Once Upon a Time is yet another confounding episode that posed more questions than it answered as we learn more about the Doctor’s past.
Following on from the cliff-hanger of the previous episode, the Doctor has to save Yaz and Dan who have taken the place of two broken Mauri in the temple of Atropos. She does this by sheltering them in the heart of the time stream. Whilst in there we get to see a lot of past, present and possible future events.
The most notable events are the Doctor’s past when she was “The Fugitive Doctor” Ruth (Jo Martin). I had my doubts that we would ever get any answers to the time before the Doctor was a fugitive but here, we do get some snippets along with a whole bucket of exposition about time, how dangerous it us and how Thirteen has put herself in danger by throwing herself in the time stream.
The most coherent subplot was the one that revealed Vinder’s past. We see how he got to be stuck on an outpost in the middle of nowhere and learn that his partner Bel, is pregnant with his child and is travelling the galaxy looking for him. What we have yet to understand is why with so few episodes, these two characters were even introduced and how they will benefit the story.
Last week I wondered whether Swarm and Azure (the Ravagers) were from the Doctor’s past when she was part of Division. This episode confirms it and kind of explains why the temple was built as we see Ruth and her crew break the siege of Atropos in order to install the Mauri. Swarm talked of time and space and time not surrendering to space. The reason the Ravagers want time to run amok makes no sense to me but I’m sure it will all make sense eventually.
The Doctor was juggling so many time streams trying to keep up meant viewers had to stay completely focused. At the siege of Atropos, we see the faces of Vinder, Yaz and Dan but they are merely avatars for Karvnista and two of Ruth’s team. We see the three in their personal time streams and apart from Vinder, it’s hard to tell if we are getting past or future events especially in the case of Dan and Diane. And of course the question of questions: why was the Weeping Angel stalking Yaz?
Furthermore, who is the strange woman that tells the Doctor to stop fighting because the damage to time is already done? She tells Thirteen, “the flux wasn’t an accident it wasn’t a natural event. It was made it was placed. Because of you.” Okay. I guess we will pick up on that in another episode. If there’s time.
The pandemic has a lot to answer for when it comes to disrupting film and TV production. It’s unfortunate that this season has been reduced from ten episodes to six. This episode and The Halloween Apocalypse feels like there is more plot than episodes and we are going to get ten episodes worth of story spread over six episodes regardless.
We are three episodes into Doctor Who: Flux with a lot of dangling plot threads to be tied up over another three episodes. I have a feeling we won’t get answers to the Doctor’s fugitive past until the specials.