Fugitive of the Judoon Review

(69 comments)

Less an episode than a trailer for some still unannounced finale, which is less of a problem than it should be. In many ways it benefits, not so much from the diminished expectations of the Chibnall era as from the specific pathologies the era has led us to expect. Sure, it can only narrowly be described as having a plot or being about anything, but that’s practically every episode these days. This one at least filled the vast chasms of space between it and a point with a lot of quality what the fuckery. 

Well. It filled the space with a lot of fan-trolling continuity porn. There’s a definite “what on Earth did the normies think of this,” feeling here. That said, Chibnall (who was surely behind the big picture decisions here) made reasonably savvy choices in that regard—a character who, while he hasn’t been seen in a decade, anchored a hit TV show in his own right and a reveal that’s long on implications for the series’ history, but that also plays as Big News in is own right even if you’re not the sort of person who goes “is this another Morbius Doctor or some sort of Season 6c thing?” The only thing actually likely to be normie-puzzling are the Judoon themselves, who were offered as the announced premise with plenty of time for Googling. 

Which leaves the spectacle of continuity shit. Your mileage may vary, but you’re reading Doctor Who reviews on a site that did a story-by-story blog of the entire freaking show, novels and all, so presumably this hits you in the same lizard-brain recesses that have a favorite opening sentence to a Terrence Dicks novelization and an unjustifiable fondness for The Five Doctors. Whether or not this is a particularly worthwhile pleasure is largely beside the point: it’s a concrete pleasure—a sense of there being a thing the show is for—in a way that the Chibnall era has previously not really had. That it’s an emptier masturbation with continuity than anything the Moffat era ever did is ultimately besides the point.

Of course, saying much more than that is also difficult. A secret past Doctor, Cybermen, the Timeless Child, the Master, Captain Jack, and the re-destruction of Gallifrey are all just bibs and bobs of a premise right now that we haven’t seen stitched into an actual story yet. It’s like if you reduced The Day of the Doctor to “a secret past Doctor, Zygons, David Tennant, Billie Piper, a barn, and the Time War,” or The Two Doctors to “Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Sontarans, location filming in Spain, and a fish called the gumblejack.” And while you can argue that both of those stories really do basically reduce down to those lists, at the end of the day the gulf in quality between them makes it clear that there’s a lot of ways this can turn out. Of course, in the end it’s being done by the writer of The Battle of Ranskoor av Kolos, so cause for actual hope remains thin on the ground. 

But that’s another review, or more likely two of them. For now we have a story where the Doctor spends most of it outsmarting villainous cops, where a middle-aged black woman gets to be the Doctor, where we get to see Whittaker’s Doctor on the back foot in a justified way instead of because she’s mysteriously unwilling to actually stand up for anything, and where all the plot beats feel basically earned. I’ll take it.

  • I’ve mostly left Captain Jack alone here, haven’t I? Part of it is a pretty severe disdain for John Barrowman at this point, between the transphobic jokes and the blatant lying about Moffat’s supposed grudge against him. But it’s also just… does a very middle aged John Barrowman doing a party piece rendition of a fifteen year old episode actually bring much to the table? I made a The Five Doctors comparison before, and nowhere is it more apt than here, with John Barrowman cast in essentially the same narrative role as Jon Pertwee. Except that Pertwee’s Doctor would actually be an effective source of Ominous Phrases, whereas Captain Jack is an odd choice for the role of, let’s be blunt here, River Song.
  • So what are our bets for how the Ruth Doctor fits in? Several things make having her be pre-Hartnell a continuity mess of epic and frustrating proportions, so I’m going with Season 6c personally.
  • Martin’s performance is interesting though. In many ways a more convincing iteration of the dark and dangerous Doctor than John Hurt, who was generally a bit too kindly grampa to really sell “I am the Doctor who spent his life doing terrible things.” 
  • I wonder what this episode would have felt like if the Judoon and Captain Jack were absent, giving the Jo Martin reveal room to breathe instead of being one of several explosions of continuity in a single fifty minute span. Probably a better episode, though less populistly thrilling
  • Relatedly, I wonder what bits were Chibnall. (My money is on him writing the Captain Jack material.)
  • It’s been pointed out to me that Bradley Walsh is taking around a week off every production block to do other things, a revelation that adds a fun game to watching Doctor Who. This time, note how he’s not required for anything save TARDIS and John Barrowman scenes, save for one very brief bit in the cafe—most blatantly, he’s not there when Ryan and Yaz meet back up with the Doctor, requiring a hard cut to the TARDIS interior to add him to the scene.
  • Next week’s review will be delayed a few days because of travel as well—probably around as delayed as this one, if not a day longer.

