Poor Jodie Whittaker. She has all of the hallmarks of a truly great Doctor, but she’s been saddled with a showrunner who is decidedly not that great. This episode marks her literal beginning of the end as Whittaker is hanging up her trenchcoat and sonic after this season and a few specials before Russell T. Davies returns to the show to try and air out all of Chris Chibnall’s stink.
I usually don’t rag on a creator as much as I have on Chibnall, but I gave him a chance and defended him and, at the end of the day, the multiple shortcomings of what has been easily the worst era of Doctor Who since the revival falls squarely on his shoulders. Granted, the guy has audacious and daring ideas… but he lacks the simple talent to stick the landing or justify those lore-breaking ideas at all.
Take this season, for example. Titled Doctor Who: Flux because Chibnall has just about fluxxed up everything about the show (okay, calm yourself Jason), the premiere, “The Halloween Apocalypse” is an overstuffed, chaotic, and nearly nonsensical assault. After chasing down an alien in the teaser — an alien who I thought completely disappeared after the teaser, but it turned out to be what I thought was a different alien later because the episode is nuts — the Doctor and Yaz happen upon the strange case of that alien kidnapping a human and learn that there is a universe-ending threat called The Flux that is heading for the planet. Meanwhile, the Sontarans are doing something, something is happening in the 1800’s, the Weeping Angels are up to something, a human recognizes Yaz and the Doctor, but they don’t recognize her, a guy on a listening outpost does some things… it’s a barely contained mess.
Is it ambitious? Undoubtedly.
Is is interesting? Of course.
Will I tune in for the rest of the season? Indubitably.
Do I trust Chibnall to deliver? Not really.
I can completely understand why Doctor Who started with a Halloween episode. Like a child after trick-or-treating, “The Halloween Apocalypse” is full of sugar, bouncing off the walls, and unnecessarily spastic. The Doctor is constantly screaming, things are constantly exploding… this episode is a gift to ADHD individuals such as myself because there’s hardly an opportunity for my attention to wander.
I like the new companion, Dan. He comes into the show without a whole lot of baggage and nothing to unpack and, to be perfectly honest, that’s a relief. Companions like Bill and Martha who came in without gigantic mysteries and who were a blank slate were always a lot of fun and felt like they could go anywhere, unrestrained by backstory and destiny. Dan is an everyman, kind of thrown into the Tardis unwillingly and taking in the wonders and dangers as he goes. I really don’t see him sticking around — especially since the show is apparently getting a soft reboot after Chibnall shoves off — but I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy him while he’s around.
It’s also nice to see Yaz actually doing something. Two seems to be the magic ceiling when it comes to companions as three never seemed to work (no offense to Ryan and Graham).
The problem with Flux is, as I said, I just don’t trust the showrunner to stick the landing. I want to. I’ll be rooting for him, but Chibnall has burned me and this show so many times that I just don’t. I can’t.
I want to be wrong. God, I want to be wrong. I want Jodie Whittaker to go out on a high note, I really do. She deserves it. Doctor Who‘s first female Doctor deserves not to be associated by proxy to a terrible era orchestrated by a terrible showrunner.