In the midst of a season-long Doctor Who arch, “War of the Sontarans” does the unthinkable and tells a story with a beginning, middle, and end

Everyone who follows me knows two things: Endless disappointment and my hype for Doctor Who is at an all time low given that Chris Chibnall has run the series into the ground during Jodie Whitaker’s run which is a true shame because, under a better showrunner, Whitaker would be a fantastic Doctor.

This season, which has been titled “Flux” because Chris Chibnall has fluxed everything up.

Wait, did I make that joke last week?

Eh, who cares? It’s a good joke.

In this week’s episode, the Doctor, Yaz, and their new friend, Dan, are unceremoniously spat out during the Crimean War and are shocked to discover that, instead of Russians, the British are fighting Sontarans, the angry potato people who, for years, have been used for comic relief but are now back to being certifiable bad guys.

Soon, the trio are separated in time and space: Dan back on 21st century earth where he learns that the Sontaran invasion is an invasion of all of Earth’s history and Yaz into a strange complex where she is asked by a little floating, glowing pyramid to repair something.

I have to admit that I found this episode refreshingly surprising as, in a season long arch, I was not expecting a contained story with a beginning, middle, and end, and, while there are elements that carried through from the previous episode and will continue to the next, a story was told and I found that very satisfying.

First of all, this is some of the best Doctoring that Jodie Whittaker has been allowed to do. Teaming her up with Mary Seacole, played wonderfully Sara Powell, provided the Doctor segments of the three-pronged story with enough fun and fascination. I like seeing Whitaker’s Doctor plan and get angry… something that I honestly wish they would have let her do earlier in her run. I’m at a loss why the showrunners always kept her so even-keeled all this time. An angry Doctor is a fun Doctor!

Giving Dan a solo adventure was pretty ballsy, to be honest, but John Bishop has endowed Dan with enough personality to endear him to even the most hard hearts. Dan is just a good guy who doesn’t carry a lot of baggage and is doing his best to keep up and, although I get the feeling I’m in the minority here, I absolutely love Karvanista and the budding hateful bromance between them. The line, “I still have a human in this fight!” shook me. It was so stupid, and yet so perfectly placed.

It’s so wonderful that Yaz has actual things to do now. Her segment of the episode felt strangely melancholy as she was lost, in a strange situation, and trying to do her best to be the kind of person that the Doctor wants her to be. The “WWTDD?” note on her hand was such a nice touch and a chilling callback when Swarm and Azure showed up later.

Yes, Swarm and Azure… Particularly interesting villains, played with such wicked abandoned and yet restrained just enough that you’re never sure just how dangerous they can be.

Overall, I found “War of the Sontarans” a very satisfying entry into Whitaker’s run on the show. Nothing absolutely jaw-dropping as we’ve seen from the previous Doctors, but a nice, mostly contained adventure that, in the middle of a long supposedly epic arch, was unexpected and welcome.

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