Season 13 of Doctor Who (known as Flux) returned to the classic formula of one overarching story taking place over the course of several weeks. It promised an epic story with "six thrilling chapters" and yet, during the finale, I found myself drifting due to the overly complex nature of the plot and sighing at what could have been.
I went into this series with a lot of hope that the one-story structure would suit showrunner Chris Chibnall's style because of the success he achieved with Broadchurch. It didn't. After an opening episode that was surprisingly good, the following weeks began to dwindle in quality, all hinging on a finale that needed to wrap up around a dozen different plotlines. It didn't. At the very least, it would help us find out more about the controversial Timeless Child plotline and how it all fits into this universe. It didn't.
As Jodie Whittaker's Doctor battled Sontarans, the Grand Serpent, Swarm, Azure and the Flux itself, there were so many questions and head-scratching decisions on display. Namely, how the destruction of half the universe was reversed. It seems I'm not the only one either who was confused by this, with much of the Doctor Who Reddit forum still trying to piece together what actually happened.
"It felt like there was a scene missing," one commenter wrote. "Nothing in the entire season mattered," another said. It's hard to disagree. Audiences similarly have dipped out more and more, as viewing figures for last week's episode dipped below four million and Sunday's episode fell even further to around 3.6 million.
Before diving further in, let's look at some positives. While her talent felt wasted onscreen yet again for much of the series, Jodie Whittaker did what she could with the material admirably. The interrogation scene with the Grand Serpent for one was great. The same can be said for John Bishop's Dan and Mandip Gill's Yaz, even if both failed to contribute very little. Professor Eustacius Jericho (played by Kevin McNally) also grew on me and brought something different to what for the most part was a bland line-up of guest characters.
The cliffhangers have been sublime since episode one as well – most notably, the climax to episode four's Village of the Angels. Seeing the Doctor being horrifically transformed into a Weeping Angel of herself left a lasting impression to be sure.
All of this, though, can't make up for what was again a disappointing conclusion. Mysteries are easy to set up but a good payoff is key to good storytelling, and that's what this series lacked. Exposition, Exposition, and more Exposition. That's pretty much what made up the majority of the 60-minute runtime for episode six's The Vanquishers. Somehow Doctor Who made Tenet seem like Peppa Pig in comparison. Don't even get me started on the dismal Sontaran chocolate scene, either.
We now go into a New Year's special that for the third time in four years will see Jodie Whittaker battle the Daleks. The first female Time Lord to play the part will end her tenure with three final specials, so it's a little perplexing that the pepperpots are back again for another festive outing. But hey, it could be great! I have my doubts but you never know.
At this point, many of us are naturally clamouring for the return of Russell T Davies who has continued to write fantastic television (watch It's a Sin) since leaving over a decade ago. That's not to say Jodie Whittaker can't go out with a bang. It's just hard to deny that the Flux storyline could have been just the return to form the show needed but instead ended up being another waste of potential.
Doctor Who will return on New Year's Day in Eve of the Daleks, with Jodie Whittaker set to bow out with another special in 2022 and a final feature-length special as part of the BBC's Centenary celebrations at the end of the year.