The Coalition of Chaos

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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.

87 Comments

  1. Aristide Twain
    June 15, 2024 @ 12:01 am

    The “threefold deity” in the ist is, I think, intended as the Gods of Ragnarok.

    Reply

  2. Tristan Alfaro
    June 15, 2024 @ 12:16 am

    I’m wondering if the Susan Triad mention of orange skies was a reference to Boom?

    Reply

  3. Tristan Alfaro
    June 15, 2024 @ 12:19 am

    And no indication of whether Mrs Flood is going to be a plot point or a red herring but I wonder if this is worth noting? (From a random website that came up while googling)

    “Later, the god Horus succeeded in avenging his father, Osiris, by killing his uncle Set, and from here the death and resurrection of Osiris became associated with the flood of the Nile and the decline of its water level.”

    Reply

    • Ross
      June 15, 2024 @ 10:32 pm

      I believe “the” god of the Nile flood is Hapi (A fact I remember from an old comedy sketch which tries to create a public domain celebratory song by telling the story of the Nile Flood God sharing a bunk with an Ottoman governor of Algiers and a pair of female sheep), and, while I’m not sure it’s the most satisfying reveal, I do kinda like the symbolism of linking “Flood” to the Nile Flood in the story of Set.

      Reply

  4. WeslePryce
    June 15, 2024 @ 12:23 am

    I wonder how many primarily NuWho fans heard Ruby’s mom line about the “beast” + Gabriel Woolf’s voice and immediately thought “omg the beast from the Impossible Planet is coming back.”

    I knew Sutekh, and still literally gaslit myself into thinking it was an Impossible Planet reprise lmao. “Oh the beast must have attached its mind to the TARDIS before falling into the black hole.”

    Ngl, I wouldn’t be surprised if “the Beast” is retconned in as a manifestation of Suetekh in a throwaway line. RTD loves doing stuff like that.

    Anyways, yeah, your criticism is astute: good but easy episode. I think this one was actually more successful at building tension in me than previous season finale trailers like BadWolf/Army-of-Ghosts/etc. Although, I found the non-main cast quite perfunctory. One is there to be the traitor (H Arbinger), one is there to die (rip manchester, who I called as dying right from his introduction). In the “fodder character who dies for emotional impact” competition, RTD has never really been able to surpass his own magnum opus: Lynda.

    Reply

    • David H
      June 15, 2024 @ 8:33 am

      It’s not really a retcon when Pyramids of Mars already said that Satan was one of the names of Sutekh. We have two characters, both voiced by Gabriel Woolfe, both using the name Satan, and both having much the same M.O. and backstory – ancient gods, imprisoned and immobilized but using their mental influence to influence, control, and possess others in order to secure their escape. It’s not much of a stretch to assume they were always meant to be the same character.

      Reply

      • Daibhid C
        June 15, 2024 @ 6:24 pm

        Except … they’re not? One’s a Von Danniken alien in an Egyptian headdress who’s imprisoned on Mars, and the other’s a big red devil of uncertain origin who’s imprisoned in a black hole. There’s intentional parallels, sure, but actually being the same character requires as much heavy lifting as claiming the Beast was actually Azal.

        Repurposing Sutekh as one of the Pantheon does a lot more to tie them together than was ever the case before, though.

        Reply

  5. harrisaurian
    June 15, 2024 @ 12:23 am

    I do love that the god of death is manifested by what is essentially The Volume.

    Reply

  6. Kate Orman
    June 15, 2024 @ 12:26 am

    Sutekh suffers a bit from the same problem as werewolves, ie, even evil doggies are cute. They’d have done better to go with his inexplicable curved-snout, square-eared animal self.

    Reply

    • Citizen Alan
      June 15, 2024 @ 4:44 pm

      I had a different problem with the manifestation of Sutekh: My immediate thought upon his appearance is that RTD spent a great deal of money and state of the art CGI technology to reproduce a better and classier version of the Myrka from “Warriors of the Deep.” The flowing cloak with a giant animal head and claws immediately put me in mind of an evil pantomime horse.

      Reply

    • Patman
      June 16, 2024 @ 9:13 am

      Yeah, I’m a bit troubled by RTD’s tendency to go for maxinalism; the quiet, masked figure from Pyramids works better than a giant evil CGI dog.

      Reply

  7. Madeline Jones
    June 15, 2024 @ 12:28 am

    I guess opinions differ on whether Ascension of the Cybermen fucked up the season finale part one formula. I’d argue that its complete failure to present any interesting elements for a stand-alone episode, actually build up any hype leading into “The Timeless Children” beyond randomly teleporting Sacha Dhawan in for the last five seconds, and retroactive lack of any structural or thematic unity with its Part 2 would classify it as “Yes, Chibnall fucked that up”.

    Granted, I could also be chalking that up to my own memory bias since I have literally forgotten anything that happened in that episode apart from the aforementioned Sacha Dhawan dropping in and going “Oh hey, neat Cybermen story you got going on here. Shame if I just completely hijacked it for a grating infodump.”

