DISCLAIMER: This recap of the Doctor Who: Flux season finale episode “The Vanquishers” has spoilers. Proceed at your peril.
Welcome back, Whovians! Doctor Who: Flux reaches its climax with “The Vanquishers,” and to say it’s a bit of a bloated mess would be an understatement. While Jericho’s death strikes an emotional nerve and the Doctor and Yaz’s reunion hits a sweet spot, the rest of the outing feels stuffed to the gills with equal parts exposition and too much plot.
Doctor Who needs to return to centralized, concentrated storylines that solely focus on our favorite Time Lord. I like that everyone reunites in this episode, but it still doles out mental whiplash, in a way.
Jodie Whittaker shines in “The Vanquishers,” and I believe she’d soar with higher quality writing. But the clunkiness of that writing, notably in Doctor Who: Flux, bogs her down. Plus, the romantic hints between Yaz and the Doctor feel like baiting — I suppose we’ll see what happens.
Ready to delve into “The Vanquishers”? Let’s get to it.
After Swarm (Sam Spruell) and Azure (Rochenda Sandall) kill Tecteun, the Doctor (Whittaker) flees with the Ood. Meanwhile, Yaz (Mandip Gill), Dan (John Bishop), Jericho (Kevin McNally) and Joseph Williamson (Steve Oram) square off against a bevy of Sontarans in the tunnels. Thankfully, our humans’ ingenuity wards off the alien invaders.
Swarm and Azure locate the doc before she escapes. Williamson picks a door, and they all barrel through it, only to find a fiery hellscape awaiting them on the other side.
The Ood locates the TARDIS, but Swarm tries to persuade the Doctor to stay and explore her memories via the fob watch. Suddenly, the doc materializes on Bel’s (Thaddea Graham) ship, wherein Karvanista (Craige Els) also currently occupies.
Then, Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) finds Yaz, Dan, Jericho and Williamson in the tunnels. She introduces herself as the leader against the Sontaran occupation. The Doctor arrives in the tunnels, and she embraces Yaz and reunites with Kate. However, the doc keeps hopping about different spots in time and space.
We see that Azure holds the fob watch, teasing the doc with it. According to the Ood, the doc exists everywhere and nowhere — three doctors living in three places.
Next, the Sontaran Command announces to the universe that they’re willing to ally with all who succumb to Sontar’s rule. They even want to offer a truce to the Daleks and the Cybermen.
Meanwhile, on the ship with Bel and Karvanista, the doctor disengages it from the Lupari shield and crashes it into the “Dark Energy Camera,” a Sontaran base in Chile. Grand Serpent, a.k.a. Prentis (Craig Parkinson), works with the Sontarans. They seize the ship with the doc, Bel and Karvanista.
Azure opens the fob watch, and the Doctor returns to that dismal and bleak house. Swarm snaps his fingers, dismantling it and, in turn, destroying the doc. Thankfully, he reassembles it, which ensures the doc’s stabilization.
Williamson explains how he traveled between different worlds in the tunnels and built the tunnels around what he discovered. Kate tells the doc she wants undercover human operatives to infiltrate the Sontaran Psychic Command and glean information regarding their plans.
Sontarans utilize corner shops, notably Liverpool, to conduct meetings and implement their strategies. The Doctor, Dan and Yaz confront one chocolate-loving Sontaran and strike a deal. If she hands over two humans to the Sontaran Psychic Command, she’ll give the cocoa fiend all the chocolate at which he can shake a stick.
Later, the Doctor, Yaz, Dan and Jericho find Claire (Annabel Scholey), rescuing her from 1967 and returning to 2021. She agrees to undergo whatever psychic experimentation the Sontarans have in store alongside Jericho.
Prentis and the Sontarans capture the doc and Karvanista, imprisoning them together. The doc uncovers a memory featuring Karvanista — they were close friends at another time. Karvanista explains that he was her companion, and he loved her dearly. However, he possesses a synaptic collider implant in his brain, and, should he divulge any Doctor-related memories, that implant releases poison that can kill him in seconds.
We see the doc, Swarm, Azure and the Ood back in Division headquarters. Azure reveals the Ravagers’ motivation for harnessing the Flux. It’s payback for what the doc and Division did to Swarm and Azure, but, of course, our Time Lord doesn’t remember anything.
So, they want control over the final Flux event, thereby releasing time when it all ends at Atropos. Then, since the doc fears the destruction of all things, Swarm and Azure want her to watch the Flux on a constant loop for all eternity.
Meanwhile, the doc meets Prentis, who, along with the Sontarans, takes her away for interrogating. Bel, hiding in the shadows, observes it all playing out.
Then, Vinder (Jacob Anderson) and Diane (Nadia Albina) look frantically for an escape route while trapped inside Passenger. Diane points out what appears to be a puddle — bio-form — which gives them a glimpse into Passenger’s internal tech systems. Vinder shoots at it, disrupting the bio-form, giving the pair a means of egress. They wind up outside of Passenger successfully.
Claire and Jericho reach the Sontaran Psychic Command, and we learn more about the reasoning for needing two humans. The Sontarans want to know the exact coordinates of the final Flux event, when it will happen, and where. They proceed to inject Jericho and Claire with a “psychic load.”
