If you thought Doctor Who: Flux’s second episode might solve some of the mysteries set up in episode one, then strap in – because while one or two details might have been cleared up in the hour-long adventure, even more strange riddles and burning questions presented themselves right alongside those sporadic answers.
What have the Mouri got to do with the Doctor and the Time Lords? Why is the Doctor hallucinating a spooky house? How does Swarm know so much about Yaz and – most crucially of all – what dirty pictures has Dan got saved in his phone?
We try our best to answer some of those questions (with mixed success) below…
How did everyone survive episode one's cliffhanger?
"The end of the universe... I always wondered what it would feel like." – Last week's The Halloween Apocalypse ended, of course, with the Doctor and her friends trapped inside a failing TARDIS and about to be consumed by the awesome destructive power of the Flux. Jacob Anderson's Vinder, likewise, was caught up in a seemingly unsurvivable situation, the Flux bearing down on him...
Cut to the opening scenes of War of the Sontarans and the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Dan (John Bishop) find themselves alive, well and somehow transported back to 19th century Earth, while a similarly unharmed Vinder awakes within the Temple of Atropos on the planet Time. How? Erm... unclear.
We get a brief explanation as to how Team TARDIS might've escaped certain doom ("The Lupari shield worked but the TARDIS took a hit," the Doctor suggests, with the resulting aftershock presumably sending the ship to the Crimean Peninsula in the 1850s) but how exactly Vinder survived is less clear.
Was he plucked out of time and space in the nick of time by the Priest Triangles to help repair the Mouri? If so, why him, given the Triangles didn't even know whether Vinder had the capacity to help them? Or is some other force at work here? Did Swarm (Sam Spruell) bring Vinder to the temple for the express purpose of swapping him out for one of the Mouri?
What's with the creepy house?
A new mystery this week was the Doctor’s black-and-white vision of a strange, higgledy-piggledy house floating in a dead forest, glimpsed shortly before she woke up in the Crimea.
Is it a vision of the future, a clue to other mysteries in the series or a stand-in for something else (does the silhouette look a little like the Citadel of Gallifrey to anyone else? No?).
One thing’s for sure – after that weird Brendan stuff in series 12, no theory is too outlandish.
What caused the Flux?
It’s still not been explicitly stated what caused the planet-eating, dog-defied wave of death known as the Flux – but we do get a few clues in this week’s episode.
In the Temple of Atropos, it’s revealed that a strange group of women called the Mouri have been holding back time, preventing it from “running wild” and causing destruction.
“All time passes through the Mouri…must pass through the Mouri. Before Atropos, time ran wild,” Priest Triangle says, later noting that time was “destruction” and “evil”.
And of course, two Mouri have been broken prior to this episode, with Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Vinder (Jacob Anderson) brought in to try and repair them. With that in mind, it seems likely that the Flux seen in episode one was brought on by the destruction of these two Mouri – and Swarm’s actions in this new episode could bring about more destruction. Oh dear.
Is the Doctor from the planet Time?
We might be getting ahead of ourselves, but we’re wondering if the Doctor has some connection to the mysterious Mouri introduced in this week’s episode. After all, we learned in series 12 that the Doctor isn’t a Time Lord from Gallifrey after all – in fact, she’s a refugee from another universe who brought the ability to regenerate to Gallifrey in the first place.
The Mouri, meanwhile, have history with the Doctor’s old foe Swarm (Sam Spruell), a connection to time travel (all of time flows through them, apparently) and a visual look that isn’t a million miles away from what we saw the Timeless Child (aka the Doctor’s younger self) wearing in series 12 flashbacks.
So could the Doctor be a Mouri, or another race associated with them? We lay out our theory in more depth here…
How does Swarm know Yaz and Vinder?
It's something of a recurring theme so far in Doctor Who: Flux – characters meeting out of order, with one party knowing more than the other about an encounter that'll take place in one's past and the other's future. We saw it with Claire (Annabel Scholey) and her familiarity with the Doctor/Yaz last week, and again here as Swarm seems to know a great deal more about Yaz and Vinder than they do about him.
How does the Doctor's forgotten foe know about the inspirational mantra ("WWTDD" – What Would The Doctor Do?) scrawled in pen on Yaz's hand? How is he aware of the details of Vinder's secret shame (more on that below)? It's possible that he and sister Azure possess some sort of telepathic ability, but then they mock Yaz for thinking in purely chronological terms, so it seems more likely there's some timey-wimey gubbins at work here...
Have Swarm and Azure met Yaz and Vinder before, in an encounter we're yet to see play out from our heroes' perspective? Or do the villainous pair simply perceive time differently, with past, present and future all available to them, all at once?
