Doctor Who’s latest series was largely a hit with viewers, who enjoyed the six-part Flux’s more serialised storylines and action, even if a few moments still seemed a little rushed from time to time.
However, season finale The Vanquishers – which aired in early December – did leave some fans a bit perturbed, who noted that some plot threads seemed to have been left dangling. Was the TARDIS really just going to be left all broken? Had Dan and Yaz been changed at all by their years trapped in the past? And how did the Doctor get away with (sort of) killing millions of Cybermen, Daleks and Sontarans?
Well, it turns out she didn’t – because a few parts of Flux’s storyline were addressed in new Doctor Who festive special Eve of the Daleks, suggesting that showrunner Chris Chibnall had always intended to follow up on these questions.
The episode begins with the Doctor “resetting” the Flux damage to the TARDIS – those creepy webs, extra doors and so on – stranding the TARDIS trio in a Manchester self-storage business while it repairs.
Dan (John Bishop) later notes that it’s only been a week since the Doctor saved the universe (a little bit longer for viewers), meaning this episode takes place quite soon after the events of The Vanquishers – which may also explain why the Daleks are still so ornery about the whole "mass genocide" thing.
As it turns out, the fallout of the Flux finale is what’s behind this entire episode – the damaged TARDIS creating the time loop, and the vengeful Daleks hunting our heroes within it, hoping to execute the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) for her "actions against the Dalek race."
"Which particular actions?" the Doctor asks, presumably rattling through a mental rolodex of nearly 60 years of battles and defeats.
"Using the Flux to destroy the Dalek war fleet," the Dalek replies, much to the Doctor’s indignation.
"That wasn’t my idea! That was a Sontaran strategem that I hijacked!"
The Dalek, however, is not convinced.
"You are responsible for the destruction of millions of Daleks! Your death is the priority of the Dalek race! We will not stop! Exterminate!"
Later, the Doctor blames herself and notes that her "actions are catching up with me," in what could be an interesting acknowledgement of the shady morality of her actions in the series 13 finale.
At the time, many viewers were troubled by the Doctor’s plan causing the death of countless foes, noting that previous incarnations had rejected similar mass culls of Daleks on a point of moral principle. Yes, technically the Sontarans were going to do it first – but the Doctor didn’t stop it, or warn the Daleks and Cybermen. Instead, she just trapped the Sontarans in the path of the Flux as well, putting even more deaths on her ledger.
The fact that she did this wasn’t necessarily the issue, fans argued – it’s that the episode didn’t present it as any kind of difficult or unethical choice at all, rather glossing over it as a moment of victory.
Now, Eve of the Daleks seems to suggest that the Doctor’s actions in the finale were a bit murkier than they were originally presented. While she doesn’t blame herself for the Dalek massacre, the Daleks clearly see her as responsible – and her comments that her actions and "time" were catching up with her could hint that she’s beginning to see she’s been too reckless in recent travels. Maybe it could even be part of her regeneration arc, ahead of Whittaker's exit in the October centenary special.
It’s an interesting coda to the fast-paced Flux finale in a special that (thanks to a fairly simple production) has a little bit more time to breathe. They even find time to acknowledge Yaz and Dan’s (Mandip Gill and John Bishop) closer relationship, which would have had to develop after years trapped in the 1900s between Flux episodes four and six.
"I spent four years travelling around the world with you. I noticed it then," Dan tells Yaz, when challenging her to admit her feelings for the Doctor.
Altogether, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that modern Doctor Who’s most serialised story yet had a sneaky epilogue. Certainly, Eve of the Daleks helps iron out a few of the lingering issues with Flux, making it a stronger final series for Whittaker and Chibnall and tying it all off ahead of the Thirteenth Doctor's final episodes this year.
Though we’re still not quite sure what the Sontarans wanted with all that chocolate… maybe let’s add some dialogue in the Spring special to sort that one out?
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