I don’t really want to eat my words, but I will. If Chris Chibnall sticks the landing on this 6 episode arc, this could be the best Doctor Who since… well, since Chris Chibnall took over.
Of course, I still doubt he will stick that landing. I want him to, but I don’t think he will.
“Once Upon a Time” finds the Doctor and her fam in a bit of a pickle. Swarm and Azure are about to shoot the collective power of time through Yaz and Vinder and, in a desperate bid, the Doctor puts herself and Dan in the flow of time as well, hiding her mates in the timestream while she comes up with a plan. The problem is, with time being broken, things are happening out of order, baddies are stalking the companions, and the Doctor finally gets a glimpse into one of those many, many past regenerations that have been hidden from her.
Oh, hey… it’s the Fugitive Doctor!
So, yeah… this was a bit much with the separate stories scattered through time and space, but I’ll be darned if it did not only work, but it worked extraordinarily well as not only an extension of The Flux story, but also a might compelling backstory with Vinder who, after only a couple of episodes, I already love and want to see him happy for all time.
Vinder’s story was a good one. Not overly complicated or timey-whimey, but rather just a case of a moral man in an immoral position trying to do the right thing. It’s wonderfully simple, and yet leads to a load of characterization that is neither forced nor fake. It was a terrific example of how to do characterization and backstory correctly.
Dan and Yaz’s stories were nothing extraordinary which is why, I’m assuming, we didn’t spend a whole lot of time with them, but I respect how they spiced up Yaz’s story with the addition of the Weeping Angels. The Angels may not be scary anymore, but they are still cool and the way that the series manages to incorporate a new way of having them put a character in danger is quite inventive, even though I must wonder how they got into the video game in the first place. I must say, though, having that whole scene be nothing more than a setup for the cliffhanger at the end was just wonderful.
It was the Doctor who had the real meat and potatoes backstory as we got to see the original confrontation with Azure and Swarm when the Doctor was The Fugitive Doctor. Honestly, I think that Jo Martin is a terrific Doctor in her own right and I always welcome the opportunity to see her in action, however briefly.
Overall, in what should have been a bloated and overstuffed adventure, we find compelling drama, smart writing, and one of the best of Whittaker’s run. Sure, some of the dialogue is still a bit cringe, but it’s Doctor Who so that’s expected.
I really hope that this is in indication of where Doctor Who is going for Jodie Whittaker’s last season. I want to see her go out on the high note she deserves.