DISCLAIMER: This recap of the Doctor Who: Flux episode “War of the Sontarans” is riddled with spoilers. Proceed at your peril.
Welcome, Whovians! This latest Doctor Who outing offers more consistency than last week’s premiere. While “The Halloween Apocalypse” felt too jam-packed with plot points and introduced too many characters, “War of the Sontarans” ushers in familiar foes and a better sense of control over the proceedings.
It’s not the best Doctor Who installment by any means, but it feels like the show is returning to form, and that excites me. Dan makes for a fun addition to the series and Team TARDIS.
Ready to delve into “War of the Sontarans”? Let’s get to it. SONTAR-HA!
We open with the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) in a dream sequence of sorts. She spots a massive, dilapidated house protruding from a pool of water.
Suddenly, she wakes up on a snow-covered battlefield. Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Dan (John Bishop) emerge from the wreckage since the TARDIS crashlanded in an undisclosed location. Mary Seacole (Sara Powell) finds our wayfaring trio.
We learn Team TARDIS arrived in 1855 amid the Crimean War. However, the British forces aren’t fighting the Russians — they’re battling the menacing Sontarans.
Meanwhile, Vinder (Jacob Anderson) wakes up on a mysterious ship. A floating, sentient diamond called a Priest Triangle repeatedly asks him if he can make repairs. On what, well, that remains an enigma.
Dan and Yaz vanish before the Doctor’s eyes, and she believes it’s a mixture of the Flux and vortex energies. So, now the companions are falling through time and space. The Doctor urges Yaz to hold tight — she’ll come to the rescue soon.
Then, we see Dan returns to Liverpool in the present. Of course, his house is still missing. Well, it’s in miniature form on the TARDIS. He notices a massive ship looming over his neighborhood, and a slew of Sontarans chase him through a darkened alleyway.
That is until two figures knock the Sontarans unconscious. We see they’re Dan’s parents, and they’ve got a frying pan. Doctor Who blesses us with the time-honored tradition of implementing household appliances as weapons.
Yaz winds up on the same vessel as Vinder, but she encounters the man from 1820s Liverpool. As per usual, this man speaks in riddles and evasive language. She tries to follow him, but he declines the company. Yaz peers down at a message scrawled in pen on her hand: “WWTDD,” or “What would the Doctor do?”
Meanwhile, the Doctor pops into Mary’s hotel, where she meets the general of the British army. According to him, there is no Russia in this timeline — only Sontar. The Sontarans have always been on Earth. Mary sneaks the Doctor into a back room, wherein she tends to a Sontaran soldier. Mary discovers that Sontarans only rest for roughly seven minutes every 27 hours.
The Doctor attempts to interrogate the Sontaran but to no avail. So, she switches tactics; she reveals she knows the location of the infamous Doctor and will disclose that info to the Sontaran commander. Naturally, this potential truth bomb changes the Sontaran’s tune.
Much to the general’s dismay, the Doctor and Mary release the Sontaran soldier and follow him to the Sontaran encampment. The Doctor asks Mary to hide within the base and observe, taking notes.
We see the Sontaran commander execute the lone soldier, even after the latter reveals the British know where the Doctor is.
Next, Dan and his parents drive to the Sontaran headquarters in Liverpool. It appears to be a naval shipyard. Dan decides to infiltrate it, so his parents arm him with their frying pan. The Sontarans have a small, circular opening near the bottom of their helmets that incapacitates them when receiving blunt force trauma.
Then, Yaz encounters Vinder in the Temple of Atropos on the planet Time, wherein beings known as the Mouri reside. The Mouri guard and regulate the flow of time in the universe. However, things are a bit wibbly-wobbly for the Mouri, as two of them appear to be malfunctioning.
Dan watches on while the Sontarans brutally slaughter three human trespassers, firing-squad style. He records the shipyard on his phone for the Doctor to view later.
Later, the Doctor activates a signal from her sonic screwdriver, one that alerts the Sontaran commander. She meets with him, reveals she’s the Doctor and demands he and his forces evacuate Earth immediately. Unfortunately, Sontar is here to stay, so the Crimean War rages. The British army general brandishes a gun at the Doctor’s head and orders a soldier to escort the Doctor off the field.
Suddenly, we see the British forces and the Sontarans engage in another battle.
Dan scrambles onto a Sontaran ship unseen, while Swarm (Sam Spruell), Azure (Rochenda Sandall) and the Passenger arrive at the Temple of Atropos. Mary and the Doctor board a Sontaran vessel in 1855, and we see the Sontarans decimate the British army on the battlefield.
Dan gains access to the control room and inadvertently contacts the Doctor while she’s in the past. The Doctor breaks into his phone to view the footage he recorded. She assigns him the task of ridding Liverpool of Sontarans. The Doctor believes the war-hungry alien race wishes to infiltrate every period on Earth.
Unfortunately, a Sontaran catches Dan, but our newest companion manages to knock the extraterrestrial unconscious with his frying pan. A slew of soldiers corner Dan, though.
Vinder and Yaz meet Swarm and Azure in the temple, and it’s not a fun meeting, to be sure. Swarm chokes Yaz and Vinder tries to shoot him, but he teleports from place to place in the temple, missing every blast.
Meanwhile, Karvanista (Craige Els) swoops in and saves Dan from a Sontaran death. After the British army’s latest defeat, the Doctor reveals the new game plan to Mary and the general. During those seven-ish minutes, the Sontarans rest and recharge; the Doctor will release the alien race’s valuable resources into the atmosphere, depleting their energy. We see her do just that.
Next, Karvanista hatches a strategy to wipe out the Sontarans forces in Liverpool. He’ll control their ship to crash through the other Sontaran vessels in the shipyard, thereby facilitating a temporal disruption. While this transpires, Dan and Karvanista will flee through a chute.
The Sontaran commander vows to leave Earth after the Doctor purposely diminishes their resources. We see Karvanista’s plan work too, and the Sontaran ships explode.
Unfortunately, the British general interrupts the Sontarans departing Earth by lighting their fleet on fire. It’s compensation for all of the human lives lost that day. However, the Doctor’s not a fan of this move. The TARDIS emits a noise, and the Doctor’s ship finally reveals the entrance again.
The Doctor returns to present-day Liverpool, where she finds Dan and Karvanista. She asks Karvanista to continue protecting Earth while she hunts for Yaz. Dan and the Doctor enter the TARDIS and spot a series of crystalline-like protrusions covered in black goo.
They arrive at the Temple of Atropos, where the Doctor encounters Swarm and Azure. She sees Yaz and Vinder situated among the Mouri, replacing the two defective ones from earlier. Swarm reveals that once he snaps his fingers, time will flow through Yaz and Vinder, effectively ripping their bodies apart.
The episode ends right before Swarm’s countdown finishes.
Talk about a cliffhanger! Yaz and Vinder’s lives hang in the balance, but, of course, the Doctor will save the day — somehow. Swarm and Azure prove to be utterly terrifying Whoniverse villains, and only time will reveal how Swarm connects with the Doctor’s storied past.
Here’s hoping the show raises the bar in consistency, quality writing and excellent performances for Jodie’s final hurrah.
Doctor Who airs Sundays at 8 pm on your BBC America affiliate.