The massive, deranged, ‘packed to the gills with plot and lore and side plots’ arc that has made up this season is finally at an end. It is fair to say this has been the most epic Doctor Who story since ‘The Stolen Earth’ (yes, Moffat blew up the universe a couple of times, but even at his most bombastic it was usually a metaphor for a smaller stakes emotional story than to go for Big Universe Spanning Epic Action). It also has the plot of about 18 Doctor Who episodes crammed into six, so now that we’re looking back on it, you could be forgiven for having a few unanswered questions. So here’s our best stab at untangling the Flux (if a Flux is something that can be tangled?)
First, let’s go back to the start and figure out what everyone was actually trying to do.
What was Joseph Williamson’s Plan?
Joseph Williamson was a real person, and much like his Doctor Who counterpart, he spent a large part of his life digging a massive and elaborate network of tunnels beneath Liverpool, for reasons that were not exactly clear to anyone. You can go and have a look, if you like.
The Doctor Who version of Williamson found a selection of strange portals around Liverpool, connecting to different places and times throughout the universe, and began digging tunnels to connect them. Through one of those doors he saw the end of the universe, and so worked to expand his tunnels into an underground city, where future generations would be able to hide in the face of the cataclysm.
What was the Division’s plan?
The Division, or Division (the “the” seems optional), has been the main driving force behind the Flux storyline, if not the 13th Doctor’s tenure as a whole. A secretive division, originating from the Time Lords but outsourcing operations to everyone from Lupari to Weeping Angels, they have grown to operate as a kind of dark mirror to the Doctor, interfering in alien worlds to bring about the best outcomes. They have a lot in common with the Celestial Intervention Agency (or CIA, yes, really) but seem if anything older and more nefarious, and were once led by Tecteun, the Doctor’s adoptive mother.
When the Doctor found out about the existence of Division in ‘The Timeless Children’, Division were so scared of her (because of her ability to inspire people) that their response was to release the Flux to destroy the universe and everyone in it while the Division hopped into the next universe (although, for some reason they also offer the Doctor the chance to come with them).
To be honest, I cut a lot of jokes from that summary because I wanted to make clear that this is explicitly what Tecteun said the plan was.
Swarm and Azure: what was the Ravagers’ plan?
The Ravagers are the Doctor and Division’s ancient enemy, from back in the very dark times of the universe. The war that they fought in appeared to be between Space and Time, with Azure and Swarm serving Time, and presumably, Division serving Space. Division won the war, restrained Time (an actual anthropomorphic entity, we’ll get to that later) in the Temple of Atropos, which is on the planet Time, and jailed Swarm and Azure in an impenetrable jail on the ruins of his last battlefield and in a house in the Arctic Circle, respectively.
Swarm escaped from his prison and went and freed his sister, and they set about their plan which was to hop around the post-apocalyptic ruins of the universe, scooping up survivors in “Passenger”, their big mute Darkseid-looking humanoid prison.
Swarm and Azure then used all the people they stole to build a “psychic bridge” to Division’s inter-universe ark/seedbank, where they killed Tecteun and planned to wipe out the universe, release time, and then rewatch it over and over again like Doctor Who fans in the nineties.
What was the Sontarans’ plan?
Okay, the Sontaran plan is fairly straight forward. They made an alliance with the Grand Serpent- who apparently isn’t the Master even though he has two pulses and his pseudonym “Prentis” is a rubbish anagram of “Serpent”. Come on!
Anyway, the Grand Serpent infiltrates UNIT, disabling Earth’s defences and allowing Sontar to conquer Earth for the second time in the space of five weeks, which makes you wonder what they took UNIT’s defences down for anyway.
Having conquered the Earth, Sontarans gather up humans with psychic abilities and use them to pinpoint the exact moment and location of the final Flux. Then they phone up the Cybermen and Daleks to say “Hey, let’s make a peace treaty, no kidding. Bring all of your warships.” and invite them to the place the psychics said the Flux would happen. You see, the Flux is actually a massive wave of antimatter, so throwing lots of matter at it, like two huge war fleets, will “slow it down”.