Ranking

Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror

  1. Fugitive of the Judoon
  2. Orphan 55
  3. Spyfall

Comments

Rodolfo Piskorski 2 months, 1 week ago

Have you considered ranking the two parts of Spyfall separately? How would you place them in your ranking if you were to treat them as separate episodes?

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Lambda 2 months, 1 week ago

One benefit of villainous policemen as an enemy in this era specifically, which I've just noticed, is that the Doctor's complaint that they "aren't following the rules" actually becomes worth making, since police power is based on the claim that they do.

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Richard Pugree 2 months, 1 week ago

Absolutely. Especially when you then have a black woman ripping the horn of one of the 'trigger happy' police becasue they're 'bullies'.

Although some of the no-weapons/pacifism of this era was still as clumsy as ever, that moment felt like a much needed corrective to some of the hand-wringing liberalism of Chibnall Who so far, for me.

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mx_mond 2 months ago

Re: horn

On one hand: yes. On the other: given the real-world context of rhinos being mutilated for their horns, I found this image to be viscerally upsetting (to an extent that surprised me).

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CJM123 2 months, 1 week ago

I'm not super-keen, but that's mainly because the Judoon act more like Blackwater Mercenaries, and I think Blackwater is something the Doctor can be against in principle.

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Emily 2 months, 1 week ago

Although, the line "They're police, only trigger-happy" has an obviousv rejoinder of "so, police". It may be too much to expect Doctor Who to say ACAB though.

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Charles Mann 2 months, 1 week ago

I'm guessing you're American? British police don't generally have triggers to be happy with.

Still shouldn't be one of them uncritically in the TARDIS, of course.

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Rory Connolly 2 months, 1 week ago

I mean, British police aren’t armed to the same extent as American police, but racist police violence is still absolutely a thing over here, albeit perhaps to a lesser extent - the killings of Stephen Lawrence, Jean Charles de Menezes and Mark Duggan being just a few examples

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Nick B 2 months ago

Steven Lawrence was not killed by the police. De Mendes was mistaken for an actual terrorist (who was hiding in the housing estate) and shot carrying a bag on the underground days after an actual terrorist attack (which was the first islamic terror attack in the UK). Whilst that's not an excuse, it is perhaps quite understandable.

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Emily 2 months, 1 week ago

I am British - Rory in his comment below has said basically what I would say though.

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Jacob Leo Webb 2 months, 1 week ago

Semantic quibble but the line as delivered is 'Police [...] Trigger happy police' rather than 'Police, only trigger happy' which more frames them as a quantifiable subcategory of ways police can be, rather than their willingness to shoot being aberrant in the context of their otherwise upright nature.

I'd agree that being police for hire seems poorly delineated from being mercenaries, but private police forces are a phenomenon and functionally the distinction is a grey area. Perhaps it has to do with the type of work they will take or the type of authorities they will work for (previously the Shadow Proclamation, currently a nebulously defined Empire [Gallifreyan?]

In either case I come down on the side that showing them as little different than mercenaries, while framing them consistently as Police is a decent bit of commentary.

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kevin merchant 2 months, 1 week ago

Well this explains the gratuitous re-introduction of mind wipes.

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Richard Pugree 2 months, 1 week ago

Yes, I was thinking this.

I'm not sure I trust Chibnall to follow it through, but if this were to explore the doctor's (and presumably master's) response to discovering having been forcibly mind-wiped by the timelords - and then allows the companions to confront her with the fact that she's done it to several people already since they've known her...

But somehow I doubt we'll get anything like a coherent position on mid-wipes out of it...

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Richard Pugree 2 months, 1 week ago

I really enjoyed this - it was actually funny, and a chucking-everything-at-it-kind of bonkers that can really work well.

And it at last feels like there's a reason Chibnall wanted the job, which I don't think I felt at all last season: that there is a bit of doctor who (and I'm in the 6c camp too) that he wants to explore, beyond just saying 'no guns' a lot.

There was always a sense with RTD and with Moffatt that they both *love* Doctor Who - in different ways, and for different reasons - but they both got things about it that they wanted to play with.

Whereas Chibnall is clearly a long term Fan of Doctor Who - but it's not generally particularly clear *why*? But here at least he clearly want to do *something* with it, so I can get on board with that.

One thing that has been a real bug for me this series, has been the clunkiness of the exposition in dialogue, and these sudden swerves to addressing everyone as if they're 6 (in a misunderstanding of how to address 6 year olds). I think the blog has called it big finish with pictures.

