This review contains spoilers.
The penultimate episode of Doctor Who season 13 has arrived. ‘Survivors of the Flux’ is an episode that finally answers the season’s burning questions and sets up an epic finale.
The episode picks up with where we left; the Doctor frozen as a Weeping Angel being transported to the mysterious division (which was set up in last years ‘Fugitive of the Judoon’.)
Here, we finally get some answers to the mysteries of the season. We learn about the origin and purpose of the Flux and are properly introduced to Tecteun, the woman who found the Doctor.
I found this segment of the episode really engaging, it provides the whole Flux narrative with more shape and purpose, which I think will really be enhanced on rewatch. It also ties into the timeless child arc, a wise choice as now both narratives complement each other instead of competing for screen time.
Jodie also gets some proper good Doctor moments with Tecteun, it’s fascinating seeing her character and motives being judged by the woman who claims to have raised her. Altogether, this is a brilliant confrontation, made even better by the chaotic interruption of Swarm and Azure who I’m sure will be a highlight of next weeks finale.
Keeping in line with the series so far, there are of course countless other narratives fighting for your attention.
Yaz and Dan are once again separated from the Doctor and have been stuck in the past for over a year. Whilst their subplot is fun and gives them more independence it’s still regrettable that we haven’t really seen the TARDIS team together for a full season. I’m really hoping we get to see them altogether in next weeks finale.
Their subplot also ties into the mysterious victorian tunnel man; Joseph Williamson. It’s great to finally have some answers to this perplexing mystery, and knowing the reason behind his character has actually made me appreciate his inclusion in previous episodes. The fact that he is a real person who built underground tunnels for completely unknown reasons really fits well into Doctor Who and the idea to incorporate a real, yet relatively unknown mystery into the show, was genius.
The episode also sees the return of Jemima Rebecca Redgrave’s fan favourite character Kate Stewart and UNIT. Previously in season 11 we learned, the rather disappointing news, that UNIT had been disbanded, however here Chibnall shows us the reason for this.
Jemima Rebecca Redgrave returns as Kate Stewart. Image credit; [BBC]
To me this makes the whole era more connected and interesting, it really makes me wonder how much of the era had been planned in advance. Whilst Kate’s role in the episode is small, there is the promise of a larger part next week. So hopefully she will be able to interact with Jodie’s Doctor then.
It was also great to see UNIT throughout the years, you could sense that it’s something Chibnall cares about. His decision to show it being corrupted and disbanded from within, is really interesting and something we haven’t seen before with the organisation. Although I am worried that it won’t be built upon further, which would be a shame as it’s a really great idea.
Whilst this episode was very strong, the prominent issues with the season are still present. Bell and Vinder’s story still drags the series down and just doesn’t feel very Doctor Who-ey to me. It feels more like a generic Star Wars subplot which lacks the general quirkiness of the show.
Fortunately though, these subplots didn’t take up too much time in the episode, although hopefully that doesn’t mean it’ll take up even more time in an already busy finale.
The episode ends by teasing the Doctor (and the audience) with more timeless child revelations, giving the Doctor a choice to regain her memories or save the day. This in itself is a great dilemma for the Doctor and I’m sure she’ll sacrifice what she’s been looking for in order to save the universe.
However, I am slightly worried that she’ll gain her memory anyway, which I think would lessen the impact of any decision she makes. Whatever happens, we’ll just have to wait until next week to see.
Overall, I can see this series tying together very nicely. If Chibnall can carry it off then the serialised structure is definitely something that Russell T Davies should carry over into his new era. Although, the ability to be rewatched and the success of the season may depend on your enjoyment of the finale. If it’s satisfying then likely the whole season will only get better upon rewatch. But if it’s disappointing it may stain the previous episodes.
Image credit; [BBC]