REVIEW: ‘Doctor Who’ Season 13 – “The Halloween Apocalypse”

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The Halloween Apocalypse

Doctor Who is a long-running sci-fi series produced by BBC. The series begins the 13th series of its current iteration with an episode titled The Halloween Apocalypse. The executive producer is Chris Chibnall, who also is credited as the writer of the episode. It is directed by Jamie Magnus Stone. The Doctor is played by Jodie Whittaker, with Mandip Gil and newcomer John Bishop also included in the cast list. 

This is the first part of Doctor Who: Flux, as each episode of the season, is a chapter of one long story. The Doctor and Yaz and on their own after losing two companions. Working closer as a team, they track a foe across the universe, leading them back to Earth. In Liverpool, Dan Lewis is attacked and kidnapped in his home. And a universe-old threat is released in an action that may spell the end of everything.

Every first episode of a Doctor Who season has a sense of trepidation before it. But with Season 13, there feels like more than ever. A new plot concept, with the season-long narrative replacing the episodic adventures. A new companion and the end of Doctor’s run all begin here. Aside from a cold open, the opening act of the episode may appear slightly slow to some viewers. As Dan (Bishop) is introduced, the location around him is also explored. This is something that can be appreciated regarding Chibnall’s tenure as showrunner. Different parts of both England and the world are given love, with the charm of Liverpool shining through.

The biggest reason why the episode is slow to start is because of how much is set up. Several plot threads are started within The Halloween Apocalypse to foreshadow what is yet to come. They are implemented well, sporadic and mysterious. The velocity of the chapter does increase to a canter by the conclusion, leaving an unexpected ending with consequences never seen before in Doctor Who.

One of the most pivotal aspects of this episode is the introduction of a new companion. Comedian Bishop raised eyebrows when first announced, but roles in Skins and Route Irish detail an ability to act in dramatic roles. His first appearance as a TARDIS inductee, however, may leave some fans unconvinced. The character has an intriguing introduction, depicted as a helpful but penniless Scouser who adores his city. But once the sci-fi element gets involved, the performance can be stilted and lack real emotion. There’s no genuine excitement or fear, just a slightly higher-pitched voice. It is too early to place proper judgment, but improvements will need to be made.

For the other two lead characters, they have the opportunity to really shine in this season. The previous seasons featured three companions, harking back to the very early incarnations of the Doctor. But there is a danger of losing precious interactions between characters because of how many there are, and the writer then has to find things for all four to do. Yaz and the Doctor can be explored fully, and Chibnall does a brilliant job early in the season. Yaz is starting to doubt her friend, questioning decisions and even challenging her. It will be fascinating to see where this is taken as the stakes get higher.

The cinematography of The Halloween Apocalypse is gorgeous. The wide aspect ratio gives the audience a lot to take in, with slow camera movements showing the locations and sets. Arguably, Liverpool’s most famous landmarks, Anfield and the docks are shown in resplendent shots. Likewise, the CGI and VFX are impressive. When detailing space and cosmic events, it is awe-inspiring what the artists can create. But then there are times when a simple green screen of Dan at a window in the Liverpool Museum can look odd and unnatural. It is a bizarre inconsistency. The alien designs are also stellar, with some fantastic masks on display. One of them, however, exists to draw laughs from the audience instead of gasps.

The Halloween Apocalypse is the start of an epic adventure. A story of this scale has not been attempted in this modern era of Doctor Who. Blockbuster movies and two-parter episodes have come before, but not an adventure lasting a whole season. The excitement is palpable, with all of the pieces being set into motion. The events inside the first chapter leave the audience scrambling for clues as to what comes next. Both Whittaker and Gil return with energy, and their connection is superb. And whilst Bishop is likable as the new boy, more depth is required in both his performance and character for him to really shine.

The Halloween Apocalypse is available on BBC iPlayer in the UK and BBC America in the US. 


The Halloween Apocalypse
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

The Halloween Apocalypse is the start of an epic adventure. A story of this scale has not been attempted in this modern era of Doctor Who. Blockbuster movies and two-parter episodes have come before, but not an adventure lasting a whole season. The excitement is palpable, with all of the pieces being set into motion. The events inside the first chapter leave the audience scrambling for clues as to what comes next. Both Whittaker and Gil return with energy, and their connection is superb. And whilst Bishop is likable as the new boy, more depth is required in both his performance and character for him to really shine.