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Doctor Who's Chris Chibnall Wants You to Think All These Weird Flux Asides Aren't Random

Doctor Who's experimental new season wants to follow in Marvel's tease-and-payoff footsteps.

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Skeletal alien villain The Swarm raises a hand while Jodie Whittaker's 13th Doctor looks on in concern in Doctor Who: Flux
“With a snap of my fingers Doctor, I can show you everything about... *checks notes* phase 4?”
Image: BBC

Flux, the current season of Doctor Who, has seen the series adapt to the weird times of pandemic-induced episode cuts with an experimental hail mary: a singular story told over six chapters. Two chapters in, it’s... hard to say just how well hailed that mary has been, if you will. But showrunner Chris Chibnall says that fans should be looking to this week’s halfway point to get an actual clearer picture of what’s going on.

Speaking to Doctor Who Magazine (via Radio Times) about “Once, Upon Time,”—the third episode of Doctor Who: FluxChibnall touched upon something that’s made the first two episodes feel a little less coherent than they arguably should’ve been if this was a typical season of Doctor Who. Basically, they’re picking up a lot of stuff, and have yet to actually put most of them down, leading to a confusing vomit of plot threads that are left to dangle in the ether while we occasionally stare at a Sontaran on a horse. There’s been new villains, shrunken houses, dog aliens showing up to save Earth, the titular universe-eating Flux itself, Weeping Angels, a wonky TARDIS, and that’s barely scratching the surface of it all. But Chibnall says that for at least some of those things, plans should come into focus very soon.

“In terms of form, and structure, especially in Chapter Three–[it] really does take the show in a new direction,” Chibnall told the magazine. “It’s very ambitious, and it credits the audience with sophistication and intelligence. Which is something we always do, of course, but with this, it’s very much asking you to trust the show and go on a ride. Not everything is given to you in the moment. As with a lot of television now, it credits the audience with a degree of patience–that they’re not going to know quite what’s going on.”


The showrunner hopes that the next episode, set to focus more on those aforementioned new villains, The Swarm and Azure—who seem to have an unknown beef with the Doctor, and know much more about them than they do these murderous alien siblings—will remind fans of another behemoth in the art of throwing down a lot of narrative threads for future pickup: Marvel Studio’s never-ending yearning to always be setting up what’s next. “For me, it was reminiscent of some of the shows that I love–of the way that Marvel Studios are telling stories; the way they’ll parcel out the information, and things can seem incredibly random and abstract, but they’re not in the end,” Chibnall added. “They’re part of a very cohesive whole, but you don’t get served straight away.”

We’ve got four more episodes to see if Chibnall can follow in the footsteps of one of pop culture’s most successful teasers around. Doctor Who: Flux continues on BBC One and BBC America this Sunday, November 14.

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