Doctor Who review, ‘The Vanquishers’: Series finale is more funny than terrifying as Jodie Whittaker fights for the universe

Jodie Whittaker’s Time Lord is under threat as her last full series stumbles to a close

Isobel Lewis
Wednesday 08 December 2021 14:11
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“A big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff.” That’s how David Tennant’s Doctor once described time, and his words have never been truer than in this series of Doctor Who, where time and space have been all over the shop. The arrival of the long hinted-at multiverse heralds a new era for the show – one where multiple timelines can interact and Jodie Whittaker’s Time Lord can flirt with herself. As a series, Flux has revelled in its own confusion, but while some bits in the middle feel like a hazy blur (the less said about episode three, the better), the pay-off is largely satisfying.

The finale opens and the Earth is facing attacks on all sides. As if the end of the universe wasn’t bad enough, the Sontarans have called for a truce with their foes, which they plan to use as an intergalactic gotcha to destroy them, too. They’re supposed to be terrifying, I think, but the threat doesn’t translate. These aliens are usually played for laughs and their raisin-like appearance has barely changed since the 1970s, so it’s hard to take them seriously. Looks aren’t everything… unless you’re a Sontaran.

The Doctor’s mental state is meanwhile deteriorating as she splits into her three timelines of the multiverse. There’s one with Carvanista and Bel (Thaddea Graham), who are battling the Grand Serpent (Craig Parkinson), while another sees her finally reunited with Yaz (Mandip Gill), Dan (John Bishop) and co. But in the third she is stuck with Swarm and Azure, who tease her by dangling the watch that contains her erased memories just out of reach. They have the power to destroy her past again and again, which turns out to be their plan for the Flux, too. They don’t just want the universe to end, but for it to die on repeat in a “constant destructive loop”. Charming.

In the end, the three versions of the Doctor are able to work together and save the universe, with one unintentionally funny moment overlaying their faces like the singers in an Eighties glam rock video. But it comes with a caveat – the Doctor’s life is drawing to a close. The mysterious baddie at the heart of the series takes on the Time Lord’s own form (bringing the total number of Jodie Whittakers in this episode up to four), and warns her that her "time is heading to its end”. The Doctor (the real one) looks on in horror. “No, it’s not, you’re wrong,” she pleads, a childlike waver in her voice. “Nothing is forever. No regeneration, no life,” the evil Doctor warns, before reunifying our hero’s timelines.

With the threat of the Doctor’s total demise in the air, where does this leave us? Well, we’ve got three more specials left and Yaz and Dan are sticking around, hopefully giving Bishop more to do after his promising entry to the show fizzled out among the plotlines on plotlines. It’s hard to say whether Flux has been a success or not (“mixed bag” would be my two-word review) but you have to admire writer Chris Chibnall’s ambition in Whittaker’s final hour. Nobody can say he hasn’t tried.

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