We’ve got sixty minutes to save the universe, so everybody get in…
The Doctor dodges Swarm and manages to take off her conversion plate before he reaches her, splitting her being into three across space-time. At Division HQ, the Doctor is tortured by Swarm and Azure, who keep opening the fob watch containing her missing memories and threatening to destroy them while she can feel a connection to them. When she gets the chance, she asks the Ood to aid her in slowing the Flux. She tries to argue with Azure about what they’re doing, but Azure explains that the destruction and anti-life stance they bring with them is their belief system, and that they have as much right to their faith as she does. They will destroy the universe, ending with Atropos and Time (which they consider to be their deity), then rewind and force the Doctor to witness it repeatedly on a time loop.
In present day, the Doctor is on the Lupari ship with Bel and Karvanista, and pilots the thing out of the ship shield and into a Sontaran ship on the planet below, intentionally captured so that Bel can run about gathering information. The Doctor talks to Karnvanista again and admits that she got back a memory with him in it. She asks if he used to be her companion, but Karvanista explains that Division put an implant in his brain that would detonate if he tells her anything about her past. The Sontarans arrive to drag the Doctor away for the Grand Serpent’s interrogation, and tell Karvanista that all his people were killed.
Yaz, Dan, Jericho, and Williamson stop the first wave of Sontarans in 1904 with a little lightning, then hurry through one of the tunnel doors to find themselves in the present day tunnels—where Kate Stewart is hiding out to resist the Sontarans. The third split of the Doctor appears there, gives Yaz a hug, and gets everyone aboard the TARDIS after telling Williamson that his work is done and he can finally go back to his time and relax. She pops back to 1967 to grab Claire, and preps both her and Jericho for a mission: she wants to offer them up as psychic human bait to the Sontarans while she enacts their plan. The Doctor goes back to the present and offers a Sontaran a lot of chocolate in exchange for hooking Jericho and Claire up to their psychic matrix that they’re using to find out where the final Flux event will take place. She then rescues herself from the Grand Serpent’s interrogation, putting two Thirteens on the TARDIS at once.
On the Passenger, Vinder and Diane figure out how to briefly exit the form and send out a signal to get picked up. The Doctor comes to find them, reuniting Bel with her partner and Dan with Diane. Bel also uncovered a Sontaran transmission encouraging the Daleks and Cybermen to come witness the finale Flux event with them as the start to a brand new “alliance.” The Doctor realizes that it’s a trap to destroy both armies by feeding the Flux what’s needed to slow it down (because it’s antimatter and they’re matter), while they stay safe behind the Lupari shield. This way, Sontar comes out the ultimate universal victor.
Karvanista is able to lay waste to that plan by regaining control of the Lupari fleet and reforming the shield behind the Sontarans, allowing the Flux to consume all the fleets. The Doctor manages to get Claire off the Sontaran ship using a transmat ring, but Jericho’s is damaged, and he tells the Doctor that he’s made peace with the outcome of the journey, dying with the Sontarans. Diane suggests using the Passenger to absorb the rest of the Flux because of the abundance of matter within it, allowing the two to cancel each other out. Swarm and Azure bring the Doctor to Atropos with the intent to sacrifice her to their god (who takes on the form of whoever it comes into contact with). But Time is displeased because Swarm and Azure failed their mission once the Flux was stopped. Time cannot be freed, so it destroys them, releasing the Doctor. It warns her that her end is coming regardless, with no regeneration to save her, and that she should beware her enemies and their… master.
Kate and Vinder strand the Grand Serpent in space; Bel and Vinder go off traveling with Karvanista; Diane refuses a redo date with Dan in light of everything that’s happened. The Doctor and Yaz arrive to offer Dan a trip on the TARDIS. He agrees, and the Doctor takes a moment to apologize to Yaz for not letting her in. Then she takes the fob watch containing her previous memories, opens a console panel, and asks the TARDIS to hide the watch where she’ll never find it—unless she really asks.
First off, this wild ride actually all came together at the end, so I have to hand it to them on that.
Second… the universe is still mostly destroyed, right?
Obviously, the Doctor is capable of traveling in time, so that would mean that she could go back to when most of the universe existed to continue adventuring, but there’s no talk of unmaking the damage the Flux has already done. It’s possible that the Doctor will use those final specials toward fixing that little problem, but until then, it would seem that the universe in present day is much smaller than the one the Doctor used to. As a sidenote, I’m guessing some people are gonna be annoyed with how the Passenger was used to defeat the waning Flux, but it was extremely clever, mostly for the sake of that visual we got, which was stunning.
Wait no, third thing, if the “master” of the Doctor’s enemies doesn’t turn out to be the Master, I riot. Give back Sacha Dhawan.