Now, I’m sorry, I know it’s Doctor Who, a show that makes you look a bit silly if you complain about accuracy. But antimatter is actually a real thing. It is matter where the particles have an opposite electrical charge to matter. If matter and antimatter meet in large enough quantities, they cancel each other out, potentially releasing loads of energy and radiation. So “matter” wouldn’t “slow the Flux down”. It would reduce it, and whatever was left over would still keeping coming at Earth at the same speed as before.
How did the Doctor stop the Flux?
The Sontarans’ plan is obviously evil, and possibly genocidal, which is why the Doctor enacted her own plan: ‘The Sontaran Plan, But Also Throw the Sontarans at the Flux As Well’. Then, using Di’s scheme, she brought a Passenger, who she convinced to help her by telling him he’d been used and abandoned, and used him to absorb the rest of the Flux, after which she presumably set him up with a small business loan and sent him a Christmas Card every year.
So that is all the major beats covered, now let’s get into the nitty gritty.
Why were there three Doctors?
According to the episode, because she removed her conversion plate at the exact moment that Swarm touched her on the head, the result of which was to move her outside the normal laws of physics on her trip back to our universe. That tri-sected her into three places at once, allowing her to be present at all the crucial plot points.
Why is it daytime in Chile when the planet is covered in Lupari craft?
In fact, why does the surface of the Earth appear to be in daylight even though it is behind an opaque wall of spacecraft? Let’s say all of the Lupari craft had perception filters so everyone just thought they were in daylight.
What was going wrong with the TARDIS?
Whatever was going weird with time was fixed when the Temple of Atropos was fixed.
Talking of Time, Time’s a person now?
Yes, Time is a planet, and now it’s also a person, whom Swarm and Azure both worship. Time punishes Swarm and Azure for their failure (although Azure apparently thinks of this as “Ascension”) while warning the Doctor that her own Time is almost up.
If you were a fan of Doctor Who during the Dark Times (not the primordial age of the universe, but the period when the show wasn’t on air) you might have come across time as a person before. The idea first popped up in the novel, Lungbarrow, itself an adaptation of the script that would eventually become the famously bizarre Ghost Light.
Indeed, a lot of the Seventh Doctor novels for this period concern him acting as “Time’s Champion”, arranging all kinds of devious schemes to try and prevent a coming war that would destroy Gallifrey (That went well).
One wonders if this means that somewhere out there is a bloke called “Space” as well.
So… is the universe okay?
Near the start of Flux this website predicted that it would end one of two ways. The universe would be destroyed, with only the Doctor or perhaps the planet Earth surviving and moving to a new universe, letting Russell T. Davies start his next series in a brand new, continuity free, universe-sized blank slate. Or the Doctor would find a magic reset switch and put everything back to normal. We were wrong on both counts. The universe has not been wiped out – or at least, what’s left of it hasn’t. When the Ood showed the Doctor the entire universe, what we saw was something much, much smaller than the Observable Universe, the amount of space light has had time to travel since the Big Bang, and the furthest we are capable of seeing.
The planets that are left are ravaged by a combination of the Flux and various Dalek, Cyber and Sontaran armies stamping all over them. Frankly, it’s the kind of destruction that makes Thanos seem like a moderate centrist.
Will the Doctor fix it? There were clues, not least from Azure and Swarm themselves, that she could. Azure and Swarm’s power used a similar effect to the Flux, and they had the ability to dis- or reintegrate people at will.
Or maybe the destruction of most of the universe will go the way of the world turning into a forest and multiple global alien invasions, and just be sort of brushed over and forgotten about?
Where was everybody left?
The Doctor, Yaz and Dan are off to adventures unknown in the TARDIS. Karvanista, Bel, Vinder and Tigmi are off to adventures unknown in Karvanista’s ship. Kate, Claire and Di have all been dropped back on Earth (sadly, without Professor Jericho, who perished in the Flux), the Sontarans, Daleks and Cybermen have all been disintegrated by the Flux, Swarm and Azure are ascended/dead, and the Grand Serpent has been exiled to a lonely rock in space.
Doctor Who: Flux is available to stream on BBC iPlayer.