Julien Neaves, Sci Fi Head Writer
On October 31 we had the premiere of Doctor Who’s thirteenth series, The Halloween Apocalypse. It is Chapter One of the six-part interconnected series called “Flux”. And I was cautiously optimistic about it until I saw it was penned by outgoing showrunner Chris Chibnall. Ah crap.
With a Gallifrey-sized SPOILER ALERT let’s Allons-y, Geronimo and dive into it!
Let’s start with the positives first. I liked the opening sequence. It was fun, whimsical, action-packed and a visual effects bonanza. With half the regular number of episodes this series I suspect Chibnall is spending more on effects for each adventure. In terms of characters, I have never been a fan of Yaz (I ranked her the worst Modern Who companion) but she is improved in the premiere. Gone is the bland, exposition machine and in its place we have a more seasoned, been-there, done-that companion. She reminded me somewhat of how Agent J was in Men in Black II. Yaz is still not my favourite companion but I like what I am seeing so far. And speaking of companions, we have new guy Dan (John Bishop), a lovable unemployed bloke. I thought he was cool, bringing a similar everyman energy like Graham (miss you dude).
I also liked Karvanista, the gruff, condescending, dog-like Lupari warrior. When I first heard about him I was worried they would have gone the Chewbacca route but Karvanista is his own thing. His design was great and his acerbic personality was most entertaining. We had some other characters introduced, including Game of Thrones’s Jacob Anderson as remote outpost worker Vinder, but he was neither here nor there for me.
And continuing on the positives, we have a great new villain in the super creepy The Swarm. With his skeletal look and menacing demeanour I definitely want to see more of him and his equally creepy sister. The Thirteenth Doctor’s run has never been that great in terms of villains (the new Master is one of the few exceptions) but hopefully The Swarm can buck that trend. My only concern is him hinting he has been fighting the Doctor for a long time. So if he is a creature from the dawn of the universe, does that mean The Doctor is also from the dawn of the universe? It may play into the Timeless Child storyline (which was never addressed at all, mind you) but we will have to see. I do hope Chibnall does not go crazy with the retcons.
And that’s about it for the positives for me. The writing for the Doctor still was not very good. When she told Karvanista the Earth is protected by her it was played like a joke and had little to no assertiveness. Her overuse of the sonic screwdriver has long been a problem and went into overdrive this episode. At a point I was like, “Please put it away. Sheesh!” And despite all her talk of “fam” her relationship with Yaz has grown little and she continues to keep all her secrets to herself. If you are going to keep everything to yourself why even bother having a companion? And was I the only one annoyed with the way she kept hammering at the TARDIS? What the hell?! This is her beloved TARDIS. This is sexy. A sentient being. A little knock if fine but pounding on the console like you were trying to break a wall? Miss me with that crap.
And remember how in the Eleventh Series Chibnall decided not to bring back any familiar aliens or monsters? Well now we are fully on the flipside of that, with fan service galore! In one episode we had both a Weeping Angel and Sontarans. The Sontarans were okay and I liked the Classic design, though their inclusion seemed somewhat superfluous. But the Weeping Angel? Geez. First off, the angels block their eyes from EACH OTHER, not from other beings. So it would make ZERO SENSE for an angel to be blocking their eyes from that mystery woman who met the Doctor and Yaz in the past or the future or whatever. Does Chibnall even watch the show? And was I really supposed to be concerned about the fate of a character I know nothing about? Because I wasn’t.
And I know we have half the episodes this series but that doesn’t mean Chibnall had to stuff four different stories into one episode. It was just way too much. You had the Karvanista rescuing all the humans (which does not make much sense, but I can roll with it), you had the mystery of the Swarm, you had the Flux, you had the Weeping Angel, and the Sontarans. Talk about overkill. By the end I was mentally exhausted. It felt like they were throwing everything at the screen and hoping to distract from a pretty subpar story.
So while I liked a few things in The Halloween Apocalypse I think overall the overstuffed and messy narrative just did not work. And it has me concerned that the problems of the previous two series will continue to plague this final one. But who knows? I may be proven wrong and Chibnall may actually end strong. This is Sci Fi after all. Anything can happen.
But as far as The Halloween Apocalypse, despite Chibnall pulling out many tricks there are not enough treats to be had to make it anything more than a slightly above average episode.
Editor Jules’s Score: 6 out of 10
So how would you rate The Halloween Apocalypse? And you can check out more wibbly wobbly timey wimey content below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.