Okay, so back to the first point, this basically delivered on its premise and tied a lot of things up with extremely well-seeded emotional asides throughout. Let’s page through those:
Jericho’s death was extremely affecting? (Still worried about Peggy in 1904, though, who wound up raising that kid.) They set him up very well as the sort of man who would do the noble sacrifice play, put him in position for it, then have him accept the fate with undo grace and kindness. Kevin McNally does a beautiful job of it, and then they have the gall to give him a Peter Pan exit—Pan is the one who tells Hook that to die would be an awfully big adventure, and here is Jericho echoing that sentiment moments before his own demise.
The explanation for Swarm and Azure’s actions work because they give Azure that momentary aside with the Doctor. What is being done with the Ravagers is very similar to what Thor: The Dark World tried (and failed) to do with the dark elf Malekith, insofar as creating an antagonist who views life and existence as antithetical to their belief and understanding of the universe. It makes them more effective villains because they’re suddenly not simply menacing to menace; they’re doing it because it is a deeply-rooted faith within them.
The reveal that Karvanista used to be the Doctor’s companion is heartbreaking, and I’m glad that he’s got Vinder and Bel now, but I’m not sure I’ll ever recover from it. Remember that infamous episode of Futurama that shows how Fry’s dog waited for him to come back until he died? This is kinda like that, only the dog can emote like a human now. Why would they do this to us. And then have him survive genocide. That’s a lot for six episodes of television.
On the other hand, the whole plotline with Joseph Williamson turned out alarmingly adorable, like this weirdo eccentric man just dug tunnels to try and save the Earth, and then he kinda did, and the Doctor sent him home to drink tea. Also, I’m glad that they took the opportunity to have this Doctor meet Kate Stewart because she deserves a break from the monologuing man Doctors. (Though I do imagine that leaving the Grand Serpent out there will come back to bite everyone.)
And we finally get a moment where the Doctor properly apologizes to Yaz for shutting her out, and is a fraction of a second away from sobbing all her feelings into Yaz’s lap, when Dan comes back in because he can’t follow directions—bro, I love you, but you’re bringing me down right now, read the room. Still, it’s a start? Maybe they can keep getting better at it.
The only thing that doesn’t sell here is Diane refusing to go on the date with Dan. I can understand having been through it and needing some time, but she seemed like she was largely enjoying herself, which makes turning Dan down feel too hand-of-the-plot in needing to give him a reason to step aboard the TARDIS. And honestly, it seemed to me that she would have come along on that trip anyhow… couldn’t she have run off with Karvanista’s crew? Vinder said she should have been a teacher at his academy. They did such a wonderful job throughout the season in casting an actor with a visible disability without any commentary about it whatsoever. All television should aspire to that, but also, now they’ve got this great actor and they should keep using her.
Really do love the conceit of the Doctor dropping the watch into the TARDIS and asking the ship to keep it safe until she calls for it. I don’t know if they’re going to bother with that soon, or leave to a later showrunner, but either way, it was a right call for right now.
Of course, the Doctor gets the hint/threat from Time about her inevitable demise, and the claim that regeneration won’t be an option here. Which is all well and good, but I was also thinking about how this is a New Who thing, making such a big to-do of each Doctor’s death. While I don’t mind some pomp around the baton-passing, there’s something hilarious about the fact that the last fifteen plus years have made every single regeneration into an Event with wild lead-ups and denouements, when Classic Who dropped the Fourth Doctor off a radio telescope dish and moved right along. *insert shrug emoji*
Stuff and Things
- Wait, the over-sized Tomagachi that Bel has been carrying around is an interface with their baby? That is great?? I mean, I’ve still got a lot of questions, like is the baby currently growing inside her, or do they grow them elsewhere, because she’s not showing so that baby would be far too young to have even emoji-based comprehension about things yet, but it’s super cute. She and Vinder and Karvanista deserve their own series, though. Bel and the Boys?
- There are some particularly goofy errors with the Lupari shield around Earth that they never really bother to explain, namely, how is the planet getting any light while covered in spaceships, and also wouldn’t it start to freeze without heat from the sun as well? Seems like kind of a big thing to forget to plot handwave with some technobabble.
- Give all Sontarans an inadvisable amount of chocolate. (Also, I really do appreciate that all Doctors seem to have a very British appreciation for “little shops.”)
- It’s all well and good to make “Dark Energy Camera, Chile” a location where things are going down, but I feel like that needed some explanation because I’m sure plenty of people don’t realize that’s a real place—they’ll just assume it’s some cool scifi words strung together and never clock that there’s a real dark energy camera in Chile.
- The Doctor rarely gets along with other regenerations of themselves, but they do always seem to like themselves very well, as evidenced by Thirteen’s immediate crush on herself. Stop flirting, you… you.
That’s it for Thirteen’s final season! We’ve got a few more specials before her regeneration, starting with New Years Day’s “Eve of the Daleks.” See you in the new year!