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Doctor Who: The Vanquishers’ 16 biggest questions

Is the Master back? Is Karvanista a companion? And what’s the future of UNIT?

Doctor Who
Published: Sunday, 5th December 2021 at 7:20 pm

And that’s the end! After six episodes, a couple of great surprise cameos and endless madcap theories (RIP, Swarm is a secret Time Lord) Doctor Who: Flux has finally come to an end in hour-long finale The Vanquishers.

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The Flux was averted, the Sontarans destroyed, Jericho (and the Lupari) lost and a new companion (welcome aboard, Dan) officially born, and just about every dangling story thread was tied off.

Well, more or less. As ever, you may still have a few lingering questions after episode six – we certainly did – and here at RadioTimes.com we’ve done our best to provide you with some answers. Starting with the possible return of an old favourite…

Is the Master returning?

Sacha Dhawan as The Master - Doctor Who _ Season 12, Episode 10 - Photo Credit: James Pardon/BBC Studios/BBC America

It certainly seems so! Despite saving the (remaining) universe from the Flux and defeating both Sontarans and Ravagers, the personification of Time still had a stark warning for Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor.

"You can leave here, but you can’t outrun me. Your time is heading to its end. Nothing is forever. No regeneration, no life. Beware of the forces that mass against you… and their master.

“I restore you, Doctor, reunify you – but for how long?”

The Doctor was quick to pick up on the double meaning of Master – and as we explain here, it’s not the first piece of evidence we’ve seen to suggest Sacha Dhawan’s rogue Time Lord will be making a return soon.

It’s also worth noting that this is the first time we’ve seen the series itself acknowledge the Doctor’s imminent regeneration, which could have interesting repercussions for the upcoming specials… 

What was the scary house?

The scary house in Doctor Who

Sorry to disappoint, Virgin New Adventures fans – the spooky house which has been haunting the Doctor's black-and-white dreams throughout Flux was not the house of Lungbarrow (the Doctor's ancestral home, as introduced in a spin-off novel published in the 1990s). Well, probably not.

Instead, it's made clear in The Vanquishers that the house is simply a psychic representation of the Doctor's lost history – step inside and she'd regain the memories of everything she's ever done and everyone she's ever been.

One might wonder, though, why these erased memories would take the form of a rickety old house. Could the Doctor's mind be drawing on a real location from her forgotten past? Like... the house of Lungbarrow? (We refuse to let this theory die, OK?)

Did the Doctor commit genocide?

Doctor Who

Look, the Doctor’s position on killing has always been a little bit wobbly. In one adventure, it might be the worst thing in the world to kill a load of Daleks – in another, they might happily trick someone into a vat of acid. But The Vanquisher’s position on wiping out entire species did have us a little confused.

After all, in Flux: Chapter Two (aka War of the Sontarans) the Doctor was furious when retreating Sontarans were blown up by human soldiers – but in this episode, she knowingly allows the deaths of millions of Cybermen and Daleks at the hands of the Flux. Worse, her actions actively kill off the entire Sontaran fleet, which seems like a complete volte-face on her position earlier in the series.

Perhaps the difference is that this time, the Sontarans were on the attack, and their own actions inadvertently led to their own demise. Still, it’s interesting to see how much more ruthless this deceptively cheerful incarnation can really be…

What happened to all the bits of the universe the Flux destroyed earlier in the series?

Doctor Who

Good news! The Doctor and co. managed to stop the Flux (aka antimatter introduced to our universe) from destroying the Earth. Bad news! As we saw earlier in the series it did already destroy loads of other planets, with the series’ third episode (Once, Upon Time) suggesting that there was hardly anything left beyond Earth and some shattered, barely-habitable worlds.

Presumably, this means the universe is in a pretty sorry state now – but it’s unclear whether this is the case, as it’s not referenced in any way during the finale. And while the Earth was protected from the Flux by the Lupari fleet and Passenger, what about the rest of our solar system? What about the moon (which, lest we forget, is also an egg)?

Somehow, it doesn’t seem like this series’ victory is quite as positive as it first appears.

How did the three Doctors work?

Doctor Who: Flux episode 6, The Vanquishers

With an awful lot of action to get through, the Vanquishers had a novel solution – why have one Doctor when you can have three?

