The Halloween Apocalypse

Posted in Episode by - November 01, 2021
The Halloween Apocalypse

Aired 31 October 2021


Overcoming the challenges of creating and filming during a global pandemic and amidst the swirling rumours surrounding who Jodie Whitaker’s replacement will be following her confirmed departure, Doctor Who returns to screens with Chris Chibnall’s ‘The Halloween Apocalypse,’ the first of a six-story serial arc titled Flux.

It’s clear from the start that the Doctor and Yaz have been traveling together for quite some time since the joint departure of Graham and Ryan, and the dynamic between Jodie Whittaker and Mandip Gill is sparkling throughout. The two have formed an immense friendship, and Yaz continues to become more and more confident and capable with the extra responsibilities afforded her without the expanded TARDIS team present. Still, the Doctor is not completely open with Yaz about her own thoughts and experiences, and while the Doctor suffers through psychic torment and communications without explaining just why pursuing Karvanista and risking their own lives in the process is so important, there is a certain degree of exasperation and even resentment from Yaz that brilliantly adds to the complex dynamic on display.

Fortunately, that strong chemistry already appears to extend to John Bishop as new companion Dan Lewis, a kind-hearted man who will volunteer his time as a museum tour guide- unofficially and much to the chagrin of those in power at the museum- and a soup kitchen before returning home to an empty pantry and refrigerator. He’s quick to show his support for Liverpool, and although he’s understandably a bit slower to come to terms with some of the otherworldly ideas presented, it’s obvious that he has a strong determination and compassion that should prove to be an immense asset for the Doctor going forward.

Of course, as the TARDIS begins to leak a strange substance internally and the doors continue to shift location and multiply, it’s through Dan that the Doctor and Yaz begin uncover more of the greater mystery at hand. While it is revealed that Karvanista has ties to the Time Lord Division that has already proven so consequential to the Doctor’s earlier lives she cannot remember, the realization that his race of seven billion approaching Earth is doing so to save the humans they are race bound to rather than to invade is a nice subversion of expectations that raises plenty of questions about how this binding came to be and just what sort of universal danger could trigger such a mass rescue mission given what Earth has faced before on countless occasions. It would be easy for a dog-looking alien to fall completely flat due to appearance, but Craig Els imbues an incredible amount of energy and fortitude to his performance that makes Karvanista a credible and visceral character that the energetic opening sequence and subsequent traps prove is anything but one-dimensional or filler even if he is less than forthcoming with information about the Division.

As it happens, the titular Flux appears to be a monumental threat that certainly ranks among the most dangerous the Doctor and universe have ever seen, a rapidly-spreading force of sorts that can tear apart the very foundation of anything in its way. The rapidity by which entire planets are destroyed is staggering, and the inability of the Doctor with the TARDIS to affect any sort of noticeable change solidifies the magnitude of its threat. A lesser-known quantity is Swarm, an ancient enemy of the Doctor’s from before the time she can remember and a figure that appears to be in control of the Flux. Again, there is no time wasted in proving Swarm’s power as he renews himself by effortlessly dispatching of and absorbing those who once again come to check on his eons-old imprisonment, and the psychic connection he forms with the Doctor as well as his heightened mental abilities in general certainly make him a unique presence that should serve to reveal far more about the Timeless Child mystery, whether or not he is directly related to the Time Lords or the Doctor’s own alien race.

‘The Halloween Apocalypse’ naturally has to set up threads for Flux’s future stories, and so it’s understandable that far more questions are raised than answers provided at this time. The Weeping Angel sequence is expertly done and recaptures the inherent fear and tension that these creatures carry with them, but the importance of Claire who knows the Doctor from events in her future and who is taking the long way around remains to be seen. Likewise, while the Sontarans make an immediate impact in their limited appearance as theie unique combination of love of battle and slightly more comedic stylings return, just how they will feature in the story as a whole is a complete mystery. And while Jacob Anderson is a tremendous addition to the cast who is sure to feature more prominently in the future, his Vinder is only briefly used to tangentially introduce the Flux before fleeing its impending destructiveness. Beyond the importance of the underground tunnels in 19th-century Liverpool, the emergence of Swarm’s sister from a more Earthbound setting also proves to be a lingering question mark, and hopefully these many threads will have ample payoff as this saga unfolds. Nonetheless, it’s hard to fault a story for laying narrative seeds, and the mysteries that are delved into here as well as the immense characterization of the leads and Karvanista amidst the backdrop of a truly immense threat to the entire universe set this arc off on a suitably strong and welcome note.

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