War of the Sontarans

Posted in Episode by - November 08, 2021
War of the Sontarans

Aired 07 November 2021


With the Flux seemingly set to destroy the TARDIS and those within it at the end of this six-serial epic’s first chapter, Chris Chibnall begins to reveal more of the fallout of the Flux’s spread in ‘War of the Sontarans.’

Of course, the heroes were never going to succumb to the devastation of the Flux that has destroyed so much in its ever-progressing path, but the strange vision of a twisted house that the Doctor has before waking in Sebastopol during the Crimean War is an intriguing reminder of just how much remains unknown about the Flux as well as the Doctor’s own history at this point. Nonetheless, as Yaz and Dan mysteriously disappear to locations unknown, the Doctor quickly finds herself in the presence of Mary Seacole, a warring fleet of Sontarans, and a TARDIS strangely devoid of any doors.

The Sontarans, of course, have been featured predominantly as comic relief in the modern series, this marking their first true villainous appearance since 2008’s ‘The Sontaran Stratagem’ and ‘The Poison Sky.’ With a return to their more battered appearance from the classic series and the incorporation of the more advanced armour from the modern series, there is no denying the brutality of this clone race that is so fixated with the honour and glory of war as they advance the Sontaran front. Interestingly, their plan here takes advantage of an opening that the Flux affords them, and although it is disappointing that their conquest of Earth mostly takes place off screen, their scheme to invade throughout time is cunning and clearly effective while paying due homage to Sontaran plans of the past. As the Doctor and Mary make their way first to Mary’s ‘British Hotel’ and later to the actual Sontaran fleet, Dan Starkey and Jonathan Watson expertly capture the unique quirks and constant menace of battle-hardened Sontarans who refuse to surrender or live with shame. Naturally, the might of the British army at this time is as nothing compared to the might of the Sontarans, and so it’s unsurprising that the Sontarans emerge victorious with little loss of life once the inevitable battle commences. More interesting, however, is the revelation about the Sontarans’ scheduled replenishment cycle that Mary uncovers, a biological fact that provides an opening for the Doctor but that seemingly undercuts the menace of the Sontarans by presenting a glaring weakness in a race that hardly gets to show its supposed strategic prowess on the battlefield. Yet as is so often the case when the Doctor has emerged victorious in support of humanity, humanity shows its very worst, General Logan offering one final dereliction of honour that the Sontarans and their own pride could never fathom and once more bringing into question the Doctor’s continuing support of Earth’s denizens.

Away from the Doctor, Dan has his own encounter with the Sontarans in his own time while armed only with a Wok. This ultimately adds little to the plot except to showcase the extent of the Sontarans’ advancement in multiple times, but it nonetheless highlights Dan’s bravery as he and his pursuing Karvanista create a temporal shockwave and somewhat anticlimactically escape into the Mersey. Without question, John Bishop has easily assumed the role of companion with a unique determination and charm, and San should continue to offer a dynamic presence and mindset as this series progresses. However, it’s Yaz’s subplot that should ultimately have the most bearing on the overall narrative of Flux as she arrives at the Temple of Atropos on the planet of Time. Home of the Mouri who are allegedly tasked with controlling the flow of time and preventing it from running wild, this locale is also the focus of the mysterious trio of Swarm, Azure, and newcomer Passenger. Just as with the Timeless Child storyline, the Temple of Atropos has the potential to completely rewrite the known Doctor Who universe, and it should be fascinating to see just how much this plays into the Doctor’s very personal narrative. Vinder still hasn’t been given much to do, but Jacob Anderson and Mandip Gill do share an easy chemistry as the two attempt to deduce the truth behind this locale that has tasked them with its repair. And although there is perhaps a bit too much time spent with Swarm and Azure toying with and taunting these two, these scenes do perfectly reinforce the immense threat they form, a threat that very much seems capable of destroying the universe and beyond. This ultimately leads to another immense cliffhanger as the Doctor and Dan are reunited on this strange world the Doctor has no knowledge of, and although the actual war of the Sontarans from the title is somewhat underwhelming due to so much taking place off screen, the strong update of the Sontarans as a credible foe as well as the fascinating developments upon Time offer plenty to enjoy as Jodie Whitaker gives one of her strongest performances in the role of the Thirteenth Doctor yet.

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