Yes, like Journey’s End before it this finale helped spread the story by having more than one version of the Time Lord, this time achieved through strange inter-universe transference rather than accidental cloning.

Though how this all worked is a little less clear. To begin with, it seemed like the Doctor was phasing in and out of different places and times – but later, it’s clear there are three separate Doctors, two of whom are able to work together and coexist. But did they all know the same things? Did the united Doctor at the end get three sets of memories at once?

We might need to take an aspirin and fill a few sheet notebooks before we can work this whole thing out…

What is Time? 

Doctor Who

It's almost a throwaway reveal in what's a jam-packed episode but the discovery that Time is not just a concept or a fourth dimension but an actual sentient being – one that can take on many different forms – is a pretty game-changing one for the Doctor Who universe.

What's more, it seems Time isn't a particularly nice sentient being, first obliterating Swarm and Azure for failing in their mission to destroy all of space and then taking on the Doctor's appearance to warn her of her impending doom. (Be honest, who expected 'Time' to be revealed as the Master when that purple cloud of particles first started to take shape?)

Will Time return? Will it play a role in Jodie Whittaker's final episodes? Certainly, it would seem odd to introduce such a radical twist and then never address it again. (Plus, Time's ability to shape-shift means you needn't rely on one returning actor to play the part.)

Why was Diane spared?

Doctor Who

We do get an explanation of sorts as to why Diane (Nadia Albina) was left behind inside Passenger while the rest of the kidnapped folks across the universe were used to built Swarm and Azure's portal to Division HQ. "To them, I'm insignificant," she tells Vinder (Jacob Anderson).

But if she was deemed "insignificant", why was she allowed to live? And why did Swarm and Azure kidnap Di in the first place if not for the same purpose as their other captives? Was she just a plaything, being used to toy with the Doctor and Dan (John Bishop)?

Why didn’t Diane want a drink with Dan?

Nadia Albina

Forget the various tragic deaths in this episode – the biggest gut-punch has to be when Diane refuses to join Dan for a delayed drink, apparently blaming him for all that befell her when she was captured by Azure.

This seems… a little harsh, no? As Dan points out, he wasn’t really late to meet her – he’d been captured by an alien! – and even if he was there, what was he supposed to do against Azure? Presumably Dan could have just as easily been caught by Karvanista while out for a drink anyway, and Diane would have been picked up by Passenger regardless.

Also, Diane’s terrors mainly seemed to involve being bored, hanging out in an alien landscape for a few days/weeks. Dan spent three years in the 1900s! Guess he still doesn’t have much luck in love…

Will Bel, Vinder and Karvanista return? 

Doctor Who

We’re calling it – the end of The Vanquishers sets up the Doctor Who spin-off we all want to see as grumpy dog-alien Karvanista (Craige Els) flew off with Vinder and Bel (Jacob Anderson and Thaddea Graham) for possible future adventures.

Technically, any and all of these characters could return – and as Anderson told us recently, he’d certainly be up for it.

"I would love that. Who knows? You never know how the story ends. But I would be so excited to bring Vinder back, and for him to be brought back into the story," he told RadioTimes.com.

Els, meanwhile, has his pitch for the spin-off already…

"I’m living for it. I’m waiting for the phone call. It’s a Dog’s Life, starring Karvanista and Bel and Vinder,” he laughed “Bring it on."

We’re sure Big Finish will be in touch any day now.

Is that the end of the Division?

Doctor Who

Last week saw Division boss Tecteun (Barbara Flynn) destroyed by Swarm (Sam Spruell) – but was that the end of the organisation?

They were curiously absent from the finale, it’s true, but we did see some other Division operatives earlier in the series (guarding Swarm) suggesting that there are more people out in the field. With their leader gone, does the organisation carry on? Or has the Doctor truly closed that chapter of her life?

Guess we’ll find out in the coming specials…

Will Kate Stewart return in the specials? 

Jemma Redgrave plays Kate Lethbridge-Stewart in Doctor Who series 13

Having made a grand comeback last week and showing the Grand Serpent (Craig Parkinson) who's boss, Kate (Jemma Redgrave) didn't get a huge amount to do in The Vanquishers – she spent most of the episode wandering Joseph Williamson's tunnels, though did at least score a victory over her snaky nemesis, banishing him to an isolated asteroid.

