"I get how that ego appeal thing works now."
IN THIS ONE... The Doctor and her allies destroy the Flux.
REVIEW: At the end of Part 5, I was asking myself how alllllll these plot threads would (could?) come together in a satisfying finale. The disappointing answer is that they can't and don't. It's not a total wash, but some disappointments are felt very keenly indeed. The biggest among them, I think, is the role played by Vinder and Bel. In a normal season, their story would have been a single episode, reuniting them to face the Grand Serpent, and we wouldn't have thought about them twice. Weaving them in as pseudo-protagonists, giving them mid-credits scenes, and so on flagged them as something more important. And off to the message boards fans went, unfolding their theories as to their unborn child's identity. Could it be Susan (which Doc13 would have delivered to Doc1, possible thanks to the temporal crunch)? More believable still, could it be the Timeless Child, later abandoned near a wormhole? Nope. Nothing like that. I'd be very surprised if Chibnall was to make this happen in his last episode, not the way he ended things here. Because after all the hoo-haa with the fobwatch and tempting the Doctor with the knowledge she's been seeking about her former lives... she dumps the watch into the TARDIS guts with orders to make it disappear forever, unless a future showrunner wants to do something with it (I'm paraphrasing, but barely). In the previous episode, Chibnall covered his bases by having the Doctor question whether she came out of the portal, was left there from this side, etc. It's so noncommittal.
I think Chibs fell prey to the way fandom works nowadays. I don't mean the screaming fanboys who knee-jerked their discontentment at the Timeless Child reveal. He was always fine with that and it shows. Rather, he understood the need to introduce mysteries that would keep the fans guessing and talking, but was also afraid the solution would be guessed before the end and opting for surprise above all else, gave us something no one guessed, but also no one can be excited about. I think that was also the flaw in his Broadchurch solution. And that's how a complex, exciting, intriguing story like Flux ends with such a shrug from the audience.
And yet, there's a lot to like. The Doctor split into three and helping the various groups and succeeding the way only a Time Lord can, juggling various eras simultaneously (prefigured in Part 3) - even the editing within her scenes is jumpy to match her experience. Kate Stewart as the leader of the human resistance against the Sontarans. The Doctor mocking the Grand Serpent's name (it's my favorite trait of hers, it started with Tim Shaw). The Sontaran plan to destroy the Daleks and Cybermen used against them and to finally deal with the Flux. Having the Passenger eat the rest of the anti-matter. It's well epic.
But then the Grand Serpent is just a side-villain, coming in late to ally with the Sontarans like a wannabe-Master (if only, that might have given the subplot some interest). The Sontarans RE-invading the Earth so quickly feels like a step back from Part 2. Their sudden and silly obsession with chocolate. The Lupari genocide given in dialog, unnecessary sadism to make Karvenista another "last of his kind". Jericho and Claire are too likeable to be stuck on a Sontaran ship staring intently (or in Jericho's case, being sacrifice - and with so little impact on Yaz and Dan who traveled with him for three years). The fobwatch contains surreal imagery, but doesn't work like the one in Human Nature (she's initially resisting, or the Ravages are blocking it?). Swarm and Azure's plan is insane, but ends with Time Incarnate "rewarding their failure" with what Azure calls Ascension... Another noncommittal anti-climax. And for all the work the 7th Doctor did for the Web of Time, it's kind of a jerk to the 13th - more mumbo-jumbo. Diane rejecting Dan is realistic, but it makes her just a guide for Vinder inside Passenger, but he says he's specifically trained to handle kidnapping by a Passenger so...? At least Williamson's time tunnels are instrumental to the plot, getting everyone together on the right date, etc., but his goodbye 20 minutes before the end is rather cursory.
At the very end, what's changed? Vinder, Bel and Karvenista are set up for Big Finish audio adventures and sent on their way. Dan is officially asked to join the TARDIS crew, but that's absolutely no surprise. (And as a personal grievance, he's told where the bedrooms are, but Chibnall can never spare any budget to show some other part of the ship, and I'm left wondering why the Doctor and Yaz have a mattress in the console room.) The Doctor admits she hasn't kept Yaz in the loop, but doesn't now either. And then we jettison the stuff that intrigued some of us so much, without answers or consequences. And there's another question on my mind...
THEORIES: What's left of the universe after this story? The Flux's "final event" is prevented and that's where it's destroyed, which would imply everything it did, weaving in and out of time, happened. Time itself was "repaired" or "stabilized" in Part 3 , but all those planets, all those planets, space itself looks a mess, and much shrunk from the original (not that it's not infinite enough for the show, I'm reminded of Logopolis). The two first specials of 2022 take place on Earth (as far as we can tell), which provides no answers. All those refugees the Doctor mentioned as possibly heading to Earth, are they going to be a big concern? And how is that different from the way it was before? Seems like we're just back to the post-Time War with "Flux" being the new excuse. As with so much of Flux, I theorize this will be ignored, not just in the next era of the show, but in what's left of this one. Looks like Chibnall has just one story to prove me wrong.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - An exciting resolution hampered by having to tie up too many loose ends.
STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Flux made Doctor Who appointment television again, and to me proved Chibnall should have been doing long-form storytelling since the beginning of his reign, coming hot off Broadchurch. However, the story's refusal to change the status quo (and even walking some of the changes back), are maddening.