Doctor Who: Flux: Once, Upon Time
November 16, 2021 8:37 AM - Season 13, Episode 3 - Subscribe

Time is beginning to run wild. On a planet that shouldn't exist, in the aftermath of apocalypse, the Doctor, Dan, Yaz, and Vinder face a battle to survive.
posted by EmpressCallipygos (29 comments total)
Apologies if someone else was working on it; I mainly wanted to see this posted so I could ask:

What the HELL did I watch? I'm not kidding, I was hopelessly confused.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:38 AM on November 16, 2021 [6 favorites]

Well, do you remember all the details from The Timeless Children? It came out March 1, 2020. I'm sure nothing more important has distracted anyone in the meantime.

The main flashback was the Jo Martin Doctor's last mission for The Division. But how the Doctor actually stopped them and how that puts the universe at risk need more explanation. Everything about Space and Time fighting each other I just wrote off as nonsense but I'd be happy to be proven wrong.

How underwritten is Yaz when her life defining flashbacks are a co-worker blabbing and that time her sister wanted to get better at video games. I like the character and I'm happy she's not the key to the Universe like Rose and Clara. But I wish they could find more for her to do than get yelled at by The Doctor.
posted by Gary at 11:50 AM on November 16, 2021

but what is The Division in the first place and who was that older woman who told The Doctor the Flux was created to stop her specifically and why were Dan and Yaz in that temple and was this in the future or the past and how did the Time Storm tie into it and who are those people with the weird bejazzled faces and
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:09 PM on November 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

I think you kind of had to hang on, ride it out, and experience time coming apart in the same way the characters are/were. Seriously. Pretty much everyone (except maybe the two baddies) were having the same sort of WTFISHAPPENING??? moment as the audience.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:52 PM on November 16, 2021

If they had made it obvious earlier that it wasn't really them, just what the doctor was seeing as them, it might have been less confusing. Still, it felt like I was drunk and confused the whole time.
posted by Marticus at 2:39 PM on November 16, 2021

Like the first episode of this season, this one was again a mess. There's just so little connection between anything, and its frustration to have the Doctor seeming to do things (or try to make sense of it all) simply by saying so. There are so many 'bits'. Some of which are great - Swarm and Azure are strikingly made up and acted, for example. But we're halfway through the story and nothing's really landed.
posted by jjderooy at 3:24 PM on November 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

Finding out your leader, The Grand Serpent, is a bad guy really shouldn't be so surprising.
posted by Gary at 3:41 PM on November 16, 2021 [3 favorites]

I thought the Mouseketeer role call ending of the first episode of this season was the worst, but the shouting exposition while floating in a void segments in this one have proved that notion to be incorrect.
posted by jordemort at 4:22 PM on November 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

Thanks for posting, EmpressCallipygos. This season has been so meh that I just didn't feel like watching the episode at all, and then once I did I didn't feel like posting, because what is this script soup that we are being served? It's like time and space are at war with each other and nothing makes any sense or something.

On the upside, Bel seems like a cool new character (though her unborn child sending emoji is creepy).
posted by mumkin at 5:28 PM on November 16, 2021

I got the sense that we weren't really supposed to understand yet.
posted by wierdo at 5:31 PM on November 16, 2021

I mean, it doesn't really make less sense than the whole Black Guardian/White Guardian thing, and that was overseen by Douglas Adams and is often thought of as peak Classic Who. Expecting Doctor Who to make sense is a big ask. I'm riding along hoping they retcon the Doctor being the First Timelord and the whole Timeless Child nonsense, but it probably won't happen.

If you want sense in your scifi, the Expanse is back Dec 10.
posted by rikschell at 5:57 PM on November 16, 2021 [5 favorites]

Chibnall sure likes his exposition. Yeesh.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 7:50 PM on November 16, 2021

I think the challenge with this season is that while its important that a long-running and super-refreshable series like Doctor Who survives and thrives by embracing wherever modern television is at, the creators have picked an approach that doesn't work so well for Doctor Who - a binged multi-part series.

Bingeworthiness is the trend for 2020s television - in comicbook terms, many shows are now 'written for the trade'. Shows which you can watch over a weekend, where every cliffhanger is resolvable (or satisfactory ending renewed) at the click of a 'next episode' is peak television and what we want for most shows.

But I feel this doesn't work for Doctor Who, which as a BBC institution with a weight of some tradition and where every story can be different, will always be released periodically (described negatively as 'drip based') to (a) stretch out its cultural impact (relative at least to budget) and (b) enhance the show by giving viewers space for the transitions between (ideally) utterly unique settings/casts/concepts to work (and fans a week to chat and analyse and speculate).

