Doctor Who: Once, Upon Time Review - 5 Ups & 6 Downs

Does anyone else feel like they need a lay down?

Doctor Who Flux
BBC

What the Flux was that?

Never has an episode of Doctor Who left us so baffled. Once, Upon Time had so much plot stuffed into its forty-five minute runtime that it makes the infamously convoluted series 6 look like an episode of the Tweenies by comparison. It seems like Chibs has quit cribbing from the RTD era and gone full Moffat on this one.

Was that a masterpiece or a misfire? We aren’t sure yet. Let’s unravel this web of timey-wimey exposition and attempt to find some sense.

11. DOWN - A Confusing Mess

Doctor Who Flux
BBC

First things first, we have to praise this episode for its structure, which sets it apart from the crowd. The episode attempts to tell five simultaneous stories, one for each of our five protagonists: The Doctor, Yaz, Dan, Vinder and the newly introduced Bel. It tends to be the episodes that change up the ‘monster of the week’ format that really stick with you, for better or worse.

Unfortunately, this time, it’s a case of great concept, poor execution. The jumps between these stories, especially in the first twenty minutes, are frantic at best and downright disorientating at worst. So much is dumped on the viewer in quick succession, with little context, that it’s difficult to follow exactly what’s going on. As the episode continues, this pacing becomes less of an issue, but by that point the damage has been done.

We can’t help but feel that this episode could have been Chibnall’s best yet if we watched each story unfold one at a time like an anthology - now that really would have been an interesting format change. In fact, when ‘Bel’s Story’ appeared, this is what we expected to happen, which begs the question: what exactly was the point of the title slates at the start of her scenes?

So close to greatness, and yet so far.

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Sci-fi and fantasy swot, writer for WhoCulture and Moffat fanboy. Enjoys very small cats and very big cups of tea.