The first episode of Flux - or Series 13 - reminded me a little of a series finale. A big threat to Earth / the universe, a coming together of various aliens and allies - some new, some old. We even started in mid adventure, with the Doctor and Yaz already having encountered the mysterious Karvanista and come a cropper - suspended over an acid sea, and threatened by laser drones should they escape.
They manage to make it back to the TARDIS, but there's something strange going on with the ship. Black goo is dripping from the roof, and the door has moved. The Doctor doesn't seem overly bothered about this - or at least she's not letting on to Yaz, or to the audience.
meanwhile in Liverpool, we get introduced to Dan. John Bishop shines from the get go. He's a very funny character - even funnier than Graham.
His life is a bit rubbish, but he does have a dinner date. Shame he doesn't get to go on it as Karvanista turns up and abducts him. Or at least that's what we're led to believe. Turns out he's actually saving Dan. His race - the Lupari - are species-bonded. Each Lupari is honour-bound to save the life of a human being when the Earth is threatened. Dan is Karvanista's human. The Lupari is based on a dog, but you can't help thinking of Chewbacca with a northern accent.
We finally discover why the Doctor came to be involved with him - he was a member of the Division (the shady Gallifreyan outfit which the Doctor worked for - though this suggests that it didn't just employ Time Lords.
Something else from the Doctor's past is Swarm - the skull-faced alien we saw in the trailers. He is an ancient evil being who has been imprisoned since the dawn of time, but has now escaped. He has a colleague - a female named Azure. We first see her looking like a human woman, living in the Arctic for some reason. Swarm tells the Doctor, psychically, that they have battled each other in the past. He remembers all this - problem is she doesn't.
The whole universe is being threatened by the Flux - a huge cloud which disintegrates everything it touches. Presumably Swarm has triggered this, as he can make individuals disappear in the same manner.
Someone who knows all about the Flux, and plan to benefit from it, are the Sontarans. They make a brief appearance, but are the focus of next week's Crimean War / Mary Seacole episode.
Also appearing were the Weeping Angels, and a woman named Clare who knows the Doctor and Yaz, but they don't know her - yet. Clearly this is setting up another Chapter of the story. We also saw Joseph Williamson, the tunnel-obsessed Victorian philanthropist. Like Clare, his role in events still isn't clear. As with Vinder. He was commanding an observation space station which encountered the Flux, and he is still to meet the Doctor and her companions.
So lots of things going on, at a great rate of knots, and much of it unclear how it all fits together.
Part One of a two-parter is hard to judge until you've seen the second half, and this is even harder to judge as it is the start of a six-parter, with a long way to go. From what we saw tonight, there is more than enough of interest to keep the audience coming back. I suspect that Swarm & Azure and the Flux will continue to crop up throughout all the episodes, but I do want to see a couple of more self-contained episodes, and a little less frenetic a pace. Potential pitfalls ahead - if the Doctor could defeat Swarm before, then what's to stop her doing it again? And universe re-writing events tend to simply get reversed at the end, putting everything back the way it was (a la Avengers Endgame for starters. Come to think of it, Swarm even looked like Red Skull at one point).
Also, I wonder how many Everton fans will now have boycotted the series?