Watching The Halloween Apocalypse, I could not help but be reminded of the old saying that if you can’t dazzle someone with your brilliance, you should baffle them with bull. This seems to be the tactic adopted by episode writer and Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall, who, having been rejected by a fandom that are already counting the months until the return of Russell T Davies and the show’s 60th Anniversary, has apparently decided to throw everything but the kitchen sink into his final season in the hopes that something will stick. Unfortunately, based on this first episode, the only thing Whovians have to look forward to in Flux is the ending.
There is much to admire in the story of The Halloween Apocalypse, but upon examination most of these elements have been lifted from earlier Doctor Who stories in the hopes that nostalgia will blind viewers to the episode’s many flaws. Chief among these is the lack of a plot among multiple plot elements. Any one of the ideas Chibnall presents here might have made for a serviceable episode of Doctor Who. Instead, we are left to cope with The Doctor hunting a dog-faced alien for unexplained reasons, an escaped fugitive from a prison at the dawn of time, the return of the Sontarans AND the Weeping Angels, and another companion like River Song who meets The Doctor for the first time before the first time The Doctor meets them.
I will give the actors credit for trying to do the best they can with the script they have, though I suspect that Whovians in times to come shall debate whether Jodie Whittaker or Colin Baker had the more challenging time. (With any luck, Whittaker will get the chance to redeem her Doctor at Big Finish, as Baker did.) Unfortunately, John Bishop gets little to do apart from play Arthur Dent (i.e. say “What?” as he’s confronted by alien weirdness) and Mandip Gill has little to do as Yasmin apart from be frustrated by The Doctor not explaining anything – a feeling the audience is sure to sympathize with.
I must also give credit to the production team, who truly did outdo themselves on the effects for this episode. The opening sequence, with The Doctor and Yasmin, is perhaps the most exciting cold opening in the show’s history. Unfortunately, while it sets a brisk tone for the rest of the episode, the audience is more likely to keep watching in confusion rather than excitement, as I found myself wondering more than once if the BBC America feed I was watching had cut scenes for commercials or if I had missed something.
Perhaps this will all make sense in retrospect. However, given what a muddle Chibnall’s first two seasons as showrunner were, I rather doubt it. At this time, I believe that The Halloween Apocalypse will be viewed as a wonderful execution of a haphazard collection of ideas.