DISCLAIMER: This recap of the Doctor Who: Flux episode “Survivors of the Flux” has spoilers. Proceed at your peril.
Welcome back, Whovians! We’ve reached penultimate episode territory on Doctor Who: Flux, and things get a bit messy in more ways than one. “Survivors of the Flux” feels like a step down from last week’s thrilling and suspenseful “Village of the Angels.”
Chris Chibnall throws too much at viewers. Perhaps that’s down to the reduced episode count for the season. While it’s nice to have a singular seasonal arc, the countless plot threads feel too convoluted for my liking. Doctor Who excels when the story gets a chance to breathe, but we hardly have those moments to catch our collective breath.
Thus, the characters get sidelined in favor of nonstop action and sci-fi thrills. As much as I enjoy Dan, we still don’t know him, and, as far as I know, his tenure will end soon. The additions of Bel and Vinder feel like a futile attempt at injecting emotion into the story, a means of showing us the devastating consequences of the Flux.
We also don’t know why Grand Serpent infiltrated UNIT and collaborated with the Sontarans to destroy Earth. Sure, he might feel vengeful after what Vinder did to him, but Vinder’s not from Earth. His inclusion comes across as a plot device to facilitate the showdown as the Flux approaches Earth.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy some parts of it, i.e., seeing Kate Lethbridge-Stewart again and learning more about Awsok (until Swarm murders her needlessly).
Ready to delve into “Survivors of the Flux”? Let’s get to it.
We open with Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) trapped among the Weeping Angels as an Angel herself. Suddenly, the stone encasing her crumbles away. She wades through the crowd, tormenting them, and one whispers the Angels serve as “transport.”
But to where?
Next, in Mexico in 1904, Yaz (Mandip Gill), Dan (John Bishop) and Jericho (Kevin McNally) storm what appears to be a temple to retrieve a pot. Yaz hopes to have the said pot decoded for an undisclosed reason.
Meanwhile, the doc resumes her stone form, then winds up in front of an Ood. The Ood leads her to Awsok, an incarnation of Tecteun (Barbara Flynn), the older woman from earlier who works for Division.
Our adventurous trio lands in Constantinople to have the pot deciphered in the same in another scene year. According to Yaz, the world will end, and the artifact should reveal the “when” of it all.
Unfortunately, Yaz, Dan and Jericho flee because they smell dynamite burning. Later, they wind up on a ship, and we learn that December 5 is the date of the impending apocalypse. Suddenly, a man disguised as a waiter wanders into their quarters with tea, promptly striking Jericho. Yaz and Dan help subdue the man; however, the assailant commits suicide via a poisonous capsule.
Yaz pulls up his sleeve to reveal a serpent tattoo on the deceased’s wrist.
Meanwhile, in 1958 England, General Farquhar (Robert Bathurst) tells Grand Serpent (Craig Parkinson) about his objective — set up a task force dealing with supernatural threats to Earth (UNIT!). Farquhar asks GS to assist him with getting UNIT off the ground.
Yaz watches a hologram of the doc giving her advice regarding their potential separation. This moment smacks of sweetness, which is something we don’t get much of on Doctor Who: Flux. These scenes allowing us to breathe are few and far between.
Dan and Jericho return from disposing of the body, and Dan reassures Yaz that they’ll see the Doctor again. Awsok reveals little to the doc regarding where they are or “when” they are, but she does provide insight into Division’s beginnings.
Division began on Gallifrey to ensure the survival of time, and it now extends beyond the breadth of space and time. It’s omnipotent and omnipresent. Awsok tells the doc that Division itself isn’t in the universe, and we see it existing between galaxies.
Meanwhile, Vinder (Jacob Anderson) lands at the place wherein Bel sent him coordinates. He spots a bevy of people standing about in a daze, and Swarm (Sam Spruell) and Azure (Rochenda Sandall) are to blame for that. Swarm and Azure absorb the humans, and now they’re powerful enough to take on the doc.
Awsok tells the Doctor about her origins — “I’m the one who brought you to Gallifrey and raised you,” she says, revealing the doc called her “mother.” Plot twist!
Then, we see it’s 1967 in England, and General Farquhar and GS have officially kickstarted UNIT. Grand Serpent spots the doc’s TARDIS in Farquhar’s office, and we learn that UNIT plucked it from Medderton, which Farquhar converts into a military training area.
