Doctor Who: ‘Once, Upon Time’ Review

This review contains spoilers for Which doctor? Series 13, Volume 3. After the fun and mind-blowing Series 13 premiere, last week’s episode of Which doctor? It’s a bit of a stumbling block to tell a largely self-contained story that doesn’t address any of the many questions posed by the previous installment. And while this week’s episode looks like it will be devoted to unraveling many of this season’s mysteries, it instead spends most of its time asking even more questions.

“Once, Upon Time,” written by host Chris Chibnall, picks up where the previous episode left off — with the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her allies Yaz, Dan, and Vinder in the clutches of the villains. the villains Swarm and Azure, about to be exposed to a lethal amount of temporary energy. But to save her friends from destruction, The Doctor activates her Sonic Screwdriver, which miraculously saves her and her friends by sending them all adrift through their own timelines. Exactly how the Doctor does this and how she will fix it has yet to be fully explained, and that’s just the beginning of this episode’s confusion.


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What follows is a series of flashbacks that tell the four main heroes relive moments from their own past. This is an opportunity to shed more light on the pasts of Dan (John Bishop) and Vinder (Jacob Anderson), both of whom had very little time to play the characters. in the midst of all the chaos by Flux. And while the scenes in question are good moments for the character, the episode’s complicated plot makes them hard to appreciate.

Vinder’s plot in particular is a mixed bag. On the other hand, it’s a fascinating story that reveals his past as a bodyguard to a corrupt politician known as the Great Serpent. When Vinder witnesses his boss order the assassination of a political rival’s family, he immediately tries to expose the plot, only to be dispatched to a deep space observatory to cover up the case. However, subplot still a bit due to lack of context – viewers get caught up in Vinder’s story without any explanation of his home world, its society or its government, making it a bit jarring when the clusters words like “Great Serpent” came up by accident. Bodybuilding has been a major weakness for Chibnall during his time as a host, and this episode shows that in full.

Also, Yaz (Mandip Gill) has very few roles in his flashbacks. Despite being the Doctor’s right-hand man, Yaz never seemed to go unnoticed, and the trend, unfortunately, continues here. Her only contribution to the episode is being chased by the Weeping Angels throughout her memory, culminating in a truly absurd scene. where Angels cry manifest in a video game Yaz’s sister was playing. (Plus, the scene also features a really puzzling line from Yaz: “No one calls them video games anymore!” Chibnall is definitely displaying her age on it.)


However, the main focus of the episode is on the Doctor’s flashbacks, bringing her back to her forgotten days in “The Timeless Child” as an agent of the mysterious Division. In this scene, she raids the Temple of Atropos on the planet Time (probably the most famous name in Which doctor? history), to uncover the plans of Swarm and Azure, who are revealed to be collectively known as the Ravagers. In a questionable creative decision, The Doctor regards her fellow Divisional agents as Yaz, Dan, and Vinder, making the introduction of this sequence much more jarring than it should be.

One might think that a flashback to the Doctor’s past battle with the Ravagers would shed some light on their motives and backstory. However, nothing of this sort was revealed – the only clues provided were some cryptic lines from Swarm about his “battle between time and space” and his desire to “reign in Hell”. he. This episode marks the halfway point of Flush miniseries and main antagonism remains a complete mystery. In addition, there are no questions surrounding the planet Time and its inhabitants, the Mouri, making their apparent contradictions with established lore even more serious. Chibnall clearly intends all this mystery and ambiguity to create suspense and intrigue for the viewer, but instead, it is more likely to cause confusion and frustration.

Even so, this A-Plot has one main highlight in the appearance of the Doctor herself – or more precisely, herself. Yes, this episode features a surprise appearance in the form of Jo Martin as the Runaway Doctor, the forgotten reincarnation who initially relives the memories the Thirteenth Doctor is experiencing. Even if the runaway Doctor’s existence is a big contradiction come Which doctor? canon, Martin herself is still a great actress. And as short as she looks, it’s all equally enjoyable.

However, that doesn’t mean Martin stole Whittaker’s attention. As complicated as Series 13 has been so far, it still offers plenty of opportunities for Jodie Whittaker to shine as the Thirteenth Doctor. In this episode, she’s Doctor-y (no better words) as she was, brilliantly embodying some of the character’s most iconic traits. The Doctor’s impulsive need to save others, their cold confidence in the face of danger, their villain-like trickster, and even their tendency to be overly controlling are all fully demonstrated by performance of Whittaker.


The episode has an extra episode – a focus on another new character named Bel (Thaddea Graham), who is traveling through space in search of her lost lover. Series 13’s story is so overcrowded that it’s unclear what role Bel has to play in the larger story. Indeed, her side plot largely feels meaningless on first viewing, until it is revealed at the end that her crush is none other than Vinder herself. In his quest, Bel is evading dark forces that are in conflict for control of the universe ravaged by Flux. The Sontarans are named as one of these warring factions, along with the Daleks and Cybermen, both of whom make unexpected cameos.

A galaxy war between the Daleks, Cybermen and Sontarans, though cliché, is still a more compelling premise than Series 13’s main plot – at least, that’s a simpler part. It doesn’t help matters that another new character, Awsok (Barbara Flynn), a mysterious old woman who appears in the Doctor’s vision, declares that Flux “wasn’t an accident… It was made, it was placed. For you.” Then she disappeared without explanation.

Despite the promise of epic revelations, “Once, Upon Time” just raises more questions. Despite some strong performances from Whittaker, Anderson, Graham, and Martin, the episode was a confusing mess with sub-world building and even worse dialogue. NS Flush the miniseries is half done and it’s still Not sure what exactly is going on in this needlessly complicated story. Next week’s episode, “Village of the Angels” appears to be another stand-alone story centered on the Crying Angel, making any answer about Ravagers, Mouri, Bel, Awsok, or Flux seem unlikely. out. Hopefully it will at least be more fun than this episode.

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Our rating:

2 out of 5 (Okay)

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