A valid criticism of the 13th Doctor’s era is Chris Chibnall’s willingness to hold the audience’s hand with info-dumps and unnecessary commentary. Refreshingly, more is expected of us for Once, Upon Time and as a result the episode has that rewatchability factor. But like The Timeless Children, there is an unreliability about the narrator that could leave us feeling cheated when the story reaches its conclusion.
Then it was the Master guiding the Doctor through the story, but now it’s the mysterious Mouri, with the Doctor’s relying on their support as she fights to save Yaz and Vinder. The Mouri decide just how much the Doctor is allowed to know about her past, and it turns out to be very little.
Scattered between the relived and altered memories of the Doctor, Yaz, Dan and Vinder are more traditional scenes in which we find out about some of the aftereffects of the Flux. It’s not only the Sontarans who have tried to take advantage of the situation, Daleks and Cybermen are also making their moves for universal domination. We only see snippets of the Doctor’s most iconic foes, but it ups the stakes as the Doctor tries to correct the timelines.
So are we really any closer to solving some of the mysteries of the series? Our hunch is that more is revealed than we might think, but we’ll have to rewatch again after the end of the series to spot the hidden clues. For now, the speculation continues…
10. Can Any Of The Memories Be Trusted?
The Doctor’s risky solution to the cliff-hanger at the end
of War of the Sontarans is to jump into the time storm and hide Yaz, Dan and
Vinder in their own time stream, to relive their memories or experience their
future. That way she can keep them alive while she appeals to the Mouri to fix Atropos.
The Doctor was wrong to assume she’d found the perfect hiding place. Yaz’s memories are very different to what she is experiencing, Dan keeps being thrown from one scene to another, and the Doctor gets distracted by her quest to uncover more about her own past.
The Weeping Angels are part of the problem, certainly as far as Yaz is concerned, and the fact that the Ravagers have taken Dan’s friend Diane means that they could be toying with him through the Passenger. If time has been so drastically altered for Yaz and Dan, can we have any confidence in the Doctor and Vinder’s backstories?
Swarm knows all about Vinder, but the Doctor’s plan has run smoothly for the fighter pilot. His memories make sense of how he ended up on Outpost Rose and why he was so bitter about his employers. We can also trust all the scenes with his girlfriend Bel.
The Doctor’s past is directly connected to the Flux and to
Swarm’s takeover of Time, the logic of the entire series would collapse if we
could not rely on those memories of the Division’s capture of Swarm and Azure.