There was a particularly egregious one in this episode which seemed emblematic of a really pervasive problem with the way Chibnall is storytelling: why on EARTH did we get a voiceover of DoctorRuth saying "the judoon have got us in a tractor beam and they're pulling us onto their ship" or whatever the line was, while we were *watching the judoon tractor beam pulling the tardis onto the ship*. Has the man never seen television before?




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Prole Hole 2 months, 1 week ago

The thing about the Season 6C is that I think it might line up a little TOO neatly. This episode is written with a big sleight of hand - look over here at the shiny Space Rhinos at the front of the stage, while somewhere back in the wings we get Captain Jack and another Doctor slipped in under everyone's nose. Spyfall Pt1 did the same thing hiding the Master in plain sight, so it's clearly a deliberate way of structuring things. Chibnall must know the majority of fans are going to head straight for 6C which immediately makes me think it must be something else because that's just how things have been going this season.

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Aristide Twain 2 months, 1 week ago

I'm not so sure — I think the most common guess has been "pre-Hartnell", details be damned.

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Richard Pugree 2 months, 1 week ago

The majority of fans who hang out here maybe - but surely a small minority of the watching audience?

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Xaldel 2 months, 1 week ago

Yeah, I was about to ask that. Obviously, we as Eruditorum readers are all in the camp that immediately started spinning 6B and 6C theories after watching this, but just how much of the Who fandom at large would be doing this?

I mean, we're almost certainly excluding the entirety of the viewing audience that only started with NuWho, and they alone are why I fear the answer may end up just being something as simple as "from an alternate dimension". It's difficult to imagine summing up Season 6C in a way that isn't going to make casual viewers' heads spin right off their necks.

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Richard Pugree 2 months, 1 week ago

That's actually why I thought is was *more* likely to be 6c:

because it could fit in pretty carefully and neatly(ish) for those fans who care about such things (and who would see things like the response to the sonic, the police box, the tardis design etc. as likely placing Ruth in certain ways, that a casual audience wouldn't), but then actually "the time lords have erased my memory of an incarnation(s) from much earlier in my life, when I was forced to work for them" is about all you actually need to say to explain it sufficiently to work in the present.

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Rodolfo Piskorski 2 months, 1 week ago

I comment here often and I've read all of El's posts about New Who episodes and Torchwood, but I've never seen Classic Who. (Well, I saw the first two stories, and Genesis of the Daleks.)

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War Doctor Pepper 2 months, 1 week ago

This episode reminds me of how every time a Marvel movie finishes I’m weirded out by how empty I feel.

I watched a lot of continuity and cameos that pleased me, some gags that amused me, and some intriguing set-ups that made me anticipate the next one. But I didn’t watch any drama that touched me or see any characters I could connect to. I didn’t feel anything but vague... I don’t know, entertainment? But there’s this odd sense that there was something missing and the facade is about to fall around me like Charlie Chaplin. I felt the exact same way after watching Rise of Skywalker.

I feel like this story is what you’d get if Danny Ocean hired 11-13 criminals to write and direct a Doctor Who episode. They’d all be walking away high-fiving as the audience stops smiling and realises they didn’t actually watch anything.

But if Doctor Who is successfully making me feel the same way that the biggest movies in the world are, I guess it has its finger on the pulse? At least I got a preview of what those Disney Plus Marvel shows are probably going to be like.

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prandeamus 2 months, 1 week ago

Haven't seen this ep yet, but at least the collective head-explosion on Twitter gives me a motive to give it a go. I don't care about spoilers.

I agree with you about a lot of recent Marvel stuff. I enjoy the concepts in the abstract: What happens after the Avengers fail? What if a human was caught up in some vast intergalactic war? Would it be interesting to have a cynical talking racoon? Then they interrupt the interesting concept to have a massive CGI fight that's less subtle than the KERBLING interstitials from 60s Batman and I switch off. It's slick, superficially entertaining, well crafted, but a bit empty. YMMV.

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TheWrittenTevs 2 months, 1 week ago

Once again, Series 12 seems to actually be playing from the Moffat rulebook in terms of series structure (if not actual episodic content). If "Spyfall" was Series 12's "The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon" (a big two-part opener which kicks off a massive all-encompassing series arc with bits seemingly being told out of order), then this is its "Let's Kill Hitler": a mid-season episode which promises one set-up before very quickly pushing the premise to the side in favour of filling the screen with endless arc material.

Chibnall seems to have used a "Construct series like Moffat, write episodes like RTD" mentality for this series which is actually a quite deft decision, taking the things that fans of both era like about said eras and combining them into one. If only he was as good at taking these structures and conceits and actually making anything more than pure spectacle out of them.