So the result of trying to make a purposefully bingeworthy Doctor Who season so far has unfortunately been the incomprehensible smashing together of several different stories, and any sense of progress or resolution delayed for weeks and weeks. Each Monday morning (Australian time) I've streamed the show and been instantly lost, and can't get a grip on what's and who's important and going to provide me with payoff today, and what isn't.
posted by jjderooy at 9:34 PM on November 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

With Doctor Who, I tend to assume that the answer to “what’s happening?” is going to be “incoherent hand-wavy bollocks which doesn’t stand up to close examination”, so it just depends if they manage to deliver the bollocks with sufficient panache. Personally I enjoyed this episode, I found it atmospheric and disorienting in a good way.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 1:29 AM on November 17, 2021 [5 favorites]

I didn't find this episode that hard to follow? The Doctor thrusts her team into a time storm, which apparently dislocates everyone across their own time stream (although apparently only their past). Because they are all in the time storm together, they keep replacing people in each others lives.

As pointed out, this was an opportunity to give insight into the past of our characters. For the Doctor, we get her past self apparently going to defeat the ravagers in that temple, which gives her an idea of how to do it in the future (it's not entirely clear where she gets the bonus moira from, I guess she steals them from the past?). For Vinder, he spoke up about a hilariously corrupt politician. For Dan, we got kind of a rehash of his relationship with the lady, and with Yas we get her playing video games. So yeah, missed opportunity for both Yas and Dan, whose main role is to stand around being confused. Vinder comes across as much more compelling because he is reliving memories that actually matter to him.

So the doctor tries to find out about what her past self did, only to be interrupted by a new character, presumably the villain behind everything who apparently intends to end the universe (although, if you treat time as a changable dimension, what does it really mean to claim a universe has had "long enough"). Shes kicked into the present, and refixes time. The ravagers then claim that this was their plan all along, and time had been destabilised enough for them. Its not at all clear what this means, although I guess Bel's experiences were meant to demonstrate that.

So basically:

problem: time has gone all destabilized
solution: use the destabilized time to steal a solution from the past
complication: thats what the bad guys expected anyway

which I think is actually not awful writing. There was a lot of Jodie Whittaker saying something was happening while waving her arms around in a silly sci fi void, which was not exactly compelling, and it does seem like Chibnall missed another opportunity to make the supposed actual companions interesting, but that seems pretty par for the course at the moment
posted by Cannon Fodder at 3:46 AM on November 17, 2021 [5 favorites]

This was some boring bullshit.

Doctor Who Gives a Fuck?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:18 PM on November 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

I know it is traditional (since late 1963) to hate on new episodes of Dr Who but there sure is a lot of whining in this thread. Personally, I am loving nearly everything about Flux so far and this episode was a fine addition.

I don’t really know how people found this hard to follow, everything was either set up previously or the sort of Dr Who-logic that we have had over a decade to get used to. I guess this episode was less standalone than the previous 2 episodes but we are 3 episodes into the series and I think things are starting to congeal together.

Once again the special effects quality ranges from blockbuster film quality (almost everything but the scene with Bel walking through the field of colored wheat was a standout) to laughably bad (the blue time particles swarming about like a 90s computer demo).
posted by AndrewStephens at 10:55 PM on November 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

There was a lot of Jodie Whittaker saying something was happening while waving her arms around in a silly sci fi void, which was not exactly compelling


Because, honestly, the lead character shouting exposition is the worst kind of writing. And throwing the companions to other parts of time/the universe just so the plot can play out is fucking lazy.
posted by crossoverman at 12:02 AM on November 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

There was a lot of Jodie Whittaker saying something was happening while waving her arms around in a silly sci fi void, which was not exactly compelling

And as much as I hate to admit it, for some reason her dialect was particularly difficult for me to come to grips with this episode, so for me it was "there was a lot of Jodie Whittaker saying something I couldn't even understand while waving her arms". I'm seriously contemplating a rewatch with closed-captioning.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:15 AM on November 18, 2021

And as much as I hate to admit it, for some reason her dialect was particularly difficult for me to come to grips with this episode, so for me it was "there was a lot of Jodie Whittaker saying something I couldn't even understand while waving her arms".

Gotta agree with this. Her dialect is really hard to follow for me, too. Dan's not real easy to follow, either. To be fair, I had the same problem with much of the NuWho Doctors. Tennant was especially hard to follow (for me) once he got wound-up and started doing his own version of running-around-yelling-exposition. I'd love to have a calm, collected Doctor just once, please.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:20 AM on November 18, 2021

I'm not sure I understand why people like Doctor Who anymore. When I got into it (early 90s) it was a cult camp artifact that stood in stark contrast to the polished effects-based American sci-fi action-hero stuff. It was simultaneously dumb and smart, exciting and boring, enclosed and expansive. You had to use your imagination to make it work.

It's been weird getting to know Doctor Who as a global franchise that everyone is aware of. I thought Davies did a good job of updating the show, bringing it into the framework of modern television while keeping an edge of cheesiness that kept continuity with the old show. But somehow it became a thing that everyone knows about, not just nerds who stay up till 2am watching PBS.

