I have to be honest: when it comes to ranking Doctor Who villains, the Sontarans have never been even close to the top. I honestly find them to be one-dimensional loudmouths who look like giant potatoes. So it’s not surprising that “War of the Sontarans,” the second installment of Doctor Who: Flux serial season, fell a little flat for me. In fact, this whole thing is only rescued by the Doctor’s companions (Yaz and Dan) and by Sara Powell’s performance as Mary Seacole.
“War of the Sontarans” Plot
After the events of last week’s episode, the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), Yaz (Mandip Gill), and Dan (John Bishop) find themselves in the middle of a battlefield where they are met by British-Jamaican healer and businesswoman Mary Seacole. While Seacole is supposed to be of aid in the Crimean war, she is instead part of a fight against the Sontarans, which instantly disturbs the Doctor as the Sontarans are not supposed to be part of this era of history. This raises a serious and concerning question: is the mysterious entity known as the flux destroying the world by rewriting history?
Yaz and Dan then disappear from sight. Yaz is transported to a planet called Time where she is recruited to repair Time’s temple. She then meets the newly introduced character Vinder (Jacob Anderson), and then they both have an unpleasant reaction with the new villains Swarm (Sam Spruell) and Azure (Rochenda Sandall).
Dan, meanwhile, is transported to Liverpool where the Sontarans have taken over and rule with an iron fist, executing anyone who so much as breaks curfew. He is rescued by his parents before being briefed on the events that have taken place in the mere days since he vanished with Karvanista (Craig Els). He then makes it his mission to break onto a Sontaran ship and do what he can to aid the Doctor in this fight.
“War of the Sontarans” Review
Let’s start off with the good news. This episode isn’t nearly as all over the place as last week’s episode, which had so many plot points going on I felt like I needed a map to keep up. While there’s still a bit too much going on to keep up with since the three characters are scattered far apart, it was a little less complicated this time around. I enjoyed the Doctor’s storyline, with her aiding Britain in the 1800s as they fight the Sontarans, and I loved her interactions with Seacole. I also loved Dan’s storyline, and he’s growing on me as a likable and humorous companion for Doctor Who: Flux. While some could question if he’s all that smart in this episode, I would say he’s just an average joe trying to figure out how to handle being thrust into a not-so-average situation. He’s funny and likable, and one can only hope he’ll stay on board the TARDIS even after Whittaker’s departure.
Unfortunately, Yaz and Vinder’s storyline bored me. It’s not the character’s fault as much as it is the confusion. Not knowing the full story behind the planet Time’s temple or the story behind Swarm and Azure is going to cause me immense frustration if it isn’t revealed soon. The best we get is a revelation that Vinder has somehow been disgraced in the past and is seeking to redeem himself. That piqued my interest, but I still need more information to care about this character more.
And while I am happy they at least got through one of the many of the storylines that were teased in last week’s episode, I suppose I just struggled with the fact that it was the Sontaran episode. I knew they were coming for weeks and I wasn’t thrilled. Again, I don’t find the Sontarans that compelling. The only Sontaran I ever cared about was Strax of the Paternoster Gang, and he only gets points for being hilariously stupid. Honestly, I am more eager to see the Weeping Angels storyline play out, as they are legitimately menacing and frightening villains. I’m also looking forward to the Ood who we haven’t seen since David Tennant’s run on the show, but the Sontarans remain to be one-dimensional and boring. I will admit, they do show their danger more in this series than I’ve seen before, but not enough to make me all that fascinated.
My final criticism is that while I’m glad they got through this storyline, it felt like it was rushed through and there are still more revelations, storylines, and villains to face in just four episodes. It seems like a whole lot of this is going to be rushed before we can start caring for any new characters, and I’m starting to think that Chris Chibnall’s idea of ending his reign as showrunner is to throw everything at us but the kitchen sink. His reign has been considered a failure to many Doctor Who fans, and he seems to be using Doctor Who: Flux as an opportunity to redeem himself. But in this case, it may not be too little too late, but too MUCH too late.
Ultimately, “War of the Sontarans” falls a little flat, but it has some upsides that make it pretty good. Dan is proving himself a fun-loving and likable companion, and Powell was excellent in her portrayal of Mary Seacole. The story is rushed, and that may be a worrying signal of what’s to come in the remainder of Doctor Who: Flux. And while the side story with Yaz and Vinder didn’t wow me, I am hopeful that we will learn more about Vinder quickly, which I can only hope will help the story pick up. I have the same thoughts about Swarm and Azure. I still want to know about their history with the Doctor prior to her memory-wiping.
This is far from Doctor Who’s golden era, but it is not a terrible entry. It won’t blow your mind, but it has its moments.