Julien Neaves, Sci Fi Head Writer
So I’ve been seeing fan and critic reviews on the recently completed Series 13 of Doctor Who also known as The Flux (or if you’re Jodie Whitaker, “The Floox”) and I’m kinda shocked by how mixed they are. There seems to be as many people praising it as bashing it. Now I have been highly critical of the Chibnall era (and justly so I might add) but I have no qualms in admitting that The Flux was by far his best series and a welcome return to form for the show.
My theory is that some fans had gotten so used to excoriating Chibnall and his subpar writing/showrunning that it’s hard to break the habit. And some may genuinely dislike it, taste being relative and all that. But I am here to give four reasons why The Flux is easily the best work Chibs has done as both writer and showrunner. With a Gallifrey-sized SPOILER ALERT let’s dive into it:
Reason #1 Tighter Writing
The writing this series was so vastly improved this series at points I wondered if it was actually Chibnall who penned the stories (he wrote each episode, with Maxine Alderton of The Haunting of Villa Diodati co-writing the awesome Village of the Angels). Now they aren’t all winners. The Halloween Apocalypse is way too bloated and directionless and Once, Upon Time is a tad too exposition heavy. But everything else ranges from decent to excellent. Both War of the Sontarans and Village of the Angels are easily Chibnall’s two best episodes ever and two of the best of the franchise. In fact, they were both so high quality that I was like, “Dang Chibs! Where you been hiding this writing all this time?”
In terms of the story arc and lore the Flux wasn’t the most interesting universe-ending device and the whole Timeless Child/Division/alternate universe lore is somewhat messy. But even with these issues the writing overall still gets a thumbs up from me.
Reason #2 Improved Companions and Doctor
The companions this series were SO much better. I previously ranked Yaz as the worst modern Who companion ever because she was utterly bland and uninteresting. But Series 13 Yaz is thankfully improved, feeling very comfortable in the seasoned, been-there-done-that companion role. She’s still not a Top 10 companion but at least she was more assertive and entertaining. And then we have Dan. Man I loved Dan from the word go. I loved his laid back, quipping, everyman energy and he made every scene he was in that much better. His bickering with his “dog” Kavarnista and clobbering a Sontaran with a cooking pot being highlights.
And speaking of Kavarnista, the grumpy Lupari was such a wonderful addition, his acerbic attitude and shoot-first-ask-questions-later being a perfect balance to the chipper, (mostly) pacifistic Doctor. Professor Jericho was also a strong temporary companion with his thirst for knowledge and caring nature. And I was actually sad when he bit the big one. Vinder and Bel were okay but ultimately didn’t feel overly necessary. And it’s always great seeing Kate Stewart again.
On the Doctor herself, I thought the writing was way more consistent and better resembled the character we all know and love. We saw a lot more of her taking control and solving problems rather than being overly dependent on her “fam”. And Jodie seemed to be having fun with the lighter moments, like her pretend blinking to a Weeping Angel and flirting with herself in the finale. More of this Doctor for the specials please.
Reason #3 Way Better Villains, Old and New
One of the finest feathers in the Flux’s cap is the villains, both old and new. Chibnall’s run has not had the best bad guys. Series 11 had the visually interesting but otherwise super generic Tzim-Sha, and other than a great new Master and the Lone Cyberman in Series 12 it was pretty meh in terms of baddies. But Series 13? Chibs pulled out all the stops.
I would not have believed if I had not seen it myself but they made the Sontarans feel like an actual threat while still balancing the comedic elements of the species. And the line about their arch nemesis the Rutans made my lore-loving heart smile. Somebody’s been doing their homework. After the potato heads Chibnall brought back the Weeping Angels and actually made them terrifying again. Now I enjoyed Moffat’s run but he did the Lonely Assassins dirty and with each appearance they were less and less scary. Making the Statue of Liberty an Angel was the nadir of his depiction of these chilling foes. But Village of the Angels brought back the dread and fright of Blink and finally did them justice. I mean, it’s not as perfect as Blink, but then again what is? And the climax of Village where the Doctor turns into an Angel was so awesome. Too bad they had to undermine that by undoing it five minutes into the next episode. #justsaying. And he overdid it somewhat with the Angels hiding their faces though. #justsayingtoo
I also thought the new villains were very well done. The Swarm and Azure were such gloriously over the top big bads with super cool designs. They went a bit James Bond over-monologuing and not killing at the end there but other than that I liked them. But even better was the Grand Serpent. With a disgustingly haughty appearance and an X-Files worthy ability of projecting his symbiotic species into someone to horrifically kill them GS made for quite the memorable foe. I enjoyed him so much I didn’t even mind him making the UNIT dating controversy even more murky.
Reason #4 A Satisfying Finale (Mostly)
Chibnall has not had a good track record with series finales. The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos tried to be epic but ended up anticlimactic. And The Timeless Children practically split the fanbase with its major canon retcon. But he does much better with The Vanquishers. The lore is probably the weakest aspect. Tecteun got disintegrated in the penultimate episode and neither her brief appearance/exposition nor the Division reveal felt all that impactful. I really couldn’t bring myself to care. At least he confirmed the “Ruth” Doctor (or I guess the Division Doctor is more apt) is a past incarnation and not a future one. I’m still hoping she’s between the Second and Third Doctors. Moving on.
But other than the lore stuff I had fun with the finale. The three Doctors was a cool device and both the telepathic “contact” and the death foreshadowing were welcome callbacks. And the solving of the Flux problem worked for me. Sure it was super quick but that’s classic Who right there. The only issue I had with the finale is the companions felt somewhat underutilised. And could “Time” have taken a more interesting form than the Swarm and then the Doctor? I guess it’s better than a frog.
But in the end I enjoyed this finale and Flux overall. Let’s see if the quality bump continues for the upcoming three specials.
So what did you think of The Flux? 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.