Prentis interrogates the doc, asking her about Kate Stewart’s location. The Doctor attempts to guess Prentis’s identity, but another doc lands in the TARDIS before she hits the mark entirely. She barges out, freezing Prentis with her sonic screwdriver and shifting a painful locking device on him.
Next, both Doctors reunite with Bel while Sontaran soldiers shoot at them. Dan finally “fetches” his dog, breaking Karvanista out of his cell.
Everyone scrambles into the TARDIS, including both docs.
While onboard, everyone watches the Sontarans’ offer of peace to the Daleks and Cybermen. The three Doctors psychically link, and we discover that the TARDIS can’t decode the Flux structure fully because Division created it outside of the universe.
After increasing the psychic load on Claire, the Sontarans snag the coordinates for the final Flux event. Sontaran Command orders the fleet to vacate Outpost Earth. Meanwhile, Vinder contacts the doc, asking her to lock on his and Diane’s signal. Bel hears Vinder, and she’s eager to reunite with him.
Passenger reabsorbs Vinder and Diane before they complete their call. Kate also reaches out to the doc, citing that the “doors are acting funny.” Thus, both docs divide the workload among the TARDIS occupants. Prentis searches relentlessly for Kate, and he murders an innocent man after learning she’s in the Williamson tunnels.
The Doctor urges Williamson to return to his home in the 19th century, ushering him through the right door. The Ood tells the doc her existence “is becoming too unstable” at the Division headquarters. She’s stretched between three different planes.
The last piece of the Flux puzzle plays out while the TARDIS lands outside of Passenger. Then, it flies inside the endless prison, and the doc ushers Vinder and Diane within the TARDIS quickly before something wonky unfolds.
Vinder finally reunites with his baby mama and love, Bel. Dan and Diane hug it out as well. The two docs surmise that the Sontarans staged the truce meeting with the Daleks and Cybermen to lure them into a trap. Since anti-matter devours matter, the Sontarans will sacrifice their enemies to the Flux to save their skins. Then, they’ll employ the Lupari shield, now devoid of Luparis, to protect themselves.
Yes, the Sontarans eradicated Karvanista’s race.
Meanwhile, Swarm and Azure plan to sacrifice the doc to their “Savior” on Atropos — Time. We see Team TARDIS split into two groups: Yaz, the doc, Dan and Diane versus Vinder, Bel, the doc and Karvanista.
Claire utilizes a ring to transport her onto the TARDIS, but Jericho, unfortunately, zaps his.
Then, in deep space, we see Karvanista, Bel and the doc take on the Sontarans. Daleks and Cybermen appear to engage in peace talks; however, the encroaching Flux kills them swiftly. Karvanista appears on the Sontaran Command comms, and we see Vinder destroying those communication systems. In seconds, the Flux will suck the Sontarans into its gravitational pull.
Doc urges Jericho to take a transport pod, but Jericho feels it’s too late for that. He dies a hero with the Sontarans, as all fall no thanks to the Flux.
The two docs notice that extra Flux energy remains, so Diane proposes using Passenger to absorb what’s left.
Thankfully, Passenger “hoovers” up the Flux in no time flat.
Later, Swarm, Azure and the doc arrive at Atropos, and the “Savior,” a.k.a. Time, materializes. Unfortunately, the Flux failed; ergo, the Ravagers failed miserably. Thus, Time slaughters Swarm and Azure as punishment. Then, it transforms into the Doctor. We see our doc snag the fob watch.
“Your time is heading to its end,” Time warns. Time (as the doc) mentions the phrase, “and their Master,” making us believe we could potentially see the Master again.
The Savior restores the doc to her singular form. Vinder tracks down Prentis in the tunnels, but the latter doesn’t remember him. Kate appears, asking Prentis to open “door seven.” Prentis wanders out of the door and onto a single rock in the desolation of space.
Karvanista ventures off, begrudgingly, with Vinder and Bel while the Doctor, Yaz and Dan take Claire and Kate home.
Later, Dan gives an unauthorized tour at the Liverpool museum again, mentioning the Williamson tunnels. He tells Diane he booked a table for dinner that night, but she declines his offer, citing that he was late for their previous date.
Dan leaves forlornly, stumbling into the parked TARDIS outside. The doc and Yaz urge him to join them on their next grand adventure. While Dan searches for his room aboard the TARDIS, the Doctor apologizes to Yaz for withholding secrets from her. She wants to tell Yaz everything, but Dan interrupts before the conversation turns for the potentially romantic.
The doc procures the fob watch from her pocket, enticed by it. However, instead of opening it and diving into her repressed memories, she conceals it in the TARDIS in a place she’ll never find.
Overall, Doctor Who: Flux has two solid outings — “Village of the Angels” and “War of the Sontarans” — amid a jam-packed mess of too much plot and too little attention on the Doctor. Here’s hoping the upcoming specials give Whittaker the send-off she deserves and, perhaps, offer us a chance to breathe.
On your BBC America affiliate, Doctor Who will return for its New Year’s Day special “Eve of the Daleks,” airing on Saturday, January 1, 2022.
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