Doctor Who: Flux – Who Is Karvanista?

Craig Els plays new (not a dog) alien Karvanista in Flux opener 'The Halloween Apocalypse', which returns to the Doctor's questions about her past and the Timeless Child Revelation.

Doctor Who S13 Karvanista
Photo: BBC

Warning: contains spoilers for Doctor Who: Flux ‘The Halloween Apocalypse’

Why did the Doctor travel half the universe to, as she told Yaz, “see a man about a dog”? Firstly, because the Doctor is more evasive than a mid-scandal cabinet member at a press briefing and refuses to confide in the people who regularly risk their lives by her side, and secondly, because the Doctor enjoys making dog-related jokes at the expense of new alien Karvanista. (See also: “I’ve got a bone to pick with you.”)

Not a dog

Karvanista may look like a dog, sniff things inquisitively like a dog and have decorated his ship with a canine tooth motif (sharp pointy hooks everywhere. Health and safety must not be big with his kind), but he is not a dog. He’s clever, dangerous and a Lupa of the alien race Lupari – a name that, come to think of it does suggest ‘wolf’, but only in Latin and really, what’s Latin to aliens?

The Lupari are a technologically advanced species with various complicated gadgets as showcased in ‘The Halloween Apocalypse’. Karvanista has an arsenal of weaponry and devices, including kill-discs, stun cubes, a glowy axe, a thing that can shrink two-bed terraces houses to the size of a Kinder Egg, and brainwashing vambraces that don’t appear to work – or at least didn’t work on Dan Lewis.

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Species Bond

The Lupari also have a fleet of seven billion ships built to withstand The Flux (sort of like The Never-Ending Story’s The Nothing, roaming the universe and atomising everything in its path) which are able to lock together in a formation that wraps Earth in a kind of armour to protect humans.

That’s the other key thing to know about the Lupari, at some point in the past, they agreed to a “species bond” with humans, meaning that each Lupa is responsible for an individual earthling. In “the ultimate crisis” – such as the impending destruction of the universe – that Lupa has agreed to rescue their personal human being. (The administration hours alone required to pull off such a plan is staggering. Humans are always dying and being born. How the Lupa follow it all is brow-furrowing. They’ve probably invented a gadget to keep track.)

The Division

What’s more important about Dan Lewis’ assigned Lupa, Karvanista of the wet nose, luxuriant coat and growly sarcasm, is that he’s an operative of Division, the only one the Doctor can find alive. Why is the Doctor searching for Division operatives? Because she wants answers about her past. As we learned in Series 12’s ‘Fugitive of the Judoon’, shady Time Lord operation the Division forced previous regenerations of the Doctor to work as its agent on behalf of Gallifrey, and then wiped her memory, which is why she didn’t recognise Jo Martin’s Doctor Ruth when they met.

With information regarding the Division officially redacted from all records, and Division operations clearly instructed not to divulge, Karvanista may be Thirteen’s last chance to find out about her previous selves. And to ultimately answer the question of where she comes from.

The Timeless Child

The Doctor is not a Time Lord from Gallifrey, says the Timeless Child revelation. Instead, she’s a mysterious interloper from another dimension who became the source of the Time Lords’ regeneration powers. The Timeless Child’s DNA was spliced with that of the Time Lords, giving them the ability to regenerate, and making the Doctor their genetic template. That’s the information the Doctor wants in her search for Division: who she really is and where she came from. If she really wants Karvanista’s help though, she might want to lay off the dog puns, it’s clearly a sensitive issue. Another subject to be avoided: mums, and possibly, four bears.

Who plays Karvanista?

Beneath that boop-able nose, those furry ears and the grumpy voice is six foot four Liverpudlian stage and screen actor Craig Els, who played Derek Milligan on Coronation Street. Among many stage roles, Els has played Miss Trunchbull in Matilda: The Musical, and appeared on television in Ripper Street and Call the Midwife. Like erstwhile Doctor Who companion Bradley Walsh, Els also appeared in the Chris Chibnall-produced Law and Order: UK back in 2014.

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Read our spoiler-filled ‘The Halloween Apocalypse’ review here.