial format was bold and very typical of Chibnall. Granted not all of Chibnall’s bold decisions work but at least he has the balls to make them and I respect him for that. If you’re an active part of the Doctor Who community then you will be aware of the Timeless Child twist, that the Doctor had countless hidden lives prior to what we would call their first incarnation. When this twist first occurred at the end of series twelve it proved very divisive. While some fans enjoyed the twist others, loudly, proclaimed that it was unnecessary and broke the lore of Doctor Who. While I don’t agree that the twist was lore breaking I must admit I wasn’t a fan of the idea. It gives the Doctor a God like aura which robs them of sense of urgency and empathy. So what if the Doctor dies, they can simply keep on regenerating. Based on the backlash the show received I assumed that the production team would backtrack, retcon over the plot twist or simply ignore it in all future episodes. Instead Chibnall decided to double down on this plot thread and to my surprise, I found myself invested.

The Bad

Flux suffers from the same problems that plagued series eleven and twelve. My main gripe is the jarring dialogue. In the writing world we have a rule called show, don’t tell. If you show your audience something, rather than tell them, then your writing will have more of an impact. For example if a character found a bomb, instead telling their friends they found a bomb you could show the bomb slowly ticking down while they shout at everyone to run. It’s more dramatic and powerful. Make sense? In Chibnall’s writing the characters constantly state the obvious. ‘Doctor, look out, it’s Dalek’ someone will shout as a Dalek slowly rolls towards the camera. Yes, we can see it’s a Dalek, do something about it! Granted companions, particularly new ones, need to ask questions so the audience understands what is going on but most of Dan and Yas’ dialogue was in the form of a question.

Speaking of Dan, although I’m a fan of John Bishop and his works I’m not a fan of his character. This isn’t a slight on Bishop as his acting is without flaw, I just think his character of Dan is a discount Donna Noble. The funny companion. If you remove Dan from Flux and rejiggle the placement of Yas and Vinder (another character I couldn’t get invested in) then the show can could continue. Dan’s jokes don’t land (not for me anyway) and although it’s nice to see characters set outside of the capital I think that’s Dan’s only characteristic, that he’s from Liverpool. Although time may prove me wrong, I think it is safe to say that Dan will become one of the Doctor’s most forgettable companions.

My final issue is that character’s actions having no consequences. At the end of episode four (one of the best episodes by far) the Thirteenth Doctor is turned into a Weeping Angel. This is fantastic as we’ve never seen this happen before and the audience are left wondering how The Doctor will escape. At the start of the next episode the Doctor is turned back into flesh before the five minute mark. It left me wondering what the point of being turned into a statue was. Another example can be found in episode two. Dan, who has been part of the TARDIS crew for less than an hour at this point, is able to sneak into a Sontaran ship, pilot it and then escape without facing too much of a challenge. What was the point of the Sontarans if they can be defeated so easily? There are countless examples of this throughout Flux, although these situations heighten the stakes in the short term, they rob future situations of any urgency in the longterm. You won’t worry when the Doctor and her companions encounter the next obstacle because you know they will succeed in overcoming it within a couple of minutes.

I think it was inventible that Flux was going to be better received than it’s preceding series. The bar was set very low but to give Chibnall credit he had learn from some of his mistakes. While I enjoyed Flux for what it is and I loved the memes of Evil Dan that emerged online (if you don’t know what Evil Dan is, please search for it on YouTube. You won’t be disappointed.) I’m still waiting for Davies’ return.

What were your thoughts? Let me know on social media or in the comment section below and I’ll see you next time.

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