Doctor Who: Flux – Chapter Four
“Village of the Angels”
Doctor Who brings back the Weeping Angels amidst the mystery of the Flux and the unravelling universe.
I mentioned in my review of the previous episode that “Flux” isn’t an arc in a large sense, it amounts to an excuse that connects the episodes with very little coverage in the episodes themselves. With only two episodes remaining it’s highly likely that all of the answers will be delivered in one fell swoop with very little build-up to justify them.
The arc itself receives very little coverage with most of it being confined to Bel’s scenes in the decaying future. She gets taken to a place where salvation is promised, Azure shows up with a mysterious being that can take them to a safe galaxy, Bel identifies that she’s up to no good and that’s more or less where it ends. Once again Bel is shown to be competent and knowledgable. She draws on her experience to deduce what’s really going on and tries to save everyone possible. Pretty much everyone around her is blinded by the promise of hope in a hopeless universe which is understandable given the circumstances. During the mid credit scene it is revealed that Bel left in order to help those that had been whisked away under false pretences. What Azure needs with the people and where they have been taken remains an open question. Despite limited screen time, Bel once again proves to be an engaging presence. Unfortunately Vinder only appears in the mid credit scene which does nothing for his characterisation. Perhaps more will be done when he reunites with Bel.
Most of the episode is a stand-alone Weeping Angel plot taking place in 1967. Claire reappears being tested by Professor Jericho (Kevin McNally) because she is having premonitions and identifies her date of birth as being in his future. To Jericho she’s a fascinating case for him to study because he can’t imagine that she’s telling the truth. From Claire’s perspective she’s lost in time and knows that something bad is going to happen which is causing her major distress. The Doctor’s arrival starts to clear all this up as she shows up with answers that are sorely needed but they have to wait until later due to the urgent looming threat of the Angels. Claire’s knowledge is connected to them as shown by her drawing one. In a nice touch the Doctor tears up the picture because she’s aware that anything holding the image of an Angel is itself and Angel. This is something that fans who have been watching for a while will remember while newer viewers can wait to learn this detail later. It works on both counts to create tension as one set of viewers can commend the Doctor’s quick thinking while the other can wonder why she tore up the picture.
Anything relating to the Angels in this episode is excellent and fortunately that amounts to the majority of what it has to offer. It’s thrilling, suspenseful and dripping in tension with the situation growing more hopeless by the second. The Angels massively outnumber them and the Doctor has very little resources to work with. The dwindling of these resources sets the pace and it never relents. Using Professor Jericho’s house to contain most of the action is a great decision because the setting is very claustrophobic and it’s easy for the Angels to overwhelm them with the many entry points. They are given personality in key parts of the episode but for the most part they’re a relentless silent threat. Doctor Who has delivered great examples of horror in its long history and this definitely numbers among them because the threat feels real and never lets up.
The escalation of the threat is organic and earned while sticking to the established rules of the Angels for the most part. There are some inconsistencies such as a character being sent back in time after touching one in its stone form despite that not happening elsewhere in the same episode. Another inconsistency is the fact that people can’t survive being touched twice which counters what has been seen in prior appearances. In “The Angels Take Manhattan” their plan hinged on displacing the same people multiple times. This is all excessively nitpicky but it bears mentioning.
Nobody could accuse this episode of being badly paced. The action keeps moving as they work to escape the house with barely any time to stop and regroup. This does mean the episode is light on overall characterisation in these scenes but they’re so well paced that it never feels like a big deal other than Claire being more of a plot function than a character. There are some really effective moments such as the Doctor setting the drawing of the Angel on fire which means they have a flaming Angel to deal with and the claustrophobic tunnel section. The latter being particularly tense. Newer viewers might feel like some of the Angel abilities come out of nowhere but most of what they do has been previously established. The newest touch is when the Doctor is able to directly communicate with one inside of Claire’s mind. This allows them to take on some life with the Doctor having a conversation with one that turns out to be rogue. The Angel claims to have access to all of the Division’s secrets including the Doctor’s missing memories which gives it a considerable amount of leverage.
This injects some hope into the story as the rogue Angel could be an ally against the horde that pursues them. The Angel is on the run and is wanted by its own people so there is some measure of hope to be found in that fact. It also creates temptation for the Doctor who is understandably interested in regaining her lost memories so that she can learn who she really is. It ties into the loosely developed them of identity that has been part of all of the episodes so far this season. The Doctor ultimately wants to know who she is and being faced with the possibility of learning that information is something she finds distracting.
