“We’ve gone back in time. Dalek incoming. Two people in this building about to die unless we stop it.”
Star Trek has done it. The X Files has done it. Person of Interest has done it. Heck, even Doctor Who has done it before (Heaven Sent). But for the non-nerds in the hungover New Year’s Day audience, Dan Lewis spelled it out in a way that pretty much everyone should know – “It’s Groundhog Day”.
“There’s a balance to the universe. It exists that way for a reason.”
Well. Let me get this out of the way right at the beginning, because I’m struggling to contain myself from saying it. That was the biggest load of overcomplicated, incoherent, unmitigated garbage I’ve ever seen masquerading as the resolution for a story. Frenetic running around in place of explanations, with so many deus ex machinas cropping up out of the blue that I’m actually looking forward to the return of RTD who usually sticks to just one a season.
Worried that we’ve reached the penultimate episode of Doctor Who: Flux and you still don’t have a clue what’s going on? Baffled by the multifarious plot strands stretching all through history? Beginning to suspect that Chris Chibnall has even less of a plan than the Brexiters?
On paper, Village of the Angels has all the requirements for a classic episode of Doctor Who. A small village setting, isolated, cut off and besieged by the most terrifying monsters the recreated show has to offer. A historical mystery explained by means of twisty-turny, timey-wimey paradoxes. The TARDIS crew separated and in jeopardy, with the Doctor staging a last-ditch attempt to fend off the baddies, sonic screwdriver in hand.
OK, let’s see if I’ve got this straight. There’s a planet, called Time. And all the time in the universe comes from there. And upsetting the Mouri, the priests who run it, can destroy time itself, and that’s what’s happening. Have I got this right? Uhh… ok.
The opening “chapter” having set out the multifarious plot threads for Chris Chibnall’s magnum opus, this second ep of Doctor Who: Flux was more focused and made more of an effort to tell an actual story. Rather than dealing with every one of the characters left in jeopardy at the end of the previous week’s cliffhanger, War of the Sontarans zeroed in on just several across two plot threads – what had happened to the occupants of the TARDIS, and the unfortunate Vinder, in the wake of their encounter with the Flux.
“The end of the universe. I always wondered what it would feel like.”
The Doctor is back, and the universe is ending. Again. I must admit to a feeling of déjà vu about this; the universe has been at stake in stories as varied as Logopolis, Terminus and most Russell T Davies season finales, and it’s still there. Experience suggests that saving the universe is not something the Doctor will have a problem with.
Yes, I’ve been lax about writing this year. Indeed, my last regular updates on here were to do with the execrable new adaptation of The Stand, and that finished in February.
So why the lack of writing? Well, as you may have seen from the one entry I have posted since then, my mental health has been patchy at best – and it’s not conducive to concentrating while you write.
But it’s also been down to work. After the first lockdown, I was bemoaning the fact that I’d lost my teaching job here in Barcelona; well, that didn’t last long thankfully, and now I have three. Between three employers, most days of the week my teaching begis at around 08:00 and finishes at 22:00. It’s been great having the work and I (mostly) enjoy it, but it doesn’t leave much time for anything else.
In fact, so busy have I been that I haven’t even found time to watch the new season of Doctor Who, let alone review it. That’s not ideal, as reviewing Doctor Who was the main reason I started writing this blog, way back in 2006.
But! Not only are classes winding down for Christmas, but I’ve also caught Covid. Thankfully the symptoms are mild (if persistent), presumably due to my having been vaccinated.
However, it means that I now have time on my hands while I self-isolate for the requisite ten days. Time which I’m going to use to kickstart my writing again. And where else to start than by finally watching the new season of Doctor Who?
“Life was such a wheel that no man could stand upon it for long. And it always, at the end, came round to the same place again.”
(SPOILER WARNING – FOR THE BOOK AND BOTH VERSIONS ON TV!)
And so, the new version of The Stand ends as it began – missing out huge, rather important parts of the story, and focusing on two characters so underwritten and uninteresting you simply didn’t care what happened to them. Along the way, you had to keep reminding yourself of the stakes, since the whole “pandemic wipes out 99% of humanity” thing has been so underplayed throughout, you could have been forgiven for thinking the USA that Stu and Fran were trekking across was perfectly normal. After all, it’s not uncommon to drive hundreds of miles across America’s heartlands without seeing a town or a human being.