Temple of Atropos & Mouri Explained

Sadye Matula

The dramatic ending of Doctor Who season 13, episode 2 saw the Doctor summoned to the Temple of Atropos on the planet Time – too late to prevent Swarm wreaking havoc. The coronavirus pandemic has forced showrunner Chris Chibnall to take a very different approach for Doctor Who season 13. “Doctor Who […]

The dramatic ending of Doctor Who season 13, episode 2 saw the Doctor summoned to the Temple of Atropos on the planet Time – too late to prevent Swarm wreaking havoc. The coronavirus pandemic has forced showrunner Chris Chibnall to take a very different approach for Doctor Who season 13. “Doctor Who is one of the most difficult shows to produce,” Chibnall explained in an interview with Doctor Who Magazine, “and we were aware that [the pandemic] would make it even more difficult. We’ve tried to keep pushing the show every year, and we didn’t want to let the ambition of the show down. But to continue with the previous number of episodes was financially, logistically, and operationally impossible.” As a result, Doctor Who: Flux is an abbreviated six-episode series with a single overarching narrative.

Doctor Who season 13, episode 2 revealed the Sontarans had taken advantage of the Flux to launch an attack on Earth when they believed the planet was most vulnerable. The Sontarans’ plan was a ruthless one to base themselves on Earth in the present-day, and then construct time-ships with which to launch invasions back through history, gradually erasing all of Earth’s past until humanity had never existed in the first place and Earth became a Sontaran world. Fortunately, their mission to the Crimean War hit a snag when the Doctor was blasted back to that time period. Meanwhile, the Doctor’s new companion, Dan ran interference against the Sontarans in the present day, helped by Karvanista, whose former employment with the Division meant he knew how to use time travel technology against the invaders.

Related: What Happened To Claire After The Weeping Angel In Doctor Who: Flux

A B-plot saw Yaz and Jacob Anderson’s mysterious new character Vinder transported to a mysterious temple. With Earth safe, the Doctor and Dan headed off into the universe to find Yaz, only to be drawn off course and dumped unceremoniously in the same temple. Unfortunately, the Doctor arrived too late, because her enigmatic nemesis Swarm had launched a plan of his own – one that apparently saw time itself run wild. Here’s the ending of Doctor Who season 13, episode 2 and all it sets up explained.

The Temple of Atropos Explained

Doctor Who Temple of Atropos

The Temple of Atropos is situated on a planet called Time, whose very existence is a mystery to the Doctor. According to the time traveler, the spatio-temporal readings are at zero, meaning it is situated outside space and time. According to the Priest Triangles who guard the Temple of Atropos, it was built to house beings called the Mouri, who are responsible for maintaining the flow of time in the universe. “All time passes through the Mouri,” the Priest Triangles explain. “Before Atropos, time ran wild.” The Doctor’s forgotten enemies, Swarm and Azure, launched an attack upon the Temple of Atropos once before but were defeated, leading to Swarm’s being imprisoned by Doctor Who‘s Division – the mysterious organization believed to have been established by the Time Lords.

Apparently, some pretty sophisticated technology was installed in the Temple of Atropos to prevent Swarm and Azure from ever repeating their previous strategy. The Mouri were quantum-locked against interference, although precisely what this means is unexplained. The term has been used before in reference to the Weeping Angels, but it’s unclear how it was supposed to serve as a defense against Swarm and Azure. But the vilains use Yaz and Vinder to get around the quantum locks, in a similarly unexplained manner, and kill two of the Mouri.

The concept of the Temple of Atropos and the Mouri appears to be lifted from Greek mythology, where the Moirai, more commonly known as the Fates, were goddesses of fate and destiny. The Greeks believed the Moirai to be responsible for ensuring that every living being lives out their allotted destiny, and they were considered to be above even the gods. Doctor Who‘s Mouri are presumably similar, existing outside the universe but maintaining the flow of time. Swarm attempted to destroy them once before, but was defeated by the Division and their agent, the Doctor, whose memories of that time were lost as part of the Timeless Child retcon. The Doctor’s lack of knowledge of Time and the Temple of Atropos suggests all records of these events were expunged from the Matrix, presumably because the risks of this power being abused – of “time running wild” again – were too great.