It doesn’t play out that way as the Doctor’s plan to use it as a bargaining chip completely fails since it turns on her due to receiving a better offer. The ending where the Doctor becomes an Angel was really shocking and effective with strong foreshadowing through Claire becoming an Angel gradually. There is further mention of the Division and how they will stop at nothing to get the Doctor back which amounts to little more than a reminder that the Division exists rather than development of the organisation along with their purpose or motivations. With the Doctor back in their clutches there should be further explanation of this and how it relates to her time working with them but for the purposes of this story it was a background mention alongside a striking cliffhanger.
Added to the lack of resources is Dan and Yaz being sent back to 1901 by an Angel they fail to keep at bay. While there they see that their surroundings are disintegrating with open space visible from the edge of their location. In theory this is a good idea because it separates them from the Doctor making her deal with a problem without having extra people to make use of and offers the companions an opportunity to show how they handle being apart from the Doctor. Yaz has been repeatedly shown to be resourceful and independent but Dan is still developing so there’s a limited sense of his capabilities at this point. Their scenes together are fine from a character point of view with Dan spiralling and asking a lot of questions while Yaz wants to push them aside in order to focus on the task at hand. It’s delightfully pragmatic but nothing about this develops Yaz in any way. The callback to her police officer role during the missing persons search when she makes use of her training to make the search more methodical and asks procedure driven questions was a nice touch. She remains analytical and logical under pressure which stands her in good stead when stuck in the past.
Yaz and Dan’s interactions with the young Peggy (NAME) work well enough as it allows the threat to be reinforced with the connection to previous time period being drawn when they all speak to Peggy’s older self (NAME) but there’s not a lot to work with here beyond the obvious fact of the situation being seemingly hopeless for all involved. There are plenty of visually striking moments but the substance is lacking.
With two episodes of this arc remaining there are still a lot of questions lingering. Everything is connected and the mention of the Division makes the presence of the Angels more than a stand-alone plot in the middle of an arc but for now the connections are largely superficial. Why are the Division still operating after Gallifrey has been destroyed? What is it the Doctor did while employed by them that is best forgotten? Why do they want to reclaim her so badly? Who is responsible for the Flux? What are Swarm and Azure really up to? All those questions and more are yet to be clarified and time is running out on this arc.
A thrilling and suspenseful episode that is dripping in tension and expertly escalates an evolving hopeless situation. The Weeping Angels are used very effectively in this episode with their previously established abilities heightening the tension organically as the episode progresses. It’s light on overall characterisation but it hardly seems to matter considering the pace of the storytelling. The Doctor rapidly losing control of the situation as her resources dwindle sets the pace and it never relents. Using Jericho’s house to contain most of the action is a great decision as it’s a claustrophobic location with many points of entry. Outside of the personality they’re given at key parts of the episode they are a relentless silent threat. The escalation of the threat is organic and mostly sticks to the established rules of the Angels outside of a couple of inconsistencies. The Doctor communicating with the rogue Angel in Claire’s mind offers some hope as it could be a potential ally. Added to that is the temptation associated with the potential to get back her lost memories. It’s enough to distract the Doctor temporarily and ends up informing the excellent cliffhanger ending.
Dan and Yaz being sent back to 1901 is a strong idea in theory though falls down in the execution as the episode fails to capitalise on the potential associated with them having to work through a problem without the Doctor. Neither of them develop though their strengths are reinforced. There are plenty of striking visuals but the substance is lacking. The Flux arc is picked up through Bel who encounters Azure and realises that she’s providing false hope in a hopeless universe for her own ends. It highlights that there is a plan and further shows Bel to be capable but there’s little to say about it. Vinder appears in one scene to set up the upcoming reunion of these characters which does nothing for his own development. With two remaining episodes there are still far too many questions to answer with limited time to cover them. Time is running out on this arc.
- excellent pacing
- organically ramping up the tension
- using the Angels and their abilities well
- dwindling resources propelling the action
- the claustrophobic setting
- injecting hope through the existence of the Rogue Angel
- the relentless pacing getting in the way of characterisation
- failing to utilise Dan and Yaz effectively
- the Flux arc feeling out of place and incidental
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