Why is Vinder seeking "redemption"?
Swarm mocks Vinder's heroics when he attempts to rescue Yaz from the villain's clutches, noting how he was once "shamed, disgraced and rejected" and is now seeking "redemption" for some past misdeed.
Vinder having committed some unknown crime – or at least being accused of one – ties in to what we've seen of the character thus far, with the character being lumbered with a thankless job on a remote observation post (as some form of punishment?) and maintaining a tense relationship with those that put him there.
But what did Vinder do that saw him become an outcast? The pre-series publicity described him as a fighter pilot – not a skillset we've seen him utilise on-screen – and as a "man of honour" so perhaps he was once a soldier who refused to follow orders that went against his moral code and was shunned as a result?
Who – or what – is Passenger?
Speaking of Swarm and Azure, in this week’s episode we met a new member of their group – the hefty, silent Passenger. So far, it’s a bit unclear what his function is (why would two dissolving, teleporting time beings need extra muscle?) or whether he’s organic, robot or something in between.
Still, we’re assuming he must be there for some reason. Maybe we’ll find out more in the coming weeks.
What's corrupting the TARDIS?
A question from last week’s episode may have been answered in War of the Sontarans, as the damage to the TARDIS continues. Initially it was leaking oil and moving the doors around – but now things have gotten worse, with the outside doors temporarily vanishing, unhealthy growths bursting out inside and the Doctor losing control of the machine entirely.
The reason behind all this? Probably the damage to the two Mouri in the Temple of Atropos, with Swarm suggesting that the ongoing damage to the proper flow of time was hurting the TARDIS.
“Time is beginning to run wild, could really harm the TARDIS – so I made a short term repair,” he says, shortly before revealing Yaz and Vinder have been put in the place of two Mouri.
In some ways, this could mean that the Flux itself (assuming that’s also about time) is behind the TARDIS problems. For now, the Doctor might be a little less able to plan her routes…
Have we seen the last of Mary Seacole?
Though War of the Sontarans fits broadly in the sub-category of Doctor Who "celebrity historicals", healer Mary Seacole (Sara Powell) is actually just one player in a multi-faced story that also takes in a Sontaran-occupied Liverpool, an alternate Earth history, and whatever's going on at the Temple of Atropos.
Might we revisit the character later in this series? Given the serialised nature of Flux, it's certainly possible, with characters flitting in and out of the six-parter across the various episodes. The Doctor's farewell to her new friend – "I hope we meet again, Mrs. Seacole." – seemed rather pointed, too. Could we be heading for a Good Man Goes to War-type situation, where various of the Doctor's allies from across the current series rally at its finale to help our hero?
How did Joseph Williamson end up in the Temple?
Exactly how real-life historical figure Joseph Williamson (Steve Oram) fits into Flux is another perplexing plot strand. Last week, we met him on home turf – Liverpool, 1820 – where the business and philanthropist was digging a series of tunnels beneath the city for reasons unknown.
This week, Yaz meets a confused Williamson wandering the corridors of the Temple of Atropos. He's lost ("It insists on shifting!" he complains) but won't accept any help from Yaz and sets off again, not to be seen for the rest of the episode.
How did Williamson get from 19th century Liverpool to the planet Time where the "spacio-temporal readings are at zero"? How long has he been trapped inside the Temple? Is it a one-way trip, or is he travelling back and forth? Are the tunnels he's building somehow linked to the Temple and the Mouri?
Why was Azure hidden on Earth?
More of a question hanging over from The Halloween Apocalypse than anything directly related to the events of War of the Sontarans, but... what's the deal with Azure? Last week, we saw her and a male companion residing in the Arctic Circle and unsettled by some sort of warning alarm – then Swarm's arrival revealed that she was in fast an alien-in-disguise and his long-lost sister, disguised as a human and seemingly unaware of her true identity.
How did Azure end up in the Arctic and wearing Rochenda Sandall's face? Who put her there? If she was unaware of her past life, what did she *think* the alarm was warning her about? To quote the Doctor in The Halloween Apocalypse: "Data! I need data!"
What's on Dan's phone?
It’s been a while since Doctor Who had a good ‘don’t check my browser history’ joke, and it turns out John Bishop’s the man to deliver it. Yes, while taking down a Sontaran fleet the Doctor snatched all of Dan’s phone data from across time and space… “Even the photos?!?” as her new friend realised with horror.
Who knows? Maybe there were just lots of shots of Dan pretending to wear a tour guide’s lanyard, or actually doing some plastering (still unclear why that part of his character was important). Clearly, he’s a man with secrets either way.
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