Doctor Who is back and bigger than ever in the form of a six part serial called ‘Flux’. The 13th series premiered on Halloween with the appropriately titled ‘Halloween Apocalypse’ and follows the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), Yaz (Mandip Gill) and new companion Dan (John Bishop) as they discover the mysterious entity called the Flux.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic the series is shorter than usual, with all six episodes being penned by showrunner Chris Chibnall (Broadchurch) and one being co-written by series regular Maxine Alderson.
Chibnall has been a controversial showrunner to say the least and to me has struggled to make the show interesting, however so far he seems to be benefitting from the serialised format, with episode one getting us off to an intriguing and explosive start.
The episode starts with the Doctor and Yaz travelling together after the departure of companions Graham and Ryan. Due to having fewer companions, Yaz gets a lot more to do and has started to develop a more tense and personal relationship with the Doctor, which just wasn’t possible in the overcrowded TARDIS of the past two seasons.
Jodie’s Doctor has also completely come into her own and shines throughout the episode, giving off a chaotic authority that was somewhat lacking in the two previous seasons. She gets plenty of good moments and thankfully hasn’t been sidelined to spouting exposition as previously was the case. I’m hopeful that this series will truly let her leave her mark on the role.
The inclusion of John Bishop’s Dan is a welcomed addition and allows for fresh chemistry that we haven’t had in this era; Yaz in particular is able to show him the ropes, showcasing her own development. Dan is a lot more charming than either Graham or Ryan were in my opinion, he gives off an every man vibe and a friendliness that has been desperately lacking in the TARDIS. He’s a lot more humorous and accepting than other companions, so meeting the Doctor and entering the TARDIS is done differently than before and doesn’t feel like treading over old ground. If anything he’s not in the episode enough, it’s the first time since the revival where a companion isn’t the main focus of their first episode, so I’m hoping he gets more to do in the next installments.
As can be expected, the episode also features a slew of new and iconic monsters, which made for appropriate Halloween viewing. From the terrifying Weeping Angels, to a giant Dog creature called the Karvanista and the new creepy villains the Swarm. The new creatures are definitely all memorable, the costumes, makeup and effects are all outstanding. It’s also refreshing to have a new big bad in the form of the Swarm instead of just reusing the Daleks and the Master for the 100th time.
The episode on a whole is a vast improvement from series 11 and 12; it’s visually stunning and ambitious, having ditched the overreliance on lens flares and realism which hindered the previous episodes and it generally has a clearer, more adventurous tone, which was lacking.
Whilst Segun Akinola’s music still isn’t as exciting or memorable as Murray Gold’s, it does the job and doesn’t sound as out of place as it did previously.
The main fault with the episode is that it’s just so busy. There are about six different story threads, some of which are irrelevant to the main story and don’t go anywhere at all. I can only assume that they’ll all tie together throughout the season, but for the first episode it can definitely leave you feeling confused when a random Victorian and his underground tunnel appear at the beginning and end, with no real context. However, at the very least it got me asking questions and made me excited for the next episode in a way previous series openers haven’t.
In short; it wasn’t boring, it felt fresh and exciting in a way the show hasn’t for me in some time. Although, as stated, it was very busy with several plot threads being left unanswered and often feeling irrelevant to the episode, however I’m sure these will tie together and form a satisfying story come the finale. But if episode one is anything to go by then this may be Whittaker’s best season yet and will certainly be worth a watch- even if you didn’t find yourself enjoying series 11 and 12.
Featured Image credit;[BBC]