Farquhar tests a new device that detects non-human lifeforms on GS. Of course, he discovers that Grand Serpent is anything but human. GS kills Farquhar, and a serpentine creature emerges from the fallen UNIT general’s mouth.
Later, the Doctor learns that Awsok and Division implemented the Flux to keep our Time Lord in check. At that moment, Awsok uses the Flux to compress the universe while pushing into the next one. Awsok kidnapped the doc to ensure that the latter wouldn’t save the universe.
We get more backstory regarding the Doctor, discovering that Awsok found her, “the lost child,” on a deserted planet. According to her, the doc arrived through a wormhole, so Awsok rescued her and promptly erased her memories.
Next, Vinder, brandishing his weapon, encounters Swarm and Azure, who order Passenger to absorb him. While trapped inside Passenger, he finds Diane, Dan’s friend.
Then, Yaz, Dan and Jericho meet a Seer in Nepal. After the Seer jokes around with them, he imparts three words to our crew: “Fetch your dog.”
Thus, the trio winds up on the Great Wall of China, wherein they paint a message — “Karvanista! Dan is here – 1904! Fetch your human!”
Of course, Karvanista spots it while in space, but he can’t travel through time.
Meanwhile, the Doctor tries to persuade Awsok’s Ood to reveal a map of the universe. Our doc notices that the universe looks smaller than usual, and the Ood informs her that not much of it remains. She believes Earth will be the apex of the destruction, and, perhaps, what’s compressed can be “decompressed.” Suddenly, the doc pictures that dark, dilapidated house again, and we see a pocket watch with Gallifreyan etched across it.
In 1987 England, Grand Serpent meets with a UNIT man bound for retirement. GS wants to serve as Chair of the Oversight Committee for the organization, but the man refuses to promote him. Naturally, GS murders the man, because why not?
Yaz, Dan and Jericho return to the ship, disappointed that Karvanista hasn’t responded. Joseph Williamson (Steve Oram), the man from 1820s Liverpool who Dan met in the tunnels and Yaz on Atropos, emerges for some inexplicable reason. Dan tells the crew that, in 2021, the Williamson tunnels (created by Joseph) are in the process of excavation.
So, they travel to Liverpool and try to gain access to the said tunnels.
We see them wander through the tunnels, and they encounter Joseph Williamson therein. Yaz explains their mission to him — find out the exact date of the apocalypse and prevent it.
Awsok presents the doc with an ultimatum: she can return to a “dying” universe and risk death or rejoin Division and restore her memories. Awsok expresses willingness to leave Earth unharmed amid the Flux melee.
Plus, the next universe houses the wormhole through which the doc fell when she was a child.
Meanwhile, Grand Serpent meets with Kate Lethbridge-Stewart (Jemma Redgrave), but she’s researched him. Kate threatens to expose GS for who he is, and she’ll call for backup (the Doctor). Later, GS plants an explosive device in Kate’s flat, and we see her flee as it detonates. Kate contacts Osgood, informing the latter she’s “going dark” as she snaps her phone in half.
Later, Karvanista boards Bel’s ship and the pair shoot at each other. Lupari command discloses to Karvanista that they’re under attack. Joseph Williamson reveals a dozen doorways to different worlds while in the tunnels. Grand Serpent orders his forces to lower Earth’s defenses, and we see he’s chatting with the Sontaran commander.
Thus, the Sontarans attack Earth — they board Bel’s ship and find Yaz, Dan, Jericho and Joseph Williamson in the tunnels.
Swarm and Azure find the Doctor and Awsok via the psychic temporal bridge from consuming those humans. Swam brutally kills Awsok in front of the doc, then he threatens to do the same to our favorite Time Lord.
While “Survivors of the Flux” threw the universe into chaos with its head-spinning writing and a ton of story, it set the stage for what’s sure to be an intriguing finale, especially given that cliffhanger.
Will the Doctor restore her memories and remember Swarm’s identity and relation to her? How will our heroes escape the Sontarans? Could we see Osgood again? Here’s hoping these questions and more get answered next week!
The season finale of Doctor Who: Flux airs Sunday, December 5 at 8 pm, on your BBC America affiliate.
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