Monday, December 06, 2021

All Is Creation. All Is Change. All Is Flux. All Is Metamorphosis

'I can feel it all. I can feel the universe breaking.'
Unsurprisingly, dear blog reader, this blogger thought Flux was bloody great. Mostly. There were a couple of stray dangling plot threads which slightly flummoxed Keith Telly Topping and kept him awake, tossing, on Sunday night (which will be dealt with later in this bloggerisationism update you'll be happy to know). But, overall, that was a proper old-fashioned Doctor Who six-parter, that was. And one which didn't feature, as many Mister Pertwee and Big Mad Tom six-parters of Yore did, three-and-a-half episodes of escape-capture-escape-run-up-and-down-a-few-corridors-capture-escape malarkey. Neither, to be fair, did it include any Venusian aikido, jelly babies or a tin dog. So, you know, you win some, you lose some. ...
Flux, then? Well, firstly the cast was - pretty much uniformly - marvellous. I mean, anything on TV featuring a bunch of From The North favourites like Barbara Flynn, Craig Parkinson, Kevin McNally and Jemma Redgrave is, seemingly, doing most things right.
Plus, obviously Jodie, Mandip and large-toothed Cheeky-Chappie Scouse funster The Bish his very self (with his lethal wok) giving it the works across all six episodes. A story with this sort of oft-shifting focus and a series of scripts which dealt with a lot of complexity needed complete sincerity in the performances for the episodes to work and Flux certainly achieved that, if nothing else.
Indeed it achieved far more. In his, as usual excellent, review of the finale, The Vanquishers, in the Gruniad Morning Star, Martin Belam made a couple of observations which dovetail nicely with this blogger's own views on certain aspects of Flux's construction and conclusion. Other reviews are available although some of them missed the point entirely. Like this one, for instance. Den Of Geek, on the other hand, seemingly rather liked it. Although, they too had questions they wanted answering.
Firstly Balem's overview: '"What an awfully big adventure," said Kevin McNally's Professor Jericho as he faced certain death at the hands of either a Sontaran or the Flux, or possibly both simultaneously. And in fairness to executive producers Chris Chibnall and Matt Strevens, in pre-publicity they promised that Doctor Who: Flux was going to be an awfully big adventure. It was.' Spot on, that man.
Secondly, a fine summation of one of this blogger's favourite bits of the finale: 'One of the most powerful scenes was about the life on board the TARDIS we presumably won't ever see, as imprisoned together on the Sontaran ship, it slowly dawned on The Doctor that Karvanista used to be her companion and that she had broken his heart. They must have gone through many scenarios just like that which she can't remember. There's a spin-off waiting for Jo Martin (The Fugitive Doctor) and Craige Els' adorably grumpy space-dog character as her companion out there somewhere.' Once again, it would appear, he knows about that which he speak, this kid.
Unlike Martin who seemingly felt the series' ending may have had an aspect of The Unearned to it ('the climax of the Big Bad arc was essentially that an even Bigger Bad rocked up, said they were displeased with failure and bumped off Swarm and Azure with very little fanfare') this blogger didn't have any problems whatsoever with the, quite literal, deus ex machina appearance of Time. Killing The Doctor's enemies for no adequately-explained reason whilst she saved her friends (old and new) and what was left of the universe. Or, indeed, with The Doctor then putting aside her quest for her hidden memories and mysterious past lives ... or has she? Time will tell. It usually does.
Balem concluded his piece thus: 'Whether this episode is a storytelling success depends on what comes next. If the following three specials pick up the loose threads as we head towards this Doctor's regeneration, it may have worked as a springboard for those stories. If they don't and the end of the divisive Timeless Child arc is "The Doctor hides a fob watch inside the TARDIS and we never mention it again," that is rather more "OK, so what was the point of all that?"' I think that's a) damning a story which had vast ambition to it with somewhat faint praise and b) expecting disappointment where, up till now, none exists. The point of The Doctor's entire timeline from 1963 to date is one of constant - and often logic-defying - change. He was, once, an aged (probable) human from a civilisation in the far-future with a Time Machine that he invited but couldn't work properly (and, which his granddaughter named). Or, he stole it and ran away from his people. Or, he's an alien from a race which observes rather than interferes with time and takes a dim view of those that do want to go off exploring. Or, he works for a sinister group (or two) within that race which want him to interfere. He can only have one life (although he can 'rejuvenate' himself). Or, he can have thirteen lives. Or, twenty six. Or, maybe, everything we always thought we knew was wrong and he/she had been around since the dawn of time and has lived thousands of lives. Or, whatever Big Rusty decides will be the next complete change of direction in 2023. 'Change, my dear. And, it seems not a moment too soon.'