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CJM123 2 months, 1 week ago

The creepy cafe owner who is in it for 5 minutes felt like the most Demons of the Punjab-like beat of the episode.

Honestly, I find an episode like this hard to judge until after the pay-off. I liked 'Day of the Moon' for example because it had a real, solid conclusion to the main plot (Invasion of the Memory Wipers) in between the more complex arc stuff. I didn't like Name of the Doctor, because it felt like a conclusion more built around the myth arc than an interesting story. This is far more like just judging Army of Ghosts on it's own, or The Pyramid at the End of the World.

The other weird thing is that Jo Martin is great in the role, but she's too good. I want the next episode to be about her instead of Jodie Whittaker, and it feels odd to imagine that she's off doing her own thing next episode, which is probably more interesting than Kerblam! 2, maybe Greta Thurnberg is evil or whatever.

My guess is that she's a splinter time-line as in the New Adventures, which would also explain Orphan 55 and possibly the Master (we don't know which timeline he is from yet after all). But that might be a massive cop-out. I love that she's as fed up with Thirteen as Twelve or Four would be.

I hope you like London, El. I was at the Blake Exhibit last week, it really is special.

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kevin merchant 2 months, 1 week ago

Jo Martin comes across as Jon Pertwee's doctor with more than a hint of Sylvester McCoy, whereas Jodie's Doctor has always come across as Peter Davison's Doctor, who just seemed to be at the mercy of events.

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Emily 2 months, 1 week ago

I made a comment some time last season that Whittaker had cemented herself as the fourth-best female Doctor in nuWho, after Coleman, Gomez and Kingston.

Now she's just dropped down to 5th.

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Bedlinog 2 months, 1 week ago

Don't forget Jessica Hines' character in Years and Years!
(RTD showing us precisely what his female doctor would be like.)

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Jeff Harris 2 months, 1 week ago

You forgot Joanna Lumley. A tiny portrayal, but it promised so much potential.

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taiey 2 months, 1 week ago

She actually fights the bullies, *and* holds hands with her new friend.

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Jesse 2 months, 1 week ago

The other weird thing is that Jo Martin is great in the role, but she's too good. I want the next episode to be about her instead of Jodie Whittaker

Yes. I already like her better than at least half the "regular" Doctors, including the current one.

Also, it's a small point, but RuthDoctor's TARDIS set—a sleek and spooky update of the classic control room—is so much better than that drably lit thing that Jodie & co. are traveling in.

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Przemek 2 months, 1 week ago

I would prefer the Jo Martin DW too. And I didn't even like her that much in the role. 13 is just that bland.

Agreed about the TARDIS set. Much, much better.

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Rodolfo Piskorski 2 months, 1 week ago

"maybe Greta Thurnberg is evil"

What??

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CJM123 2 months, 1 week ago

Spoilers say next episode is about pollution. It's written by the guy who did Kerblam! If that episode is anything to go by, I'm guessing it will have an obnoxious twist that doesn't work.

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Richard Pugree 2 months, 1 week ago

So... Lone Cyberman . . . Brigadier?

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Przemek 2 months, 1 week ago

That'd be nice. If only because "The Lone Cyberman" in itself is such an uninteresting plot hook.

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taiey 2 months, 1 week ago

Is Jo Martin's Doctor meant to be, er, dark and dangerous? She just felt normal to me, as opposed to 13's washed-out "don't fight people who are trying to kill you and have killed other innocent people".
My goodness I love her costume.

They've officially given up on the companions, like, mattering, as actual people and not the Doctor's gestalt prop.

Unlike previous appearances of the brutal space police, this time the crime they're prosecuting is... skipping out on a work contract.

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CJM123 2 months, 1 week ago

Nothing she does would be out of place for Tom Baker, Colin Baker or Sylvester McCoy, but those three were always seen by the original series writers as the most dark Doctors. Heck, Thirteen did something similar last week. Even creating an alternative personality is something both New Adventures Seven and 10 were presented as perfectly capable of doing.

She certainly isn't darker than any previous Doctors, but she is doing it to human-like aliens as opposed to rubber costumes, and the show always treats humans as worth more than monsters, under every show runner.

Love her costume. Subtle touches of colour make it pop even though it feels like a lot less thought went into it than Jodie Whittaker's or Peter Capaldi's.

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Przemek 2 months, 1 week ago

Yeah, that's how I feel as well: nothing the Ruth Doctor did was in any way shocking or dark. She was just normal.

Honestly, I was more shocked when 13 insulted Ryan. I genuinely thought she didn't have that in her. Well, maybe she didn't and the Ruth Doctor is actually the Valleyard who has started corrupting our goody two-shoes Doctor. And that is the darkest, most evil 13 we can get. It certainly feels like it.