Related: Doctor Who: Swarm Is A Time Lord – Theory Explained

This is a dramatic rewrite of Doctor Who lore, suggesting the Time Lords were never the supreme race of time manipulators in the galaxy at all. There have been similar temporal beings in the past – creatures like Chronovores, for example, so powerful even Time Lords were afraid of them – but the Mouri literally control the flow of time. Conceptually, they seem similar to the idea of He Who Remains in the MCU’s Loki TV series, a character who maintained the so-called Sacred Timeline. Such an idea does sit rather uncomfortably with Doctor Who lore, however, given the show has never exactly had a single timeline to begin with. It’s fascinating to speculate how the Time War could have affected the Mouri, given it involved history being rewritten to an unprecedented degree. According to the Gelph in “The Unquiet Dead,” many higher life forms were destroyed by the conflict.

The TARDIS’ Sickness Explained

Doctor Who TARDIS Corrupting

Doctor Who: Flux, episode 2 reveals why the TARDIS seems to be dying. The Doctor’s ship is a time machine, and it channels the power of the time-space vortex, but as the Mouri weaken and die, that temporal energy begins to corrupt it. This manifests in mysterious crystalline growths that are beginning to emerge throughout the ship’s interior, likely reflecting the fact TARDISes are grown, not made, suggesting the temporal fluctuations are leading to restored or accelerated growth. The speed of growth is shocking, with the TARDIS’ interior completely changing in the time it takes the Doctor to have a conversation with Dan and Karvanista. Given the rate of decay in the TARDIS, the Doctor may soon find herself without her ship – and needing to figure out another way to travel through time and space to oppose Swarm and Azure.

Swarm Launches A Trap For The Doctor

Doctor Who Yaz Temple Atropos

Doctor Who season 13, episode 2 sees Swarm launch a trap for the Doctor. Having killed two of the Mouri, he places Yaz and Jacob Anderson’s Vinder – two human beings who have been exposed to temporal energy – in their places. When the Doctor and Dan arrive at the Temple of Atropos, Swarm reveals his prisoners to her and then proceeds to demonstrate his power by snapping his fingers, activating the Mouri systems, meaning the full force of time flows through them. “How many seconds will their bodies be able to take before they die, Doctor?” Swarm taunts his adversary. The episode ends as he clicks his fingers, meaning the effect is unseen – but it is sure to be both pronounced and unpleasant. Doctor Who: Flux 13, episode 3 is called “Once, Upon Time,” and its teaser suggests time will indeed begin to run wild.

A Mysterious Force Is Orchestrating Events Throughout History

Doctor Who Jodie Whittaker Ground

Fortunately, another force is orchestrating events across time and space, presumably as a counter to Swarm. This unknown entity is the one responsible for ensuring the Doctor, Dan and Yaz escaped the Flux and were transported back to the Crimean War in the first place; it’s notable that all three appear outside the TARDIS, and ordinary humans shouldn’t have survived time travel unprotected. Likewise, it is reasonable to assume it is no coincidence Dan and Yaz were whisked away to just where (and when) they needed to be. Finally, at the end of Doctor Who season 13, episode 2 this unknown force takes direct control of the TARDIS, transporting it to the Temple of Atropos for the Doctor’s confrontation with Swarm. It’s possible this is the Mouri, attempting to use the Doctor to counter Swarm, but it could also be whoever is responsible for placing the Mouri in control of the flow of time in the first place.

Doctor Who May Be Presenting Clues To The Timeless Child

Jodie Whittaker as Thirteenth Doctor and Timeless Child in Doctor Who

The Doctor’s clash with Swarm clearly spins out of events she has forgotten, some hidden conflict erased from her mind by the Time Lords. But Doctor Who season 13 may also be setting up reveals related to the Doctor’s true origin story as the Timeless Child, a being who originates from some other universe or dimension. It is significant that the Doctor is now confronting forces that exist outside the universe, and control the flow of time in Doctor Who: Flux. She could well be a Mouri herself – or else from another race who come from the same plane of existence. Hopefully, more will be revealed in the next episode of Doctor Who.

More: Doctor Who: Flux Is Making It So River Song Doesn’t Need To Return

Doctor Who releases new episodes every Sunday on BBC and BBC America.

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