So, one thing I don’t understand about “Doctor Who: Flux” is writer Chris Chibnall’s Marvel Cinematic Universe nods. Last episode, they established the only good special effects were going to be the Thanos disintegration effect (presumably the VFX staff bought an iPhone app for ninety-nine cents to get it done), but this episode…. Well, this episode goes overboard right from the start.
The first scene has Doctor Jodie Whittaker and companions Mandip Gill and John Bishop waking up at the end of the universe. It looks just like the end of the universe in “Loki.” Of course, it turns out not to be the end of the universe, and instead, they’ve been thrown in time back to the Crimean War, but it looks just like “Loki.”
And then the episode ends with a snap. After a bunch of Thanos disintegrating. And the snap is a Snap.
I can’t tell if Chibnall is doing terrible, desperate homage or if he really thinks… there’s no crossover between “Doctor Who” viewers and, you know, people who have seen the second and fifth highest-grossing movies of all time. Because even if they didn’t watch “Loki,” those lucky bastards, they might recognize the Snap.
The Crimean stuff is excellent. Best “Who” in ages, with Whittaker teaming up with historical figure Mary Seacole (played by Sara Powell; also Seacole was a subject on “Horrible Histories” if anyone needs to Google a refresher) as she discovers the Sontarans have done a temporal assault and are the bad guys in the Crimean War now, not the Russians. Were the Russians the bad guys in the Crimean War? I mean, they were from the British perspective, but… you know what, never mind.
Whittaker and Powell have to deal with an asshat British general (Gerald Kyd) in addition to the Sontarans. Now, these Sontarans aren’t from the past, they’re from the present (or future) and know the Doctor is their enemy, but they don’t realize the Doctor might be a girl now. Whittaker’s a lot better without her companions to clutter the scenes, and both Powell and Kyd are excellent.
Meanwhile, new companion Bishop goes back to the future, where he amusingly teams up with his parents (Sue Jenkins and Paul Broughton) to fight the Sontarans there. Lots of lousy CGI but Bishop’s slightly more amusing with the ‘rents than with Whittaker and Gill, or on his own. It’s actually a rather tense plotline, which has Bishop having to coordinate with Whittaker in the past.
Gill’s off at a magical time temple where she meets agents from the Time Bureau before—just kidding, she meets future human dude Jacob Anderson, and they have to try to repair the cheap holograms for the flying, talking triangles. The talking triangles don’t cast shadows, which is initially one of the big effects fails. There are more extensive effects fails later on, but the lack of shadows is the first hint at the eventual problems.
The time temple is also where time-traveling super-villain and Red Skull wannabe in a cheap Halloween mask Sam Spruell figures in. He and sidekick Rochenda Sandall do a lot of super-villain posturing, and it seems like the whole thing has to be a gag because it’s crappy camp.
But the Crimean War period stuff is solid, although it feels like Whittaker doing a leftover Peter Capaldi script. Whatever works, though. Whatever works.