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homunculette 2 months, 1 week ago

I agree with pretty much all the positivity - this has an energy, a purpose, and a sense of style that the Chibnall era has been lacking, even at the times it’s been very good. I agree that I’d rather watch the Ruth!Doctor show next week than Praxeus, but in its own way that’s good - that’s how a lot of people felt at the end of Hell Bent, and it’s certainly a gift to the fanfic writers of the world.

This new Doctor to me felt like the Chibnall era trying to write a dark and dangerous Doctor, and it ended up feeling like somewhere in between Troughton and Richard E. Grant’s Shalka Doctor, both of which I love, but we got very little in the way of actual darkness - I feel like almost every other Doctor would have pulled the sabotaged gun trick (which I saw as a shout out to the Deadly Assassin btw).

After It Takes You Away, a lot of people talked about how they wanted Hime to be the showrunner. Well, two episodes in and Patel has shown himself to be capable of writing an intimate historical period piece and a continuity-blitz nightmare brief, and pulled both off with aplomb. If anyone in the Chibnall camp deserves the keys to the kingdom thus far, it’s Patel.

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Brian B. 2 months, 1 week ago

Yikes! People were really saying that about Hime? I liked "It Takes You Away" but hated that it ended with Whittaker tricking the other-dimensional being into a five-minute "friendship" and then just abandoning it into a universe of solitude. And then "Orphan 55" I couldn't even bring myself to finish, which might be a first for me with 21st-Century Who.

I want to see Jamie Matheson and Sarah Dollard co-run the show; their combined experience ought to be equivalent to what Moffat had when he started out. But yeah, Vinay Patel is off to a great two-episode start.

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Rodolfo Piskorski 2 months, 1 week ago

I still prefer Hime. Orphan 55 was completely misunderstood, in my opinion. I think it's great, even if not amazing.

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Corey K. 2 months, 1 week ago

I think you've misread the climax of "It Takes You Away." Part of what I liked about it is that the Doctor was, I thought, very sincerely willing to spend the rest of eternity in the Solitract universe, and also very sincerely wanted to be friends with and could have been endlessly fascinated by and absorbed in learning about the Solitract - it wasn't a "trick." But it then became obvious to her within a minute of arriving that it just wasn't going to work, and she didn't have any choice but to convince the Solitract to allow her to leave because otherwise she, the Solitract, and our entire universe would have all been obliterated - something she clearly did not know when she entered that dimension.

And the Doctor being willing to spend eternity getting to know an infinitely interesting new friend who is an entire universe, with an endless amount of new things to explore and learn about, was possibly the most Doctor-y thing she did all season. I loved it.

Regardless, yeah, Matheison, Dollard and/or Patel would be great choices. Himes' sense of structure is weird and I think he needs a firmer hand on the till.

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Przemek 2 months ago

That's precisely why the "brb, going to spend eternity with the Solitract" moment was a miss for me. It felt misjudged in the same way that Twelve's eagerness to spend eternity fighting the Eaters of Light did. It's an enormous sacrifice that the Doctor agrees to make for less-than-well-thought reasons, apparently not caring about abandoning their companions. But "It Takes You Away" is worse because the whole sacrifice proves pointless a minute later and two minutes after that it's simply undone with barely any consequences. That's why I didn't buy it and why I prefer to believe that Thirteen was always intending to trick the Solitract. Even if it's incompatible with her character.

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Andrew 2 months, 1 week ago

Of course I have a lot of theories about where this is going but I won't bore you with them. That was a lie, I am going to guess that the Gallefreyians have been using secret regenerations of Time Lords to do their dirty work, and that the Master's message was basically correct. Dr Ruth is one such regeneration that escaped.

Anyway, the contrast between this and Orphan55 is huge. One of the things I like about nuWho is its ability to convey complex relationships and concepts in only a few words and that was very evident in this episode. Even the cafe worker and the old lady with the knitting were complete characters. More of this please.

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Alan 2 months, 1 week ago

My working theory right now is that this is all the result of Rassilon and the rest of the banished High Council going back in time to collaterally attack the history of the Time Lords themselves. the Ruth!Doctor is what we'd have gotten if a prior Doctor regenerated into someone else instead of the person they became. Wasn't there an 8th Doctor novel that El reviewed favorably in which a whole arc grew out of something happening that caused the Third Doctor to regenerate at the wrong place and time? Also, didn't Gat actually refer to her TL superiors as an "empire," which is something we've never seen out of Time Lord society.

