REVIEW: ‘Doctor Who,’ Season 13 Episode 6 – “The Vanquishers”

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The Vanquishers

“The Vanquishers” is the title of the final episode of Doctor Who Season 13, the sci-fi show created by the BBC. The series is currently written by Chris Chibnall, who also penned this episode—directed by Azhur Saleem. The Doctor is played by Jodie Whittaker, with Mandip Gill and John Bishop as her companions.

In the final chapter of Doctor Who: Flux, the title character has been split into three versions of herself. One is on Earth, in the Williamson Tunnels underneath Liverpool. Here there are doorways to other points in space and time. Another is on the Sontaran, and Lupari ships as their grand plan comes to fruition. And the last one is trapped at Division at the end of the universe as Swarm prepares the end of everything. Her allies are scattered, some in separate universes. The first Time Lord must face time itself.

This last chapter has an enormous task to fulfill. There are many subplots, character arcs, and a universe to end all within one episode. Chibnall does not complete this flawlessly, but the result is undoubtedly ambitious. Structured around the Doctor’s three placements, the first half, “The Vanquishers,” is slightly too broken up. The exposition running through all three is too much, and the audience can get lost within the sheer amount of content being thrown at them. But there is a point where this chapter turns a corner. The pressure kicks in, and there are stakes upon stake upon stakes. The action is thrilling, and the script narrows. The mysteries that have left us grasping for answers begin to be answered.

The battlefield is shrinking, but the scale is constantly getting more significant. And the various plans are grinding together like gears. The Sontarans and Azure, and Swarm have separately got machinations that are epic in their execution. But there is also something this episode contains that is vital to every great Doctor Who adventure: heart. The thrill from the final battle is exhilarating because the characters are so cherished and liked. And even as it ends, we are left if more burning, troublesome queries.

The characters and their writing are sometimes better than what their performances denote. Bishop has been averagely playing Dan this season, not even doing a masse amount within the adventure. And yet, the character is likable, and we are left feeling sorry for him. But other characters have been beautifully portrayed. Yaz has been on the fringes of the story too, but she is a remnant of the previous series that the audience adores. Both Jacob Anderson and Thaddea Graham have been shining lights every time they’ve appeared, with a heartwarming and investing combined arc. Vinder is given a brilliant monologue at the end of the episode that serves as redemption for his pain. 

It is not only the humanoid characters who have been excellently written and performed. Karvanista, an alien with a ridiculous design and costume, will end Doctor Who: Flux being adored. He has such depth and pain inside of him, secrets that tie him to the Doctor long before the first episode of the season. Stuffed inside a dog mask, Craige Els is exceptional. It is also great to see the Sontarans being given a role as a primary and dangerous antagonist. Often the third in the hierarchy of Who Monsters, they are given an awesome ending by Chibnall. Although, there are lines that other creatures utter at this moment that will annoy some viewers.

But it is Whittaker who shows off why she was chosen to lead the line of this show. So much of this episode is centered on her and in three places at once. Whittaker is fantastic at delivering lengthy periods of dialogue. She has infectious, lovable energy but a fierce fury that can disarm any who face her. An interrogation scene between the Grand Serpent and the Doctor quickly becomes from of the greatest scenes containing this regeneration. The Doctor flips the tables on her enemy in a superb exchange and display of power. Whittaker’s time is ending soon, and she will be dearly missed. 

Comments by this reviewer have been made regarding the CGI at points during this season. But when it matters, the designs are outstanding. The finale of this giant event and this episode of “The Vanquishers” is a massive, genuinely magnificent space battle. Dozens of ships, all pertinent and correct for respective races, the spectacle is jaw-dropping. As the universe reaches its final moments, the shots of the shrinking cosmos and the swirling final Flux are among the best CGI pieces on television. 

“The Vanquishers” completes the epic mini-series Doctor Who: Flux. The stuttering start shows Chibnall trying to find his feet in the finale, but once the episode reaches its stride, it is tremendous. Some of the character endings may not be agreed with, but the sheer scale of what has been attempted must be commended. These characters and subplots being significant parts of what is essentially a six-hour movie, are one of the most ambitious projects attempted for Doctor Who. Whittaker has been a sensation, and the entire lore has been flipped on its head. And yet, there are poignant, exquisite moments of intimacy and quiet. If you have time, watch all of this at once, and absorb the sheer majesty of it.

“The Vanquishers” is available on BBC iPlayer and BBC America.

Rating: 7


Doctor Who Episode 6 "The Vanquishers"
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TL;DR

“The Vanquishers” completes the epic mini-series Doctor Who: Flux. The stuttering start shows Chibnall trying to find his feet in the finale, but once the episode reaches its stride, it is tremendous.