The Halloween Apocalypse

Story No. 325 Man's best friend
Production Code Series 13, Episode 1
Dates October 31, 2021

With Jodie Whittaker, Mandip Gill, John Bishop
Written by Chris Chibnall Directed by Jamie Magnus Stone
Executive Producers: Chris Chibnall, Matt Strevens, Nikki Wilson

Synopsis: The Doctor and Yaz are in pursuit of the dog-like Karvanista.


A Gallantry on the Eve of Battle by Jason A. Miller 17/11/21

It can be rough, being the first hour of a six-hour epic. Lots of unfamiliar characters and concepts, names and places, get thrown at the viewer without so much as a by-your leave. So I heard lots and lots of complaining online about hour number one . "Noisy". "Too busy". Etc. Show me a new Doctor Who episode, and I'll show you an unhappy, miserable fandom.

So I agree, Episodes 1 and 2 of the six-hour The Daleks' Masterplan really are busy and noisy. Lots of story-time real-estate given over to Lizan and Roald, and Kert Gantry, who won't even appear in the back five hours of the thing. So many alien delegates to meet, but the only one who has any real dialogue, the twig man, is not introduced until Episode 2, and is killed off. And then, just when we've grasped Kembel's geography, we're off on a spaceship and leave it behind until Episode 11.

Oh, wait.


That's Dalek Masterplan, one of Doctor Who's all-time beloved classics, its first six-hour epic. HUH. Come to find out, you can have a "busy", "noisy", first hour of a six-hour epic, and... guess what? The darned thing turns out pretty amazing.

This review is written in the dark, as I'm unwisely choosing to write about The Halloween Apocalypse, Chapter One of Flux, without Chapters Two through Six having aired yet. But... I'm sold. I'm happy. I'm, and this is a rare thing in the Chibnall era, enthused. This is Chibnall's third season opener as showrunner, and each one has been better than the last.

Peeking behind the curtains for a moment, Flux Chapter One had to be noisy. It was made in the time of COVID-19, which restricts how many actors you can have on set for how long, and how much crew can be there. Most of the hour is therefore made up of scenes of two or three characters interacting (sometimes two, sometimes four, and, rarely, a crowd of extras). And, this being a six-hour epic, there are going to be a lot of characters (Daleks Masterplan did that too) to pair off in those scenes.

Breaking down Halloween Apocalypse into its component parts, there are a lot of intriguing developments. The Doctor and Yaz's relationship has progressed since we last left them in Revolution of the Daleks, to the point where there's now a mattress in the TARDIS console room (hello, Thasmin). There's the charismatic Dan, an unemployed fellow who spends his time volunteering at food banks (when it turns out he needs to be a client) or giving unapproved tours at the Museum of Liverpool. We have two Division agents (if you remembered the Division from Series 12, and I kinda didn't) guarding over a sinister prisoner, two people working in the Arctic Circle, a Space Dog on a sinister-seeming mission to Earth, and someone named Vinder in the intriguingly named Outpost Rose guarding the edge of the Milky Way galaxy from a planet-sucking menace. There are two returning alien races, one from the Classic Series and one from the new. Oh, and a historical mystery from 1820 is shown, too.

But these aren't just random plot points. They're interlinking twists. One of the antagonists turns out to be a good guy working tirelessly to save humanity. Another antagonist has an intimate link to the Doctor's forgotten past, which is brought up twice -- the Doctor enters this story questing for information about the Division, and then the antagonist establishes a psychic link with the Doctor to announce that their ages-old (and, by the Doctor, forgotten) clash is back on. Another character seems to be from the Doctor and Yaz's future, and still another character, one we've learned to care about in their two scenes, seems to meet a cruel and undeserved fate.

Halloween Apocalypse tosses a lot of information at the viewer, but it's good information, with humor peppered throughout the script and a mounting sense of jeopardy, resulting in a cliffhanger that literally rushes the camera at the end, concluding Chapter One nearly in mid-sentence.

Count me in as riveted, and in breathless anticipation of Chapter Two. And that's something there hasn't been a whole lot of in the Chibnall era to date: breathless anticipation and a sense of lusting to know how the story will end. So Halloween Apocalypse isn't just busy and noisy. It's also excellent, and hopefully portends good things about the coming five hours.