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Annie 2 months, 1 week ago

I am very worried because part of me thinks that the Joe Martin doctor is actually from an alternate timeline, and if the plot revolves around making sure that that timeline never happened, they will literally be erasing the first female black doctor.
Now you might be thinking, of course they wouldn't do that because that would be utterly insensitive, but I remind you that this is the show runner who allowed kerblam to air.

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Rodolfo Piskorski 2 months, 1 week ago

Chibnall has confirmed to the media that there are no tricks, no alternate universes, she is actually the Doctor.

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Przemek 2 months, 1 week ago

That doesn't mean anything. Every past showrunner has lied through their teeth when necessary.

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prandeamus 2 months, 1 week ago

... most notably when he flat-out denied he'd cast a female in the lead role, right up until the reveal video. In the Old Time, the Days Of Hope, before The Dark Times.

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Richard Pugree 2 months, 1 week ago

Did he? I thought he'd just said that they'd cast "in the traditional way"?

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Brian B. 2 months, 1 week ago

I thoroughly enjoyed the episode, but given that Vinay Patel is clearly the best of the current writers by a wide margin, I think I'm going to end up sad that his episode was given over to gimmickry. For the first few minutes I was happily watching the story of Ruth -- tour guide with a dodgy husband and creepy Nice Guy crushing on her -- and was honestly surprised to flash to the TARDIS and remember that oh wait, Jodie Whittaker and the gang are in this story. And just for a moment, I was *disappointed*. As fun as this episode was, I would still rather watch Patel's (non-existent) episode about Ruth's life.

Also, it's hard not to feel like Chris Chibnall is trying to give Doctor Who retroactive points for having a black female Doctor without just casting one. I've never heard of Jo Martin before, but I immediately like her a lot, and would have been happy to accept her as Whittaker's successor when the time comes.

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Jeff Harris 2 months, 1 week ago

Clearly? No, I think, that honour goes to Nina Metivier. She has the background as script writer, producer, showrunner, and script editor. She script edited the episodes "Thw Woman Who fell from the Sky" and "It Takes You Away." Under Chinball there is a Series Script Editor and Script Editors for individual episodes. Makes me wonder if they still need a showrunner. "Fugitive of the Judoon' was co-written with Chibnall. While "Demons of the Punjab" was interesting, whatever was its main point was obscured. Admittedly nice for Yaz to find out about her Nan's past, The role of the aliens in the story was puzzling and a bit confused.

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Brian B. 2 months, 1 week ago

I thought “Punjab”’s points were entirely clear. As for the co-writing of “Fugitive”, I’m among those who assume Chibnall did the annoyingly heavy-handed exposition beats with Harkness and the final scene. We can’t know, but those were the only bits that sounded like him.

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Przemek 2 months, 1 week ago

I don't get how anyone enjoyed any part of that. For me this episode was a steaming pile of shit from beginning to end. I thought I could accept the general shittiness of this era and enjoy bits of it despite that, and sometimes I can - but not here, not when Chibnall decides to bring back Captain Jack (who was also shit here) to remind me about the times when the show, even at its worst, was at least enjoyable.

(And God, that laughable bit at the end when Cop, Dyspraxia and Cancer, with soaring music in the background, proclaim themselves to be the Doctor's family. After what 11 had with Amy, Rory and River. After what 10 had with Donna or Sarah Jane. Well, I guess this is the family 13 truly deserves.)

The Ruth(Less) Doctor feels like an alternate universe counterpart or some sort of messed-up time echo like Oswin Oswald. I hope to God it's one of those and not actually a secret past Doctor because I don't think Chibnall is able to not mess this up.

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Przemek 2 months ago

I just wanted to add that after accepting, momentarily, this darkest timeline I must live in and rewatching the episode, I enjoyed the Ruth(Less) Doctor a lot more. She's a much needed bit of charisma and charm in the show, and her outfit is great. Fingers crossed for the rest of the season staying on S12 level of suck instead of regressing to S11 level of suck.

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Jacob Leo Webb 2 months, 1 week ago

Phew ~

Thoughts thoughts thoughts... (I meant to get here earlier and contribute to a bit more of a dialogue in the comments, but alas, laptop issues prevail this week).

Jo Martin is of course wonderful and walks away with the show (a figure of speech which brings Romana and Clara's departures to mind. How have we reached 'first female Doctor' and this is still happening?)

Honestly I'd give a lot for her to turn out to just be 14 and all this secret past regeneration whatnot to be a bluff. Not because it's a terrible idea per se (though god knows there are so many more ways it could go wrong than right), just because she bloody well deserves work in the role outside of Big Finish getting their hands on her. Although a Martin Era might even be worth dealing with BF for, to some extent.

