Doctor Who (2005) s13e06 – The Vanquishers

What a lackluster conclusion. There’s actually a bunch of good stuff, including a triplicated Jodie Whittaker they should’ve been doing since the cliffhanger on the first episode. Still, as the finish to “Doctor Who vs. The Flux,” it’s minimally successful.

The resolution with rubber mask supervillains Sam Spruell and Rochenda Sandall is lousy, and then the hook is exactly what you’d expect anyway. It’s Whittaker’s last season as the Doctor, and of course, the villains know to threaten her with not being regenerated. They’ve been doing it since David Tennant was on the show. It’s been ten years of it. Blah.

There’s some really good stuff with guest star Jemma Redgrave, who hasn’t been on since Peter Capaldi. She and Whittaker have excellent chemistry—when the episode beats Bechdel, it beats Bechdel—only it’s Whittaker’s farewell lap. Maybe they should’ve introduced Redgrave earlier. In Whittaker’s reign, not in this season. Though, in this season too. They could’ve halved this “event” and had something.

There’s some good stuff with John Bishop, who just needed character development away from Whittaker to get into the right zone as a companion. Mandip Gill has decent material throughout until to have a thankless conclusion.

The “Flux”-specific companions all get some final arcs and farewells, with Craige Els, Jacob Anderson, and Thaddea Graham set for an obnoxious spin-off. The good work is from Kevin McNally and Annabel Scholey, who get thankless conclusions too. Scholey’s finish doesn’t even make sense for the timeline, but, whatever most of the universe is destroyed, so does it really matter.

The Sontaran villains are only good compared to Craig Parkinson as the pointless guest human villain. There are way too many qualifications on a way too long, way too thin storyline. Especially since the deus ex machina gives way to an even more effective deus ex machina, they could’ve obviously used. It’s terrible plotting from writer Chris Chibnall, who wasted full episodes of the season on nonsense.

A quarter of the episode plays like a Star Wars 1977 homage, like the BBC finally gave “Doctor Who” to do the riff on it they’d been planning since… 1977. There is some decent CGI work, though. Surprisingly good for the show. Even if the green screen compositing is still lousy.

But the three Whittakers—interacting with different sets of companions, friends, and foes in different times—is possibly the best Whittaker has done when it hasn’t been one of her companions holding up the show. It’s a shame it took them until now to figure out what to do with the character. Still, since Doctors Who are always temporary, it’s hard to get any character development going until they face their imminent recasting.

It’s a real shame they wasted so much of Whittaker, Gill, and Bishop’s limited time remaining on this six-part nonsense. Writer and showrunner Chiball stretched an okay three-parter (it’d have been better in two) way too far with way too little reward.

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