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Doctor Who - The Halloween Apocalypse - Review

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Episode: "Chapter One: The Halloween Apocalypse"
Directed by: Jamie Magnus Stone
Written by: Chris Chibnall
Air date: 31 October 2021


We're officially back with Doctor Who and it feels like it's been forever since the last episode. In fact, I might need a quick refresher on the New Year's special. Before we get to the events of this hour, let me just start by saying that I've been trying to limit my knowledge of spoilers for future episodes to the absolute minimum. I'm well aware of this season being a six-episode story known as Doctor Who: Flux and I've heard the big behind-the-scenes announcements regarding the upcoming cast and crew changes, but not much beyond that. I've found the experience of watching something with no prior knowledge to be much more enjoyable and would like to continue avoiding spoilers as much as possible.

Now, to the hour itself, starting with a recap. The Doctor and Yaz have been travelling on their own for a while now and have recently began a pursuit of Karvanista, with Yaz not aware of the real reason behind the Doctor's interest in him. They manage to escape after being captured by him, only to follow him to the Earth and discover he has kidnapped a man named Dan Lewis. Eventually the TARDIS allows the duo to locate and free Dan and learn that Karvanista has taken him from Liverpool because he and the rest of his dog-like Lupari species are trying to protect humanity from the Flux, an unknown entity coming to destroy the Earth and consuming everything in its way. The Doctor comes up with an idea to shield the planet from destruction, thanks to Karvanista and the Lupari fleet, but together with Dan and Yaz gets caught by the Flux quickly approaching the TARDIS. Throughout the episode we are also introduced to a number of new recurring characters. First we see a mysterious being, Swarm, escaping his imprisonment after millennia, who appears to share a connection with the Doctor, even though she doesn't remember them ever meeting. Swarm is later reunited with his sister Azure, seemingly trapped inside a woman living in the Arctic Circle. There's also Claire who appears to know the Doctor and encounters her briefly with Yaz before being captured by a Weeping Angel. Next, we have a museum worker Diane, invited to a date by Dan shortly before his kidnapping, and later caught by Swarm and Azure. Furthermore, earlier in the episode we are briefly introduced to a philanthropist Joseph Williamson, working on the construction of the tunnels under Liverpool back in 1820 and in addition we follow Vinder, the only crew member of a remote outpost in deep space, trying to evacuate after encountering the Flux. Finally there's the Sontarans, who seem to be aware of the upcoming destruction and are excited and ready for the approaching war.

In terms of the story, this certainly feels like an interesting starting point. There's not much I can say so early in the season, but I definitely feel intrigued and excited to watch the remaining episodes. The Flux feels both new and familiar in a lot of ways, especially if you're a DC and/or Marvel fan (comics, TV or movies). For Doctor Who, this feels most similar to "The Stolen Earth / Journey's End" which happens to be one of my all-time favorite Doctor Who stories, except this time we don't know a lot about all the people involved. The Doctor and Yaz are our main connection to the events and while I do like them both together and individually, I probably wouldn't count them as one of the best Doctor/Companion duos so far. Who knows, maybe this will change soon? Surprisingly, I very much enjoyed the addition of Dan Lewis. He immediately felt like a genuinely nice and fun character to follow, which doesn't happen all that often, so kudos to John Bishop who portrays him on the show. I'm curious to see for how long Dan will be sticking around and to learn more about his character overall.

The rest of the newcomers didn't make a lasting impression on me just yet, but I'm interested to see how they will fit in the story. I'm guessing at one point the Doctor, Yaz and Dan might find themselves in 1820 and also meeting younger Claire. Claire's sudden appearance, her knowledge of the Doctor and the fact she knew exactly how to act around the Weeping Angels, even if she failed during their encounter, was definitely one of the most intriguing parts of the season premiere. I also thought there might be some potential in the Arctic Circle story, but with Azure being released I don't imagine we'll be coming back there. Maybe only to understand how she got trapped there in the first place. Speaking of traps, I'm assuming that Swarm's imprisonment at the start of the hour is at least partially the work of the Doctor, in one of her earlier incarnations that she can't remember. The plot of the Timeless Child continues and the Doctor is actively searching for the answers. I was hoping that following the events of last season she might be more open with Yaz about her search, but that doesn't seem to be the case at the moment. Maybe it's all the secrets that are stopping this duo from being absolutely great together. Regardless, the Flux has put this quest on hold, but when she figures out a way to survive, the Doctor will be coming back to Karvanista for the answers about Division. Let's see how that goes.

Overall, it was a good and solid season opener. Interested to see where we go from here, especially considering the cliffhanger. Perhaps all the doors suddenly appearing in the TARDIS might allow the crew to escape? For now, here we go into the Flux.

Whovian notes and questions:
1. What are your thoughts about Karvanista? I haven't mentioned him much in the review, as I haven't really made up my mind about him. His character definitely felt like a "more than meets the eye" kind of person, so I'm hoping we'll come back to him later in the story.
2. Of all the newcomers, whose story are you most interested in at this point? For me it's Dan and Claire.
3. Who were you more excited to see return - the Sontarans (in their earlier look) or the Weeping Angels?
4. The Lupari race, I believe, is the new addition to Doctor Who. I feel like they might become one of the new fan favorites for the dog lovers out there. For someone like me, who's not exactly an animal person, I was glad they turned out to be the good guys trying to help, but I didn't necessarily love the reason behind it. What's your first impression of them?

Memorable quotes:
1. The Doctor: "Synchronize watches. Forget that: I'm not wearing a watch."
2. Yasmin Khan: "Pro tip, Dan Lewis. Don't diss the designated rescuer."
3. Dan Lewis: "What's the point of being alive if it's not to make others happy?"

What did you think about "The Halloween Apocalypse"? Any favorite scenes, quotes or theories? Feel free to let us know in the comments. As always, thanks for reading!

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