Generally my order of preference would be:
- Near Future Doctor
- Far Future Doctor
- Alternate [Nth]* Doctor
- 6c
- Pre Hartnell

Which is pretty much the direct inverse of what I'd bank on the odds being. Alas.

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Jacob Leo Webb 2 months, 1 week ago

I'd generally agree she's shown up The War Doctor in a number of ways, however much John Hurt gave to the role he was contextualized by the immense vagueness of the Time War and the relentless plot-drive of DoTD. Ruth may be a shadow of The Fugitive Doctor, but a shadow resembles that which casts it (from one angle). We get a large slice of her just being a person, a small slice of her being The Doctor, a TARDIS interior, and a costume I could talk about at length**... which are enough to set the mind reeling with inference.

I'd even argue she has quite the effect on Thirteen, indirectly. In a small way this is a much needed recontextualization of the First Female Doctor (not in the sense of her turning out not to be, although that seems to loom [ahem, lower case 'l'], but simply in that her tendency towards the profoundly generic is here set in some sort of relief).

She becomes particular in her niceness (rather, really, than goodness), in her pacifism (even toward bullies), in her caution and appeals to lawfulness (even when faced with the evident relativity of law).

I may come no closer to trusting her, but she reads less now as a statement on what it means to be The Doctor, and more as a specific version of the character, which at this stage feels sorely needed.

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Jacob Leo Webb 2 months, 1 week ago

Aaaand as to Barrowman, well, what can we say?

I suppose the first thing I'd be inclined to puzzle over is (definitely not any of the laboured mysteries he's hammering to the audience, but) how phenomenally bad he is. I mean really.

Obviously a cursory glance at Tumblr (amazingly still going) shows that his dedicated fanbase are all trading high fives and toasting with champagne (read, writing in BLOCK CAPS about their vindication). But, I mean... really? I can't imagine being a fan of the character (I'd broadly say that I am, as separate from the actor) and feeling pleased with this as a return after so long a wait, unless in that time I'd forgotten the actual reason he was a fan favourite to begin with.

Well, ok, maybe the reason was simply that he was incredibly camp, that certainly seems to be the assumption everyone involved in putting this on screen has been operating under, but a lot of things in the history of Who have been camper even then Captain Jack Harkness, and generally landing a spinoff series has required more in the way of charisma and ability to sell both interpersonal dialogue and clunky exposition (K9 being the exception, of course).

Here Barrowman demonstrates none of the above, which is baffling; whatever faults he may have (and he has certainly treated the convention circuit and ongoing B [to C, edging towards D] list Dr Who personality status as both gravy train and arena for vanity at other's expense).

Indeed given his willingness to be acutely unprofessional in the course of keeping his profile high enough to leverage for an eventual return to the show it's remarkable how little effort or dignity he gives to it when the opportunity comes. Above El calls it a party piece performance, but honestly it lands closer to pantomime.

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Jacob Leo Webb 2 months, 1 week ago

*So, I mean were we to assume Chibnall has the nouse to actually misdirect the audience a little (a la Davies or Moffat... particularly Moffat. Moffat, arguably at times, to a fault), and this is an alt!Doctor of some sort, where seems like a reasonable divergent point? Pre Time War, certainly, she seems not to have heard of such an event. Eight's timeline is famously fucked, but even falling into the myopia of utter fanwank as we seem to be I doubt she's from the Shalka timeline. Besides, that console room strikes me as predating the gothic excess of the Eighth Doctor. So...

Six died ignominiously, Four regenerated under [UNCLEAR] circumstances, and Two, well, that seems perfectly likely but might as well be the 6c hypothesis.

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Jacob Leo Webb 2 months, 1 week ago

**Oh go on then...

I mean it's utterly fantastic; a body of dignified dark grey is calmly distinctive and distinguished, the old school military cut of the jacket & waistcoat convey at once her severity, willing to action, and sense of theatrical bombast, and the dour formality of the above combined allow room for a shirt & shades pair that manage exactly what Colin Baker's costume always aspired toward. That shirt is the only coherent response to Tom Baker's scarf to not also be novelty neckwear, and frankly the only thing The Doctor has worn since 1987 to even attempt a response to the escalating gauntlet throwdown of Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, and Colin Baker's successive outfits.

As an aside it's likely my favourite thing The Doctor has worn since Paul McGann, but that's willfully subjective.

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prandeamus 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Late, but I've only just watched this.

