REVIEW: ‘Doctor Who,’ Season 13 Episode 5 — “Survivors of the Flux”

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“Survivors of the Flux” - But Why Tho

“Survivors of the Flux” is episode 5 of Doctor Who Season 13. Doctor Who is a science-fiction show created by the BBC, existed for over 50 years. The current showrunner is Chris Chibnall, who has also written the episode. Directed by Azhur Saleem. The titular character is played by Jodie Whittaker, with Mandip Gill and John Bishop as her companions.

This is the fifth part of Doctor Who: Flux, a series-long story playing out in several chapters. Ancient beings were released from captivity, unleashing the Flux. This has ravaged the universe, compressing space and time together. The Doctor, Yaz, and Dan have been dragged across time and space as the cosmos is torn apart. They were lured to a village in Devon, infested with Weeping Angels. The companions were captured and sent fifty years in the past, whilst the Doctor tried to protect a woman from the immortal creatures. But the angels weren’t here for the woman, it as a trap for the Doctor. Surrounded by Angel and in front of her friends, the Doctor was turned into an Angel. And traveling a broken universe, Bel landed on a patchwork planet, where the last survivors of the Flux were tricked into believing Swarm and Azure were benevolent gods.

Since Flux erupted, Earth has been protected by the Lupari, who have formed a protective shield around the planet that has stopped the effects of the force from disrupting it. But now the Grand Serpent has arrived. Exposed by Bel’s life partner Vinder in a previous episode, he clearly has an elaborate and evil plan. That involves traveling through time and a powerful human organization. Stuck at the beginning of the 20th Century, Yaz, Dan, and Professor Jericho are searching for answers to another mystery. This will take them across the Earth, but the answer may be closer to home. And The Doctor has been recalled by her old bosses, the Division. Here she discovers her role in the Flux, what the Division’s role is, and just how much of her past has been kept from her.

If viewers thought the previous episodes of this season of Doctor Who was loaded with content, then “Survivors of the Flux” will blow their mind further. There is so much within 50 minutes, and yet every part of it is captivating. There is the current plot that depicts a universe having its last breath, and those fighting to survive inside it. The ever-increasing pressure shows that there is nowhere to run. Even Earth, the last remaining stronghold, is now at risk. A brand new avenue of danger has emerged. And then there is the plotline with the Doctor. The information discussed changes the history of the character, the universe, the entire concept of the show forever. Everything that we know about Doctor Who ends here.

Chibnall’s structuring of this story is incredible. Famous for his work on detective drama Broadchurch, Flux is how he was meant to write Doctor Who. The mystery started from one opening event and has since exploded into several facets. The audience will forget a character, only for their role to be vital for our main characters’ journey. Or they are pilot fish for something more dangerous. This universe, though it is shrinking, feels full and gigantic If the universe is ending, its demise has been beautifully captured. There is a sense of adventure in Yaz and Dan’s story and it is incredibly fun. The ending is dramatic and intense.

The characters of this series have been rich and powerful, with performances that make the audience fall in love. Still separated across space, Bel (Thaddea Graham) and Vinder (Jacob Anderson) have infectious personalities, both action heroes who remain defiant to the end Their story is lovely and heartbreaking. These two are the only focal characters that have seen the catastrophic damage that Flux has caused. Three main villains have made their presence known in this season. As Swarm, Sam Spruell should be commended. Covered from head to toe in a restrictive set of prosthetics and costumes, Warm has remained an insidious threat, as has his wife Azure, played by Rochenda Sandall.

The Grand Serpent was seemingly a side character in Vinder’s backstory. And yet Craig Parkinson has revived him in this issue to make an unsettling villain with a sci-fi twist. And finally, Barbara Flynn’s mysterious character appears to make the Doctor shake in her rainbow braces. In addition, this episode continues the exciting tradition of including a classic monster with each passing chapter. This time, it is the turn of the Ood, a fantastically designed and much-loved creature.

As for The Doctor, Whittaker is phenomenal again. Stuck in a room, talking hundreds of lifetimes worth of exposition and discussing the end of a universe. And yet, Whittaker still laces her dialogue with defiance and hope and power. The sincerity is clear, and the performance is amazing.

The locations and the cinematography continue to be impressive in “Survivors of the Flux”. As Yaz, Jericho and Dan travel across the globe, there are a whole host of cities, landmarks, and areas of interest. The practical sets have a sense of life, whether they exist in 1901 or in 2021. What the cinematographer does fall victim to is the stereotypical filter with which certain nations are shot. Both Mexico and Constantinople in Turkey are overly yellow in their color, which is a tiring trope.

“Survivors of the Flux” is both fun and mesmerizing. As the season nears its conclusion, Every story thread has become vitally important. Doctor Who has never had so much happening within single episodes before and the sci-fi show has had the limits of its potential tested. Just one of these threads would be enough for a previous episode. What Chibnall has created here is an epic. 

“Survivors of the Flux” is available on BBC iPlayer and on BBC America.


Doctor Who,' Season 13 Episode 5 — "Survivors of the Flux"

TL;DR

“Survivors of the Flux” is both fun and mesmerizing. As the season nears its conclusion, Every story thread has become vitally important. Doctor Who has never had so much happening within single episodes before and the sci-fi show has had the limits of its potential tested. Just one of these threads would be enough for a previous episode. What Chibnall has created here is an epic.