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‘Doctor Who: Flux’ recap: Chapter 3 “Once, Upon Time”

Doctor Who: Flux recap: “Once, Upon Time,” Aired Nov. 14, 2021

Welcome to Chapter 3 of me having no idea what the heck is going on in Flux. At this point, we’re halfway through, and Chris Chibnall is either a genius or is just throwing everything in the Whoniverse at the show in a “what are they going to do, fire me” exit. The jury’s still out on that one.
Without further ado, we start our tale, “Once, Upon Time.”

Bel’s story

It’s the aftermath of the Flux, and apparently, daleks aren’t the scariest thing in the post-Flux world. Those Ravagers don’t look freaky, but we should all be very afraid. 

When we meet Bel, she’s fighting her way across her world to get to someone. She dodges daleks and successfully fights off a bunch of cybermen in the name of love. She doesn’t manage to find the person she’s looking for, but we learn at the end of the episode it’s Vinder, and she’s pregnant with his child. They’re still looking for each other at episode’s end, and despite the little screen time they had together, I’m invested. 

“Time is playing games with you all”

We spend the episode hopping between time streams, as if I wasn’t confused enough going into the episode.

In an attempt to buy time to save her friends and, well, the universe, the Doctor puts herself and Yaz, Dan, and Vinder into the center of a time storm. Yaz and Dan appear back on Earth in their respective homes – camouflage, apparently – but they’re aware something isn’t right. It’s revealed to be the companions’ past, present, and future memories they’re living.

Vinder certainly plays a bigger part this episode, and we see how he ended up at Outpost Rose. After getting a job with the Grand Serpent, who, it turns out, is totally corrupt, he attempts to file a report as a whistleblower. Looks like his punishment was getting posted out in the middle of nowhere.  This was the first thing to make sense all episode, and it was 50 minutes in. 

She’s back-ish

The Doctor finds herself bouncing in and out of time streams and different realities. She’s just as lost as me – well, maybe not quite as lost – until she looks in a mirror and sees Jo Martin as the Doctor staring back at her. It’s then the Thirteenth Doctor realizes she’s in a memory – one she’s forgotten.

Before she “fixes time,” the Doctor is told some troubling information, then ripped back to the Temple of Atropos before she can make any sense of it. This universe is over, and it was supposed to end. Plus, she learns the Flux was not a naturally occurring event. It was placed because of her. Aaaaaand that’s all the Doctor learns from the mysterious gardening lady before she’s ripped back into the time storm and back to the present. Pretty positive we’ll hear more on that later, and maybe more Jo Martin, too.

Once, Upon Time

On a planet called Time, Swarm and Azure seem awfully comfortable on their thrones, and they’re quite confident in their victory. The Doctor takes over the Temple of Atropos from them by summoning the Mouri through the Passenger, except she’s playing right into their plan. They brought her there because they knew exactly what she’d do. Swarm and Azure know a lot I don’t know (and a lot the Doctor doesn’t remember), and that knowledge is proving a huge advantage for them.

Swarm and Azure have Diane (Dan’s friend, got sucked into the haunted house in Chapter 1) as a hostage, and who knows how many other hostages they have? This is a sure-fire way to keep the Doctor fighting, which appears to be exactly what they want from her. 

They’re pretty cool and threatening villains so far, but I definitely want the backstory there.


Daleks and cybermen and angels – oh, my! The Flux is bringing a whole host of problems for the universe to contend with. In this chapter, it seems the humans have the daleks and cybermen pretty much handled (I’m impressed), but the angels are proving much more persistent. Once again, they’re the most terrifying part of the episode. 

And next week, the angels have the time machine (hey, hey – “the angels have the phonebox” flashbacks)! I’m ready for a Doctor Who episode worthy of behind-the-couch viewing. So until then, don’t blink, Whovians. 

Next week:

What did you think of “Once, Upon Time”? Let us know at @PureFandom on Twitter!

Doctor Who airs Sundays on BBC America at 8/7c.


Jordan Alperstein

Jordy has a degree in English literature and communication studies. When she isn't attending concerts, she's watching way too much TV for her own good and fangirling over fictional characters. Jordy is a self-proclaimed optimist and bookworm, and she's a sucker for fantasy, superheroes, and good old-fashioned villains.

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