Ultimately, Flux was a critical nexus of post-2005 Doctor Who in all its many facets; Sontarans, Cybermen, Daleks, Ood, Weeping Angels, UNIT, scarecrows, Gallifreyan mind-melds, reversed polarities, temporal extractions, pseudo-historical and defiantly postmodernist futuristic adventure knitted together with many threads that, occasionally, threatened to become unravelled but held together to the end. It had some faux-naïf aspects to it (Bel and Vinder's story, for instance, was great up to the last episode, then it was all wrapped up a bit too neatly in just a couple of scenes) but it was elevated by its own certainty of purpose, creativity and generosity of spirit. Some people won't like it, of course (no shit? You think Keith Telly Topping?) and will almost certainly say so, loudly, to anyone that will listen (and, indeed, anyone that won't) on the Interweb. But, they're wrong. To repeat something this blogger wrote in the recent From The North 2021 TV Awards bloggerisationisms update, 'Wheel turns, civilisations rise ... but Doctor Who just keeps on going.'
Okay, to those couple of naughty dangly plot-threads, dear blog reader. Firstly, Claire Brown (the terrific Annabel Scholey). Did this blogger miss something important during the six episodes with regard to Claire's timeline or did it not make any flaming sense whatsoever? In the opening episode, she meets The Doctor and Yaz - from their point of view for the first time - yet she knows them ('Have we met?', 'Not yet ... in the past'). Then, she walks into an encounter with a Weeping Angel and ends up back in the 1960s with a 'with-it' haircut, Rubber Soul-style suede jacket, miniskirt and reddy-purple tights. Groovy. There, she runs into The Doctor again (in 1967) whilst doing psychic experiments with Professor Jericho. She subsequently watches the Professor, Yaz, Dan and Little Peggy (hang on, we'll be coming to her in a minute) get trapped in the early 1900s by the Angels scheming shenanigans. Left - presumably alone - in Medderton (that everyone in the village disappears on the night of 21 November is an fixed point in time, seemingly. Claire found it on the Interweb so it must be true), sometime later that year she reunites with the Professor, The Doctor and friends and joins them in Joseph Williamson's multi-dimensional time-tunnels, does considerable mental damage to the Sontarans saucy plans of universal domination before using a time-ring to escape. At which point Yaz indicates that The Doctor will be able to get Claire 'back to 2021.' Which they do (seemingly, having stopped off on the way so she can have her hair done to look more contemporary). Where, presumably, she will then meet The Doctor and Yaz again at Hallow'een near Anfield and the hole in the street where Dan's house used to be, have her run-in with The Weeping Angel and end up back in 1965 all over again.
In short, dear blog reader, isn't Claire (one of the best new Doctor Who characters in a decade or more and a potential companion of considerable promise) now simply stuck in a Chronic Hysteresis-style time-loop shuffling endlessly between 2021 and the Mid-Sixties? Or, did this blogger miss a line of dialogue somewhere which suggested a way that the loop would be broken by the events of the final episode?
And then there's Peggy (Poppy Polivnicki). Thrown back from 1967 to 1901 along with the Professor, Dan and Yaz she simply disappears at the end of Village Of The Angels and, again unless this blogger missed a line somewhere in episodes five or six, is never mentioned again. We know, from Mrs Hayward (Peggy's own aged self in the 1960s) that she will not be getting back to her own period for 'a very long time' and there's nothing in the story to suggest that she was part of The Doctor's 'I'll drop you here and you there and you there' TARDIS taxi service at the end of the series. But Peggy was ten years old in 1967. Stuck back in the 1900s one presumes that whilst the Professor, Dan and Yaz were wandering the world for three years trying to gain clues to get them back to The Doctor, Peggy was in England being looked after by ... someone? Who? In Survivors Of The Flux, we reach 1904 before the trio were able to access Williamson's labyrinth. Claire later shows up again but Peggy is, seemingly, forgotten about. So, have they all just pissed off and left a thirteen year old stuck half-a-century out-of-time without so much as a by-your-leave? It would certainly appear so. Again, unless this blogger missed a bit of exposition somewhere. All of which would be jolly irresponsible surrogate parenting if you ask me, dear blog reader.
So, that's about the size of it. A couple of knotty issues related to time notwithstanding (this is Doctor Who dear blog reader, it's always about time), it all worked out fine in the end. Mostly. The Doctor met her adoptive mum (who turned out to be One Bad Mother), exiled The Big Snake to a little rock in space, saw off The Sinister Siblings (well, she had a bit of help there, admittedly), let The Sontarans, Cybermen and Daleks have an 'uge, fek-off, punch-up whilst standing back with a smile on her face (always good for a laugh), dropped The Division into a well-deserved relegation from the Premiership to the Isthmian League, gave Dan something to do after he got bombed out on a second date with Diana and, last but by no means least, saved what was left of the universe. Again. Not bad for six week's work, frankly.
Next, dear blog reader, we all get to wait a few weeks until New Year's Day and a meeting with more sodding Daleks, seemingly. It would appear that, for all The Doctor's many abilities, she just can't get rid of those guys.