"I like this regeneration – I hope I meet it again," she tells the Doctor as they bid farewell – and we're certainly hoping we'll see Kate again before the Jodie Whittaker era is over.

Is UNIT gone for good?

Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) in Doctor Who

The Grand Serpent might've been exposed, but does that mean UNIT can be restored? For the first time in its history, the malignant presence of 'Prentis' will no longer be manipulating events from behind-the-scenes – but presumably it won't be a simple task reviving such a well-resourced outfit after several years of inaction and government apathy.

Perhaps, though, the events of The Vanquishers could be the very thing to bring UNIT back from the brink – and we're not just talking about the Doctor and Kate despatching the Grand Serpent. After all, surely the ease with which Earth was occupied by the Sontarans could be used as proof that the planet needs UNIT more than ever?

Will the Doctor ever get her memories back?

Doctor Who Flux - Swarm

The final scene of The Vanquishers sees the Doctor decide not to open that fob watch and recover the lost memories she's been pursuing all this time. It's not entirely clear why – but presumably, now that she literally has what she wanted in the palm of her hand, she's frightened by what she might discover.

She can't quite let go entirely, though – dropping the watch inside the TARDIS console, the Doctor instructs her ship to keep it hidden, even from her. "Unless," she adds, "I really ask for it."

Will the arc of the Doctor's lost memories – which was very much at the heart of the six-part Flux storyline – continue into the remaining three Jodie Whittaker / Chris Chibnall specials, or will that watch remain buried until a future showrunner decides to dig it out?

Where was Jo Martin’s Doctor?

Doctor Who Fugitive Doctor

We’ll be honest – we expected to see a little more of Jo Martin’s Fugitive Doctor this year. Yes, it was great to see her cameo in episode three during a twisted flashback to the Doctor’s Division days, but could they not have squeezed her in to the finale? Surely more Jo Martin is never a bad thing!

Fingers crossed the Fugitive Doctor will fly again in one of the upcoming specials. Our money’s on Jodie Whittaker’s final adventure next November. Assuming, of course, the Doctor survives that long.

Did the Doctor, Yaz and Dan just get exterminated? 

Death Squad Daleks in Doctor Who

Though it might be the end of Doctor Who: Flux, we do get a trailer for the New Year's Day special after the credits have rolled, offering our first look at guest stars Aisling Bea and Adjani Salmon, who play ELF storage owner Sarah and her customer Nick.

We also get a brief glimpse of a Dalek, confirming that the Doctor's greatest foes will again feature in a New Year's Day special, with Chris Chibnall having also included them in 2020's Resolution and 2021's Revolution of the Daleks. Could this new episode be the final chapter of a trilogy?

"Not like this!" protests the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) in the brief teaser, before she and companions Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Dan (John Bishop) are apparently exterminated. Only 27 days to wait till we find out how our heroes will get out of this one!

Eagle-eyed fans will also have spotted that this particular Dalek has upgraded its arsenal, sporting a gun that's able to hit multiple targets instead of the standard single shot device. Snazzy!

Does Karvanista count as a companion?

Jodie Whittaker's Thirteenth Doctor confronts a new alien

It's a question that can divide Doctor Who fandom: who counts as a companion, and who doesn't? Is the Brigadier a companion? Is River Song? Adam Mitchell? Astrid Peth?

But it now seems clear we can add Karvanista to the esteemed list. "Were you my companion?" the Doctor directly asks her furry friend, who was previously part of the same Division squad as the Fugitive Doctor. He can't talk about it in any detail – there's an implant in his brain, courtesy of Division, preventing that – but it's revealed that the pair were definitely close and that Karvanista felt abandoned when the Doctor left him behind to explore the universe.

Will we ever glimpse more of this duo's time together? Craige Els is certainly keen on the idea, telling RadioTimes.com, "If the character were ever to come back, it’d be really interesting to explore that idea of who he was before, and at what stage in the Doctor’s life he was the companion."

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Doctor Who returns to BBC One on New Year's Day 2022. For more, check out our dedicated Sci-Fi page or our full TV Guide.

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