Why re-introduce Capn Jack to the companions who don't know who he is? The only opportunity for any real two-sided emotional chemistry would be between the Captain and the Doctor. And that has potential, especially if the Doctor has a still has a hard time knowing that Jack is a "fixed point" and some kind of temporal abomination. Assume he still is so in the the Chibnallverse. Instead the three companions are drawn out of the plot to deliver a message from a random guy to the Doctor. Apart from the slender thread of mistaken identity, there's precious little for the three to work. Bradley Walsh does his best with the material, as do the other two. But I can't blame them for not being terribly engaging here.

The Jack/Timescoop scenes could literally be stuck into any one of the preceding episodes. It wouldn't be any better for it, but was just a few minutes of concentrated plotdevicium.

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Richard Pugree 2 months, 1 week ago

"I may come no closer to trusting her, but she reads less now as a statement on what it means to be The Doctor, and more as a specific version of the character, which at this stage feels sorely needed"

Yes! I loved this about it - and hadn't managed to articulate why to myself yet - thanks!

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Charles Knight 2 months, 1 week ago

What is the emotional weight of the first three of these (unless Martin literally is the NEXT doctor and 13 rengenerates into her at the end of the finale).

Both far future Doctor are and Alternative Doctor are as no-stakes as it gets.

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Jeff Harris 2 months, 1 week ago

I wonder if anyone has read the credits to this episode. Where it said "And Introducing Jo Martin as The Doctor". Yes? No? What should be obvious is the fact that Chibnall is in the process of major rebuild, rewrite, reconstruction or reimagination of of the DW fictional universe. According to the Master the Founding Fathers of Gallifrey lied. Enough for him to feel justified in zapping Gallifrey. Ah well, he's so like that. Now a black female Doctor past incarnation that the current Doctor doesn't remember. What the TImeless Child is still on hold pending further developments. Forget about fanwankery like 6b or 6c, the new Chibnall-verse will mix and match whatever it wants from the canon or even outside of the canon, and pour in whatever Chris thinks it should be. There probably isn't an element of Doctor Who that hasn't been modified, rewritten or changed contrary to whatever it was beforehand. A major reconfiguration of the entire DW history by Chris Chibnall is not the least of them. And you bet your bottom dollar future showrunners will come along and rewrite Chibnall's version of DWverse out of existence and replace it with their own version. The show has always changed, kept of changing, and adapting itself to the current cultural zeitgeist. This is Doctor Who, it was forever thus.

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Paul F Cockburn 2 months, 1 week ago

While watching this episode I had very mixed feelings—on the one hand, genuine disappointment about the "return" of the oh-so-dated Captain Jack, which I felt was achieved with almost as much subtly as John Barrowman's hair dye; on the other, that glorious moment of the reveal of the buried Tardis and then the new puzzle piece that is the Ruth(less) Doctor, who hopefully will require us to totally rethink our idea of the show's framework.

I love it when that happens; history is generally always written from the perspective of the present. (It's why the John Buchan-authored "history" of the First World War feels so odd—he was writing it as it happened, with no firm idea of the outcome or indeed subsequent consequences.) So it shouldn't be surprising that a "fictional history" such as Doctor Who's so-called capital-C "Continuity" should be rewritten from the perspective of the present as well. (That's why I could never accept Ms Sandifer's rejection of the 'Season 6b' concept—the argument that it wasn't supported by anything in Season 6 was, frankly, spurious and irrelevant. 1990s fandom had a perfect right to rewrite 1969 Who, if it helped explain things in the 1990s.)

My principal concern at the moment is that Chris Chibnall just won't go far enough, or write things well enough, to genuinely re-imagine Doctor Who in the longer term.

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Przemek 2 months ago

I don't have a problem with DW rewriting its continuity and/or rules. I have a problem with Chris Chibnall doing it, because he can't write.

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Simon Patience 2 months, 1 week ago

No Pex Lives this season, Elizabeth? I really miss you on it!

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Charles Knight 2 months, 1 week ago

The fan theories that have come out to explain away a black Doctor are both depressing and interesting.

There is wiggle room for where this past doctor fits and yes yes the show-runner could be telling lies etc etc* but going *purely* off the episode itself - it is very clear to set up (and a couple of scenes are there entirely for this) that the mystery is not "is this really the Doctor" but "why does 13 not remember this past doctor" and the emotional stakes are "do I know my own life?"

To arrive to some of the wild theories I have seen are not about looking carefully for clues in the subtext but wilfully ignoring what is actually happening and what is said on screen.

Yes the *outcome* might be changes to deep lore (whatever the fuck that is) but the mystery itself is set up to be simple for the casual viewer to follow while they get the kids ready for their bath on a sunday night and wonder if countryfile is as good as it was in the old days.


** I have ever seen some fans claim that the interview in the mirror including the quotes is a fabrication and CC never gave the interview.

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William 2 months ago

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