13 December 2021: not really a review of Flux added.
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FUGITIVE OF THE JUDOON
Well, this is a weird one and no mistake. It looks like a normal episode, but it's not. What looks like a plot is actually just scaffolding for some giant revelations. When it's over, you look back and realise that all of the Judoon stuff is actually about as important as the cardboard tube that burns away when you light a firework: a critical part of the structure, but ultimately not at all what the whole experience is about.
And that's doubled down on by the fact that the episode asks far, far more questions than it answers. With everything so up in the air, it's more of a prologue than an actual episode. Which makes it practically unreviewable.
We mostly don't review the individual pieces of stories, just because you can't really judge an adventure based on only pieces of it. Whether a story fulfils its initial promise and other fairly crucial stuff like that can't be seen by squinting at some disparate bits. And it's clear that this episode is just the beginning of some big stuff. Where that big stuff is going is a matter of speculation: sure, we're speculating away like everybody else, but we'll do that in our own time. It's irrelevant here: we're sure you have your own theories, and your guesses are literally as good as ours.
So what's left? First, there are the revelations themselves. And here we're having a few problems too, as we were inadvertently spoiled. We were only trying to figure out if this was a two-parter and we could therefore leave watching it till next week and watch Love Island instead, but in the process we accidentally learned that Jack was back and there's another, unknown Doctor.
So it's hard for us to tell, dammit, how these surprises landed for an audience who actually were surprised. Re Jack, we guess it depends entirely on how much you like him. He certainly doesn't do much here of any plot significance: of course he's personable enough in the inimitable Jack way, which is what he's mostly there for. Shear all that away and his doomy warning about the Lone Cyberman could have been delivered in three seconds flat. We're sure Jack fans had the time of their lives, and as there are a lot of Jack fans, we're counting that as a success.
And the extra Doctor? Had we not known the twist in advance, we certainly wouldn't have seen it coming. Who would? So again, that's a success astonishment-wise. Whether itís a success in terms of how it fits into the Whoniverse is far too early to tell. There are certainly some differences between the Jo Martin Doctor and the type of Doctor we're more familiar with. From her mad ninja skillz to her willingness to booby-trap a weapon, it's not quite the usual Doctorly M.O. There are many reasons that could be the case, but like we said, speculation. We'll just have to see, won't we?
What about the arc stuff in general? This, it has to be said, is a bit of a worry. From declaring that he wasn't going to be having any truck with all that Moffatesque fanwankery, Chibnall has done a complete one-eighty and has dived in up to his neck. Either it was a deliberate fakeout, or he found he just couldn't help himself. Whichever one it was, Chibnall runs the same risk as Moffat did in burying himself in labyrinthine and arcane Time Lord lore which leaves the casual viewer baffled. And the non-casual viewer? Uh, we're not sure. Could be interesting, but we're so scarred by Moffat's endless portentous arcs that fizzled out into the most pedestrian revelations possible that we're not sure we're ready to go there again. All we can say is that it had better be good.
How about the Judoon et al? We were all perfectly content to reach the end of our current regenerations without ever seeing the Judoon ever, ever (ever) again, but want 'em or not, we got 'em and they're actually not too bad. It's a workmanlike enough plot structure. We're a little surprised, though, at how cheerfully they blow away characters the audience has actually invested in - not exactly family friendly, and not exactly congruent with the slightly wacky ha ha space rhinos tone, either.
The companions as ever don't get anywhere near enough to do (and haven't we done to death Graham getting mistaken for the Doctor already?), but it's clear their new role is to poke the Doctor with a cattle prod until she fesses up about her mysterious past. And present. Three guesses as to which of the two authors wrote the megaclunky dialogue here. As a matching pair with this, the Doctor's gone all dark and brooding slash sulky, refusing to read the TARDIS team her love letter from the Master and pointedly ignoring questions. How does this go over? Hmm. It's nice to see Jodie get a brief rest from the gasping and gabbling, but we're not sure she's really selling the darkness and broodingness. Nor are we sure it was a great plan contrasting Jo Martin's Doctor so obviously with Jodie's. Hands up who'd swap them any day. That many? Oh dear.
Look back at the end and it's clear it's less episode, more misdirection and candyfloss. Nonetheless, it's eminently watchable, especially the first time, which is no small feat in current Who. As an entertaining piece of TV we're giving it a definite thumbs up. Any more than that we won't know until all of the stuff they bring up plays out. So we're just going to leave it at that.
CURL UP AND DYE
Whose idea was it to let Jack at the Hair For Men? Fire them immediately.
Ahhhh! Jo Martin's old-stylee TARDIS is a welcome relief after the toffee fingers. In fact, as one of us uncharitably remarked, "They could put it in Moaning Myrtle's fecking toilet and it would be better than the one they have now."
SOMEONE HAS TO CLEAN THE TOILETS
The Doctor detects that Gat is from Gallifrey and starts calling her a Time Lord. But there are plenty of non-Time Lordian Gallifreyans.