“The Vanquishers” fumbles the Doctor Who finale as I expected, but it wasn’t… too bad

With the entire universe about to be wiped out by The Flux, the Doctor finds herself split between three time periods — one with Yaz, Dan, and Kate Stewart under the streets of London, one with Karvanista and Bel in space, and one stuck with Swarm and Azure outside of the universe. Not only that, but the Sontarans have conquered the Earth and are executing a plan that involves Cybermen and Daleks.

A lot like last week, this… was a lot.

Unlike last week, it didn’t come together quite as I hoped, but rather it happened about as I expected namely that we would have have a season finale that left us all going, “Huh?” rather than “Whoa!”

First, the positives: I loved Jodie Whittaker in this episode and, indeed, Flux has finally given her the chance to shine as The Doctor. I know that her run on Doctor Who has been a tumultuous one given that Chris Chibnall isn’t that great of a showrunner, but regardless of what I thought of this finale, the season as a whole has been great and has given Whittaker so much to do… so much Doctorness that has, so far, been denied her. Indeed, this episode caught Whittaker at her peak Doctor, fun and bubbly, deadly and serious… I loved watching the multiple Doctors interact and the banter between Whittaker and her duplicates were such a treat. This was fun. A lot of fun.

Likewise, this is the best that the companions have been treated since Chibnall took over. Yaz, in particular, has become such an integral part of the Tardis Team that she’s up there with with all of the great companions. Likewise, Jericho – if not already – should be an honorary member of the fam. I liked this character, I liked Kevin McNally’s performance, and I loved everything about him.

Dan, unfortunately, got the raw end of the deal this season. Aside from “nice,” there was really nothing incredibly memorable about him, he did nothing essential, and the ending of this episode basically nullified any motivation he had during the entire season. I don’t hate the guy, I just fail to see the point of his inclusion. It just seems to me that Jericho and Dan could have easily been rolled into one character.

I also really enjoyed seeing the adventures of Bel and Vindir. Theirs was a simple story that, through luck (or lack of) kept intersecting with the Doctor’s and, although I do have a bit of an issue with the whys and hows that I will get into later, I liked them. I’m glad to see a wholesome, happy ending.

Now onto the bad: If Flux was a juggling act, the act ending with so many balls lying all over the floor. For one, I do not in the least little bit understand the state of the universe when it is all said and done. Was the Flux reversed? Has the universe been decimated? Are all of these alien races dead or did they escape? Is the Whoniverse a wasteland now? The end of the episode brought so little closure and so few answers, that all I feel is confusion and, if the universe has been mostly destroyed, no one seems to care very much which is, quite frankly, annoying.

If the flux was reversed, a simple line of dialogue would have been nice.

I didn’t like how Kate Stewart was treated. Now, I will say that I love Jemma Redgrave and it’s been far too long since Doctor Who had Kate on the show, but other than reminding us that she exists, this episode had very little for her to do. We were told she was leading a human resistance, but that was it… we were told. Television is a visual medium. We need to see that stuff, lads.

There were also a number of annoying plot threads left dangling. I know that Whittaker’s time isn’t done yet, but there was such an annoying lack of resolution to this episode — the state of the universe, the state of Earth, Dan’s relationship, the fob watch, the Grand Serpent’s role in everything — that, again, it seems like Chibnall didn’t know how to end the episode, he just ran out of time, leaving it for later, where I have the sinking suspicion he’s going to blow it again.

Still, as I said, if you look at Flux as a large epic adventure, it works and works well even though it doesn’t nail the ending. This has been a phenomenally strong season with a refreshing amount of focus, a fun story that gives Jodie Whittaker so much to do in a role that has given her so little, and an adventure that seemed so gigantic and big.

Personally, even with the weaksauce ending, I enjoyed it. It’s so wonderful to see that Whittaker’s final season was such a gloriously high mark.

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