So how valid is a complaint about the main character shouting exposition while being badly composited floating in a void? I guess that makes sense for most shows, but for Doctor Who we call that a "Tuesday." This is the same show that when it was time to put to film the ultimate computer-generated alternate reality known as "the Matrix" just used the same damn quarry they filmed every "alien world" in.

If you people want Star Wars or Star Trek, there's like seven shows of each franchise now. In other news, get off my lawn.
posted by rikschell at 5:37 AM on November 18, 2021 [4 favorites]

I'm a huge fan of NuWho. I enjoy Whittaker as the Doctor. I liked her first two seasons okay, kind of up and down. But maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan, I hated this. I do not know how something so loud can be so boring, how something so predictable can still be convoluted and impossible to follow.

I am not a hater coming in to bring fans down. I am a full-on Kool Aid drinker being tested to the point of considering leaving the church.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:05 AM on November 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

Gotta agree with this. Her dialect is really hard to follow for me, too. Dan's not real easy to follow, either.

The crazy thing is, usually I can follow both of them just fine (John Bishop turns up on QI and Graham Norton a lot so I'm a little used to his Scouse), but for this one episode I was struggling and don't know why. I was half hoping someone would come in here and say "oh yeah, something about the sound mixing was way off in this episode" or something like that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:27 AM on November 18, 2021

So how valid is a complaint about the main character shouting exposition while being badly composited floating in a void?

There were multiple seasons worth of the new show where this didn't happen much, if at all, so I think it's a valid complaint now that Chibnall seems to have decided exposition is character or complicated plot needs to be explained. I remember being very confused by Moffat's plotting sometimes, but then it all fell into place at the end. The choice to make Flux a six-episode story means I am hoping all these threads will tie together, but that still doesn't justify wild exposition while flailing in the void.

I also think part of the reason that Doctor Who fails at arc plotting is because of the nature of how UK television is written. Writers are commissioned to write an episode, not sit in a room and plot a season. So you either get most of Nu Who, which has a vague background arc that you can barely see in most episodes - or you get this sort of thing that is entirely plotted and written by one guy.

I liked the first season of Chibnall and Whittaker's WHO. He's abandoned everything I liked about his early approach - the historicals, the detailed character motivations, the standalone nature of the season. He's not RTD or Moff and he doesn't need to be, but Flux seems like him trying to ape them - and only recreating their excesses.

Anyway, WHO used to be a show I liked, even when there were bad episodes. Now it's more bad episodes than good. So I'm in the same place I was during Capaldi's second and third season - just waiting for the showrunner to go and sadly losing the lead actor along with them.
posted by crossoverman at 5:18 PM on November 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

I… actually liked this? It certainly wasn’t the best, but it was good fun.

I’m not sure that a short season is the best vessel for it, but Chibnall deserves credit for recognizing that Doctor Who works best with an ensemble cast. I like the new gang (especially, ironically, the brief glimpses of the gang after they’ve had considerable offscreen, alternate-timeline time to bond).

Also, Bel and Vinder seem like good characters? I’m a bit disappointed that the seem likely to be cast aside after this series (a la Martha Jones)
posted by schmod at 8:29 PM on November 18, 2021

There were multiple seasons worth of the new show where this didn't happen much, if at all…

I kind of have to disagree with this. Both the Tennant and Smith Doctors, imho, were quite often given to racing around the set babbling/yelling plot points and waving their sonic madly about.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:32 AM on November 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

For Vinder, he spoke up about a hilariously corrupt politician.

What amused me about this bit was when he reports it to his commanding officer, who says something like, "Well, there's nothing on the recording about any shady deals." Except for when the Grand Serpent says, "Oh and there's just one more condition to our deal. Vinder stop the recording now," and Vinder says "But I'm duty bound to keep recording" and the Serpent says "I gave you an order!" But I guess they edited that out after and somehow made it look seamless...

I thought the use of the Weeping Angels was suitably creepy and entertaining this time -- popping out of the smartphone was neat, and the still shots of the Angel at the help of the TARDIS were pretty cool too.
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:58 AM on November 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Favorite moment: When Swarm said "Dan Lewis!" and pointed at him like some super cool dude welcoming his buddy to the party :)
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:39 PM on November 27, 2021

The thing I find the most confusing is the whole Timeless Child plotline, and how (and if) it relates to this season?

That said, love Jodi Whittaker and feel like she hasn't been supported properly by the writers. They've done a good job with Bel and Vinder, but at this point in the series, why does their relationship feel more fleshed out than the one between Yaz and The Doctor? Poor Yaz.
posted by Space Kitty at 7:09 AM on January 14

« Older Stove League: Episode Sixteen...   |  Book: White Evangelical Racism... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments