DISCLAIMER: This recap of the Doctor Who: Flux season premiere episode “The Halloween Apocalypse” is riddled with spoilers. Proceed at your peril.
Welcome, Whovians! Doctor Who: Flux is here, and “The Halloween Apocalypse” ushers in a terrifying new era for The Doctor and her companions. Additionally, the episode serves as the introduction of new pal Dan Lewis and recurring guest character Vinder.
Chris Chibnall pens a frenetic and overstuffed outing that tries to cram in more “show” than “tell” to the audience’s detriment. There’s nothing wrong with exposition now and then, and “The Halloween Apocalypse” leaves me with a “What the hell is going on?” feeling.
That said, Dan is a fun new addition to Team TARDIS, and Swarm is quite frightening.
Ready to delve into “The Halloween Apocalypse”? Let’s get to it.
We open with the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and Yaz (Mandip Gill) hanging upside down over a pool of acid courtesy of Karvanista, a dog-like alien. Karvanista times it so they’ll drop into the said acid while he travels to the final hours of Earth.
After he departs, Yaz and the Doctor make their getaway, clinging to the metallic bar holding them hostage while pursued by alien enemies. Finally, the pair wind up in the TARDIS, handcuff-free.
Now, the Doctor must travel to the end of the planet for one more world-saving mission.
Next, we arrive in Liverpool, England, 1820 — some workers are creating an outlandish contraption? Admittedly, the sound mixing (or lack thereof) in “The Halloween Apocalypse” muddles some of the dialogue. The man in charge asserts something “cataclysmic” lies ahead. Could it be the Flux?
Later, we see Dan Lewis (John Bishop) at the Museum of Liverpool. He’s giving a tour, but we soon learn he’s not an official tour guide. His friend Diane stops him, and the pair plan for an evening of Halloween drinks.
Meanwhile, the Doctor envisions Swarm (Sam Spruell), a formidable, nefarious villain imprisoned since the dawn of the universe. He incinerates the guards before him and breaks free, calling out to the Doctor. Back on the TARDIS, the Doctor and Yaz notice a mysterious black goo.
Then, at his home, Dan’s greeted by Karvanista, who takes him hostage.
The TARDIS lands in Liverpool, and the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver leads them to Dan’s house. They discover alien tech and deduce his kidnapping. Suddenly, Dan’s home shrinks courtesy of the fancy laptop within.
Next, we’re in the Arctic Circle, wherein a couple finds a peculiar device emitting a signal. The woman promptly smashes it, and her face seems to comprehend what the said signal is all about.
Dan wakes up on Karvanista’s ship, and we learn the canine alien plans to take Dan off-world but won’t confess why. Yaz chastises the Doctor for keeping secrets on Earth, and Claire (Annabel Scholey) approaches the duo. Claire knows the Doctor from the past; she reveals they’ve yet to meet.
Yaz wonders aloud why the Doctor’s hellbent on targeting Karvanista — what is she hiding? Meanwhile, Claire spots a Weeping Angel on her way home, and we see her fidgeting with her key while trying not to blink. Suddenly, the angel’s face contorts into a horrifying expression, one filled with bloodlust, and we see Claire’s door swing open.
Later, at Observation Outpost: Rose (excellent reference), Vinder (Jacob Anderson) reports that “nothing has changed” until he spots something. An inexplicable mass envelops planets and stars, and it’s making its way toward Vinder’s outpost.
Then, Swarm visits the Arctic Circle, simultaneously killing the man therein and transforming the woman into his wife or lover. Perhaps her identity and memories were wiped while she was human?
Yaz tracks down and frees Dan while the Doctor confronts Karvanista. The Doctor disables his weapon and ship, and we discover that Karvanista and his battalion are whisking humans away from Earth. Oh, and he works for the Division — a Time Lord organization the Doctor might’ve worked for before becoming the First Doctor.
We hear the Cloister Bell multiple times in this episode, indicating the imminence of danger. Karvanista reveals that each creature in his species takes in a designated human, hence why seven billion ships in his battalion are situated outside Earth. They’re saving humanity from the incoming Flux, a hurricane ripping through the universe, and it’s already begun.
Thankfully, Vinder narrowly escapes in a pod before the Flux disintegrates his outpost. Meanwhile, Dan and Yaz appear, much to Karvanista’s irritation. The Doctor, Yaz and Dan flee from Karvanista and board the TARDIS. Dan seems to be unimpressed by the TARDIS’ “bigger on the inside” setting.
Then, 30 trillion lightyears away, a pair of Sontarans prepare for battle.
The TARDIS brings our trio to an empty spot in space, and Dan admires the beauty of the universe. Shots like these always remind me of why I love Doctor Who and the power of majestic escapism.
Suddenly, the Cloister Bell rings again, and the Doctor meets Swarm in another vision. She feels “the universe breaking” and witnesses civilizations fall prey to the Flux’s destructive ways. Swarm reveals they know each other, even though the Doctor doesn’t remember him. Now, they’re poised to battle one last time.
Back on Earth, we see Dan’s friend Diane wait for him. A voice ushers her into a strange house, and she encounters Swarm’s wife.
Then, the Doctor contacts Karvanista, and he organizes his battalion to act as a shield over Earth. The Doctor tries to situate the TARDIS behind the guard, but the encroaching Flux flings the TARDIS doors open. She bangs on the TARDIS console, releasing its energy to combat the Flux. We see Claire survived her Weeping Angel encounter, the Sontarans are moving in and the end of the universe transpires.
“The Halloween Apocalypse” ends on an impressive cliffhanger, and I’m intrigued by this season’s premise and overall direction. Swarm might prove to be the Doctor’s most ominous foe yet, while Karvanista reminds me of Chewbacca. The “man’s best friend” angle is a fun one as well.
I wish we had a moment to breathe and give us time to get to know Dan. We only had a few scenes with the Doctor and Yaz, and since this is Jodie Whittaker’s final season, it would be great to continue exploring the Doctor/Yaz dynamic. Of course, the shorter episode count might make this season feel more truncated than usual.
I’m excited to see the Sontarans again next week and find out what that 1820 flashback was all about and who Claire is. Could she be related to Sally Sparrow? Who is Swarm concerning the Doctor’s storied, villain-laden past?
Doctor Who: Flux airs Sundays at 8 pm on your BBC America affiliate.