Doctor Who: This Arc Really Delivers – In Sections

by thethreepennyguignol

Find the rest of my Doctor Who writing here!

Alright. The Vanquishers is here, and with it, brings the end of the Flux run on Doctor Who. I’m going to split this review into three parts, for the sake of something resembling brevity: whether I liked this episode, whether I think it’s a good ending to the Flux storyline, and how the Flux arc works as a full piece now we’ve got the whole thing.

First things first, I’m the realest my gut reaction to this episode as a viewer was…mixed. I didn’t hate it, by any means (We’re not talking a redo of Lie of the Land here or anything), but it was, as I pretty much expected it to be, just wall-to-wall packed in a way that didn’t necessarily allow the story much time to breathe. Flux is probably one of the hugest arcs I’ve ever seen the show undertake in my time watching it, and it makes sense that a finale of this level of grandeur under an hour and a half would have to cram it all in a bit.

It’s breakneck, to say the least, with a wipe-cut every thirty seconds to another plot populated by another set of characters as Chibnall bent over backwards to make it all tie in to the main Flux storyline. I think the worst episodes this season (though they weren’t even that terrible, to be honest) suffered from this problem, so it makes sense to me that the finale would feel a little out-of-hand in the sheer enormity of what it was trying to achieve.

To be fair, there were bits that I genuinely really loved – Bel and Vinder’s reunion was a really sweet and genuinely heartwarming climax to their little love story that’s been going on over the course of this series, and, in fact, made up a slice of my favourite aspect of this episode – the reunions. Seeing Yas and the Doctor come back together (standing one full metric inch apart and still refusing to kiss, because Chris Chibnall hates me in particular apparently) really brought home something I was talking about earlier this season, the depth and width of their love for each other, and how well the show can articulate it without having any dramatic declarations. There’s trust, there’s care, there’s love, and it’s soft and quiet and sweet and performed just perfectly by Jodie and Mandip Gill, whose off-screen friendship really works to bring some depth to this storyline.

We also got a brief moment between the Doctor and Karvanista, wherein he revealed that his previous travels with her were buried in his own brain under punishment of death, and that was one of the more uneasy and intriguing moments this week; delving into this idea of the people the Doctor leaves behind isn’t a new one, but it’s never one that I get tired of.

But was this a good ending? I’ll go ahead and say…yes, quietly. Endings to stories this huge rarely triumph as well as their predecessors do, because the set-up and the mystery is just inevitably more interesting than the solution, but I was pretty pleased with everything that Chibnall brought to the table for this ending. It could sincerely have used more time to resolve more of these threads, but my immediate response to the episode is that the question I had have been answered. I’m writing this in the hour after I watched the episode, so most likely I’ll find a few plot-holes that I’ll be wondering about later on in the week while I’m doing the washing-up, but for now, sure. It didn’t try to cop out on us or give us a complete “gotcha!” ending, like so many of those bogglingly annoying Moffat finales – I felt like it was all reasonably well-seeded, and I’m happy to see it come together the way it did.

And, beyond The Vanquishers, what of the Flux storyline as a whole? I’ll be honest – I was never in the camp of people who felt like Chris Chibnall had to redeem a huge amount about his Doctor Who run, so honestly, it wasn’t like I was coming to this as a make-or-break for his time on the show, which is a take I’ve seen from a lot of fans and reviewers. And I think it’s as a result of that that I’ve enjoyed Flux as much as I have. Even though I think there were issues with this six-episode story – over-ambition, too much going on, occasionally dodgy writing to cut corners and get to the point – ultimately, it worked for me.

It shows Chibnall’s superior skill in writing serialized stories over episodic ones when it comes to this genre, it displayed some of the most confident and impressive visual effects that I’ve ever seen on the show, and it found a way to work previous villains into the plot in a way that both worked and celebrated those villains’ legacies in the show. It had the feel of a Big Finish series to me, which is a compliment given how much reverence I have for their productions.

I understand that, for some people, Flux just wasn’t enough to redeem Chibnall’s run so far and I can see why, but for me, with not much to redeem, it worked as a solid, bold method of storytelling in its own right, and a decent story, too. What did you think of The Vanquishers, and Flux as a whole? I’d love to hear your take in the comments below!

Well, that’s it for another season – I’ll be back to cover next year’s special, and I really hope you’ll come back to join me for those reviews when they drop. And either way, thank you so much for joining me on this little adventure into Flux-land! If you liked this article and want to see more stuff like it, please check out the rest of my Doctor Who reviews! I’d also love it if you would check out my short story collection, and, if you’d like to support my work, please consider supporting me on Patreon!

(header image via Cosmic Book News)