Classic Episode 3 Syndrome

There’s a conventional wisdom regarding the classic series which the Tour subscribes to in the following regard:  that the best length for a Doctor Who story was four episodes.  There are exceptions to this of course both up and down the scale.  The Sontaran Experiment is a delightful romp at only 2.  Who would argue that there are many six-parters, like The Talons of Weng-Chiang or The Sea Devils which are all-timers and by necessity fully fill their running length.  The Mind Robber just barely made it to 5, but did so delightfully.  Inferno was gripping for all its 7 episodes, and many exhalt–though we hasten to add not the Tour–The War Games at 10.

But four episodes seemed to be the sweet spot between a fully realized story with requisite sub-plots that didn’t either overstaying its welcome or run out of steam in the middle (i.e. where the characters are pretty much in the same spot at the end of episode 2 and the beginning of episode 4) with several episodes to go.  But it certainly wasn’t flawless.  There was what we came to know as ‘Episode 3 Syndrome.’  The problem isn’t that nothing happens in episode 3, but rather the author has the end of the story in sight and needs to move all of the characters into position for what will hopefully be an exciting sprint to the finish.

It’s by definition the mushy-middle of a story, and this Flux Series in 2021, at six parts, inevitably had to do this to set up the end of the Series.  Survivors of the Flux had to do that.  To say this though is not a slight to the story, rather it’s a recognition for what it had to do.  Yaz, Dan, and Professor Jericho had their own globe-trotting Edwardian adventure which was nothing but fun.  The Serpent insinuated himself as UNIT’s Shadow Minister.  All interesting stuff.

But someone had to get the short-shrift story wise, and that really fell to the Doctor.  We liked the nod to Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, but the interplay, and temptations of Tecteun seemed especially exposition-y to us.  It had to be done though.   After all next week is the end of the story–or so we’ve been sold. 

Images and caps for Survivors of the Flux are now online.