Endings are more difficult to execute than beginnings, as they have the burden of wrapping up most narrative threads, and unfortunately, the Doctor Who Flux storyline had too many threads dangling before Season 13, Episode 6 aired to truly deliver a satisfying conclusion.
With so many characters and individual stories to wrap up, sixty minutes is not enough to conclude the Flux in a satisfying manner. Or provide any meaningful character focus or development for anybody but The Doctor. However, there are some fun aspects, so this Doctor Who Season 13, Episode 6 review will cover everything bad, and good, about The Vanquishers.
For a review of every episode of Doctor Who Season 13, make sure to check these out:
- Episode 1 Review: A Fluxing Confusing Time
- Episode 2 Review: War of the Sontarans
- Episode 3 Review: Once, Upon Time
- Episode 4 Review: Village of the Angels
- Episode 5 Review: Survivors of the Flux
Doctor Who will return for a New Year’s special on January 1, 2022, on BBC One (UK) and BBC America (US), with all thirteen seasons available to stream on the BBC iPlayer in the UK.
Story – Could you repeat for those in the back, please?
The overwhelmingly negative aspect about the story of Doctor Who Season 13, Episode 6 is there is too much of it to fully appreciate each individual arc and character.
The Doctor tries to escape harm from Swarm and Azure by taking off her conversion plate. This splits her into three people, simultaneously existing on the Lupari ship with Bel and Karvanista, in the Williamson Tunnels with Yaz, Dan, and Professor Jericho, and with the Ravagers in Tecteun’s ship. It’s a very clever way to let The Doctor be a part of nearly every scene. This helps provide relevance to every story. It rarely feels like scenes are cutting away from the action. Even better, it’s a delight to see Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor interact with herself. Something usually reserved for specials like Day of the Doctor.
The Sontarans are perhaps portrayed a little less menacingly than they could be. There’s no real tension provided with their invasion, and are mainly played for laughs. I can forgive this for the corner shop scene alone, though. A Sontaran stuffing his face with chocolate is just the right amount of silly. The real letdown in the villain department is The Grand Serpent. So much of Survivors of the Flux is dedicated to his U.N.I.T storyline, only for him to act as a way for the Sontarns to invade Earth. Craig Parkinson is a great actor, and The Grand Serpent is a decent villain, he just doesn’t need to be included in the Flux. Cutting his character would allow the story to slow down in parts, and actually convey what is going on—because boy, did The Vanquishers need to slow down.
There are so many things left unexplained; Was the universe restored after Passenger absorbed the Flux? Is Time the personification of time itself? Why did it let the Doctor go? Why did Azure appear human in the premiere? Who was the man she was with? Is Tecteun’s ship still floating in the space between universes? What’s going to happen to the decompressed data stored on it? Is the TARDIS still damaged? And those are just the major questions. All of these unanswered elements would be fine if it wasn’t the finale. It was really fun trying to work out the series mystery in previous episodes, but to be left with so many questions after the Flux conclusion is disappointing. Especially because it doesn’t feel like these questions were meant to remain unanswered.
Characters & Performances – It’s the Doctor’s world, we’re all just living in it
A bigger casualty of this super rushed episode is the lack of character development, or emotion. Professor Jericho dies, and there’s not one word about it from Yaz or Dan, who traveled with him for three years. Is Di really blaming Dan for not showing up in the Halloween Apocalypse, despite having a very good I-got-kidnapped-by-a-space-dog excuse? Or, is she reeling from the effects of being stuck in Passenger? This could be an impactful development. Instead, it’s a rushed way to give Dan an excuse to go traveling in the TARDIS. Another confusing character moment occurs when The Doctor slaughters what’s left of the Dalek, Cyberman, and Sontaran races like it isn’t a morally questionable action. The mocking Karvanista receives after his entire race has died is also incredibly out of character for everyone involved. Along with Jericho’s death, these actions make for such an emotionally tone-deaf episode.
The Doctor at least gets a chance to wrestle with her fate. She changes her mind, and keeps the pocket watch filled with her memories of the Division hidden in the TARDIS. Additionally, she gets a moment with Karvanista to talk about his status as her old companion. However, even this is forgotten as the episode goes on. A more impactful scene happens between the Doctor and Yaz at the end. She apologizes to Yaz for shutting her out, and offers to explain everything. It gets interrupted of course, but it’s nice to see this season-long conflict between them actually get resolved. The Division storyline will continue, and it sounds like The Master is returning. So, at least Thirteen’s story is still compelling for those interested in it.
Bel and Vinder finally get reunited, and that’s it. It’s not big and impactful and emotional, because no scene is allowed to run long enough to convey these elements. Along with The Grand Serpent, they could have been cut from Season 13. This would make room to actually develop Dan and Yaz. This is no slight on actors Thaddea Graham and Jacob Anderson. They play the couple beautifully, and are the only reason I felt any connection towards their fates. The duo seem to be there to act as the heart and soul of the season. However, with their reunion handled with such speed, they come across as unnecessary. Then there’s Kate Stewart, who quite literally did nothing but waste actor Jemma Redgrave’s time. Why include any of these characters if they aren’t going to have a significant impact on the story, or get meaningful character arcs?
Editing & Pacing – Too much trimming
The true villain of Doctor Who’s Season 13 is the editing and pacing. Which could have been solved by dropping a lot of unnecessary characters and plot lines. If the Grand Serpent, Bel, Vinder, and Kate weren’t included, it could have let other stories and characters develop at a much more even cadence. Instead, Bel and Vinder get a huge focus, only for their story to conclude in a poor manner.
Perhaps if The Vanquishers was longer than sixty minutes, everything would have come together nicely in the end. Bel and Vinder would get the emotional reunion they deserve, Yaz and Dan could react to Professor Jericho’s death, and all the unanswered questions could be answered. Maybe the footage was filmed, but had to be cut, because every scene feels like it’s been edited within an inch of its life. There is no time to decompress anything. It’s such a frantic, confusing watch, even on repeat viewings. This is the messiest Season 13 has been, and it’s such a shame the Flux story ends in such a rushed fizzle.
Cinematography & Sound – Victims of editing
Another melodic, Gallifreyan track from composer Segun Akinola is highlighted at the end in the TARDIS, and it is a wonderful treat. It is mixed a little low, however, which might be why the soundtrack to Season 13 doesn’t feel as impactful as it could be. Akinola and director Azhur Saleem are shortchanged by the editing as much as the story and characters are.
In my reviews for both Once, Upon Time, and Survivors of the Flux, I highlighted the cinematographic talents of Saleem. I also expressed hope he would get more time to showcase it, if only an episode could slow down and let his shots linger. This did not happen, and The Vanquishers was edited so tightly, it didn’t give the director many opportunities to show what he can do. At least the CGI was brilliant throughout. The alien vista the Passenger form was housed on is a particular visual delight. As was the colour contrast of The Doctor’s black and white memories against The Ravagers red and blue.