This overview incorporates spoilers for Physician Who Collection 13, Episode 2Final week’s episode of Physician Who was a surprisingly sturdy introduction to the Flux miniseries and the brand new season as an entire, providing a way more enjoyable and compelling story than the previous episodes of Chris Chibnall’s tenure as showrunner. And whereas this week’s episode does falter a bit, it’s nonetheless a particular step up from the earlier season.
“Conflict of the Sontarans”, written by Chibnall himself, picks up the place final week’s episode left off, with the TARDIS being swallowed by the Flux together with the whole Earth. Nevertheless, a lot to the Physician’s shock, Earth continues to be there, together with the remainder of area and time. Whatever the Flux has done to the universe, it hasn’t destroyed it — however that’s a thriller that’ll must be solved one other time, as a result of the Physician and her companions quickly discover themselves in a completely new mess.
The Physician, Yaz, and new companion Dan (John Bishop) discover themselves scattered all throughout time and area. The Physician is trapped in nineteenth century Crimea, the place a struggle is being waged not towards the Russians, however towards the Sontarans, a species of bloodthirsty warmongers who can be fairly acquainted to longtime followers of the collection. In the meantime, Dan is returned dwelling to twenty first century Liverpool, solely to seek out the reality behind the Sontarans’ meddling with history — the Sontarans managed to make their approach onto Earth earlier than the Flux consumed it (as foreshadowed within the earlier episode), occupying Liverpool and developing a fleet of ships that can enable them to journey by time, conquering Earth at varied factors all through its historical past. On the identical time, Yaz encounters newcomer Vinder (Jacob Anderson) within the mysterious Temple of Atropos, the place the brand new villain Swarm quickly seems to advance his plans.
The spotlight of “Conflict of the Sontarans” is, fittingly sufficient, the Sontarans. Ever since “The Sontaran Stratagem” and “The Poison Sky”, the Collection 4 two-parter that reintroduced them to the revived collection, the Sontarans have been out of the highlight for over a decade. Regardless of being a few of the Doctor’s most infamous foes, they’ve by no means been depicted as main antagonists in subsequent seasons, solely showing both as a quick cameo (like in “The Pandorica Opens”) or as comedian aid, as exemplified by the recurring character Strax from Steven Moffat’s period as showrunner. Nevertheless, Chibnall appears intent on returning the Sontarans to their roots on this episode. Their plan of meddling with human historical past calls again to the primary Sontaran story, the 1973 Third Physician serial “The Time Warrior”, through which a Sontaran officer schemed to overcome medieval England. In actual fact, contemplating the antagonist of that story, Commander Linx, is name-dropped on this very episode, the homage is probably going an intentional one.
The Sontarans on this episode nonetheless hold among the comedy of earlier appearances however steadiness it out with a deadly ruthlessness and grandiose ambition befitting of among the Physician’s best enemies. The brutality of their warrior tradition is on full show, with one memorable scene exhibiting a Sontaran commander solemnly executing a subordinate as a present of mercy. Their extra grotesque redesign helps, making them seem as scarred and malformed lots of flesh in well-worn gunmetal grey armor, versus the “offended potatoes sporting vibrant blue plastic” look they’d in previous seasons. In addition they get loads of nice traces, from the ominous (“Your blood shall soak our uniforms, your our bodies shall soften our steps.”) to the whimsical. (“I at all times wished to journey a horse.”) Certainly, this episode stands out as the perfect depiction of the Sontarans in the revived series, even when it doesn’t have a lot competitors.
After all, the remainder of the forged has their time to shine as properly. Specifically, Jodie Whittaker places in one in all her finest performances but, feeling extra just like the Physician than ever earlier than as she stares down the Sontaran menace. The primary plot of the episode, through which the Physician makes an attempt to defeat the Sontarans with out inflicting any additional bloodshed, is an ideal car for Jodie to showcase the arrogance, willpower, and compassion that outline the character of the Physician. It’s nothing significantly revolutionary — actually, the episode recycles fairly a couple of acquainted story beats, with the Doctor once again butting heads with a human army chief over whether or not it’s proper to make use of power — but it surely’s nonetheless a serious enchancment over previous Chibnall episodes.
Dan can be a spotlight, simply as he was within the earlier episode. Whereas his decreased position means he isn’t fairly as a lot of a show-stealer, his dynamic together with his cranky dog-man protector Karvinista (Craige Els) is as soon as once more a supply of utter pleasure, particularly since they’re finally those who deal the decisive blow towards the Sontarans. The one draw back to Dan’s position within the episode is that he spends most of it apart from the Doctor, which means the brand new TARDIS trio has to this point spent the overwhelming majority of the season divided. Hopefully, future episodes will treatment this, however for now, it’s a obvious subject that the character dynamics of the principle forged have gone sorely underutilized.
That is particularly an issue within the case of Yasmin “Yaz” Khan (Mandip Gill), whose subplot is by far the weakest hyperlink of the episode. It’s an actual disgrace too — simply as Yaz was lastly beginning to present a much-needed improve when it comes to writing high quality, her section of Episode 2 is crammed with little greater than clumsy exposition. Even Jacob Anderson’s Vinder, one of many most charming new characters of the season premiere, has little to do apart from hearken to a floating pyramid spout cryptic foreshadowing about plot factors the viewers has no context for. It’s revealed that Yaz and Vinder are within the Temple of Atropos on the planet Time (a laughably on-the-nose identify if there ever was one), the place beings often called the Mouri supposedly hold time from working uncontrolled.
For sure, this seemingly has one thing to do with the looks of the Flux, although it’s exhausting to know what contemplating the viewers is barely given probably the most fundamental particulars of those new worldbuilding components. The existence of the Mouri is very head-scratching when one considers that the Time Lords (or if one have been to go much more obscure, the Guardians of Time) have historically been depicted as those liable for sustaining steadiness in spacetime, making the entire reveal smack of much more needlessly convoluted retcons from Chibnall. Quickly, Swarm and his sister (now recognized as “Azure”) enter the image with their very own designs on the Temple of Atropos. What stated designs are, nonetheless, is unknown, as not one of the mysteries round these new villains are revealed on this episode.
Hopefully, future episodes will clear issues up — in spite of everything, this story continues to be removed from over. However for now, this episode presents more questions than answers, to irritating impact. “Conflict of the Sontarans” is a superbly satisfying (if uninventive) story with some sturdy characterization, but it surely’s sadly slowed down by its place in a bigger story that gives too little development to maintain up the suspense.
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