This week’s episode of Doctor Who was a wild adventure as the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her companions Yaz (Mandip Gill), Dan (John Bishop) and Vinder (Jacob Anderson) found themselves suspended in time. Admittedly, it was a confusing episode to follow because it visited multiple points in time for each character. Everyone was in their own “time stream” and the Doctor was trying to make sense of it all.
The ensuing time storm brought up many questions about the Doctor. Did the Doctor have a past before the one we know of? What is that missing piece of history?
“Once, Upon Time” also roped in more of Doctor Who’s iconic villains including the Cybermen, the Daleks, and the Weeping Angels. Showrunner Chris Chibnall wasn’t kidding when he said this episode had Marvel vibes to it! Confusing or not, it was so much fun to watch. And while it’s unclear where the storyline is going, I’m strapping in for the ride!
Read more about the timey-wimey confusion of this week’s episode below — SPOILERS ahead!
Doctor Who faces the time storm
Things start off on the planet Time, a place the Doctor believes should not exist. Yaz and Vinder are lost somewhere in the time storm, so the Doctor pushes herself and Dan into the two remaining Mouri spots on the platform, meaning they’re carried off by the time storm as well.
The Doctor may have a handle on this, but the humans aren’t remotely prepared for it. The Doctor uses the time-space vortex responsible for her regeneration to hide her friends within their own timelines. She extends this courtesy to Vinder as well, even though they’ve just met. Just meeting someone has never stopped the Doctor from doing the right thing before, so no surprise there!
Trying to manipulate the time-space vortex is easier said than done, and even the Doctor has her limits. The end result is a whole lot of confusion (seriously, I could barely follow along). We see the companions and the Doctor going in and out of different points in time, mostly the past but one time the future.
This timey-wimey confusion is important, particularly because of what we learned last season: that the Doctor isn’t a Time Lord but in fact the Timeless Child. That basically means she’s older than the universe and has a past that was erased by Time Lords. This comes back full-circle when the Doctor faces her own past, and Jo Martin’s Forgotten/Fugitive Doctor makes an appearance.
The Forgotten/Fugitive Doctor’s past mission to Atropos is revealed, and the Division’s true purpose is unraveled. It appears that they created the planet Time so as to bring time and space together. This plan was laid out so Gallifreyans could eventually become Time Lords, but Swarm (Sam Spruell) and Azure (Rochenda Sandall) were against the idea. They tried to bring down the Temple of Atropos but the Doctor was able to stop and capture them and put Mouri into their places instead to ensure the proper flow of time.
This is actually a big Doctor Who moment because we’ve never seen a mission of the Doctor’s like this before. For all intents and purposes, the first Doctor was William Hartnell but that is clearly not the case, and we’re finally starting to see the pieces of the puzzle come together.
Each companion relives moments from their timestream, and luckily Yaz doens’t have to endure anything too terrifying or traumatic. Her memories included being on patrol one night (she was a police officer before this companion business) and playing video games with her sister Sonya (Bhavnisha Parmar).
The temporal energy from the time storm, however, draws in the Weeping Angels. They basically stalk Yaz from that point on, showing up in random places like the video game or her cell phone.
By the end of the episode, a Weeping Angel finds its way onto the TARDIS and then takes over the controls. I’m not sure where they are headed, but if I had to guess, I’d say it has something to do with next week’s episode, “Village of the Angels.”
If you want to talk about confusing timelines, let’s talk about Dan’s journey. I guess that it makes sense that his experiences would be so scattered seeing as he has just entered this world and doesn’t really know how to navigate it. He’s thrown around in his past with Diane (Nadia Albina), who was captured by Azure in the season 13 premiere. She is clearly a big part of this season.
Dan may have entered his future as well, but I think we’ll have to wait and see if that was truly what we saw!
Who is Vinder?
We don’t know much about Vinder, but this week’s episode sheds some light on his past. He was an officer assigned to protect a leader known as the Grand Serpent, who ended up being a corrupt politician. Vinder tried to expose the guy but was reassigned to some observatory light-years away as punishment. That’s where we met him in the season 13 premiere, but there’s still much we have to learn about him.
As the Doctor goes in and out of the time-space vortex, she eventually comes face-to-face with three Mouris. She comes up with a plan to duplicate her past mission where she brought the Mouri into the Temple to control time. If she can recreate that victory and put the Mouri back in their place, she’s hoping that time will flow as it once did.
The Mouri are certainly interesting and remind me a lot of the Celestials from Marvel’s Eternals. They have a mystical vibe I’m hoping the show expands on.
The Doctor executes her plan successfully, but then she has one more vision of a woman who says she caused the Flux to happen.
After the Flux
After the crisis has been brought to an end, the Doctor and her companions drop Vinder off in his homeworld. Sadly, there isn’t much of a world left for him because it was destroyed by the Flux.
Throughout the episode, we kept seeing a woman named Bel (Thaddea Graham) who was looking for her long-lost love. By the end of the episode, we learn that the lover she is looking for is Vinder, whose baby she is pregnant with.
Bel travels through the universe in the aftermath of the Flux and comes across the Cybermen, Daleks, and Sontarans. But what is very interesting about the Cybermen she sees is that they are the same ones we saw back in season 12. They were supposed to exist only at the very end of time, so seeing them here means that there are likely multiple Fluxes going on. We’ve got ourselves a multiverse here, folks!
Doctor Who has obviously always involved time travel, but this season is taking things to the next level. I wasn’t sure when the series was going to finally go back to the Forgotten/Fugitive Doctor’s storyline, but I’m so glad it finally did this week. It was such a big reveal that they sort of grazed over last season. Thanks to the Flux event, it looks like we’re finally getting some answers!