    Reply

    • WeslePryce
      June 15, 2024 @ 12:38 am

      Having watched it for the first time, I felt that it was generally poorly constructed on a beat by beat scale (like all Chibnall episodes), but it did have some actually engaging elements. The utterly apocalyptic setting was unique, the planet hopping chase across the stars (with no TARDIS) was unique, Ashad was a fun stompy villain with a low-key hilarious backstory (cyberman whose just friggin’ PISSED about being human), “the barrier” was sort of mysterious and neat, the Brendan mystery was cool.

      Then the second episode came and peed on all of the promise of the one effortlessly by systematically ditching everything that made the first episode interesting, and instead Chibs forced Sacha Dhawan to monologue for like 30 minutes while Whitaker just sorta stood there staring blankly and going “no” occasionally. Overall, I’d agree with El’s assessment that “Ascension” was a very easy and mildly successful episode (mildly successful is practically an automatic 10/10 in the Chibnall era if we’re using a relative scale).

      Also the way you’ve written this makes it sound like the story was going normally, then Dhawan showed up, interrupted filming, improvised all the timeless children material, and just made the editing team work with it. This would actually be a much more sensible model for how “The Timeless Children” was made than it being an intentional product.

      Reply

      • Citizen Alan
        June 15, 2024 @ 12:48 am

        Chibnall did so much worse than make Sascha monologue for 30 minutes. He made the Master MANSPLAIN THE DOCTOR’S OWN ORIGIN TO HER! That was when I finally accepted that the allegations of “wokeness” in the Chibnall era were nonsense and that he was actually a reactionary sexist pig who tried unsuccessfully to achieve “wokeness” (as a reactionary sexist pig would envision it at least) because he thought it was what people wanted.

        Reply

    • Citizen Alan
      June 15, 2024 @ 12:43 am

      Oddly, I almost remember Ascension fondly because (a) Graham had a well-acted scene with Yaz, (b) Graham having the clever idea of escaping the ship disguised in Cyber army which was the only clever thing anyone ever did during the Chibnall run, and (c) Timeless Children was so unremittingly awful that it would make even the worst episode (other than Kerblam!) look good.

      Reply

      • cyril servant
        June 15, 2024 @ 6:26 am

        The only clever thing was a beat from the original Star Wars? Indeed, from Pyramids of Mars before that? Indeed, from The Daleks and probably a million other things before that?

        Reply

        • Citizen Alan
          June 15, 2024 @ 4:47 pm

          I didn’t mean it was clever of Chibnall. I mean it was a clever thing that Graham did within the story. Which, in three seasons of the main characters bumbling around pretty much helplessly and surviving through plot contrivance, was mildly impressive.

          Reply

    • Brian B.
      June 15, 2024 @ 1:04 pm

      Thanks, Madeline. “Ascension of the Cybermen” remains the last episode of Doctor Who I’ve seen, although I will at some point spring for Disney-plus to see “Andor” and the new Davies series. It was so painfully pointless and dull — and so unsurprising in being so — that I finally realized I had made a large mistake continuing with the Chibnall era as long as I’d done. Long enough and rewardlessly enough, I mean, that even the announcement “Russell Davies is back and he’s cast Ncuti Gatwa!!!!” hasn’t been enough to motivate me to pay for a new streaming service to see what used to be my favorite show.

      Reply

      • Citizen Alan
        June 15, 2024 @ 4:48 pm

        I would have hesitated to pay for Disney+ just for DW had I not already been paying for it for MCU series (as hit or miss as they’ve been) and Star Wars stuff (even more hit or miss).

        Reply

    • wyngatecarpenter
      June 15, 2024 @ 4:31 pm

      I remember being slightly irritated by that cliffhanger , Sacha Dahwan seemed be reduced to the role of a continuity announcer telling us to watch next week because something big was about to happen (for the second time that season in fact)

      Reply

  8. Citizen Alan
    June 15, 2024 @ 12:40 am

    Looking back, my most interesting response to this was genuine anger at the realization of how good Bonnie Langford could be and how Nathan-Turner utterly wasted her during her Classic run even worse than he did Sarah Sutton. I aggressively disliked Mel Bush as a character during the Baker-McCoy years, and thought her only decent scene was the one where she said goodbye to the Seventh Doctor. It was so rare to see any of the Classic companions get a decent send-off. Jo and Sarah Jane both got emotional departures, but Leela’s and Peri’s departures were insulting (and, IMO, Adric’s; YMMV). Most of the companions just had a tacked on scene at the end of the actor’s last episode where for some contrived reason (usually a cute boy) they decide to stay behind.

    Reply

  9. bookcasequeen
    June 15, 2024 @ 12:58 am

    when was the the other time Davies repurposed the “gift of death” line?

    Reply

    • Richard Pugree
      June 15, 2024 @ 1:30 am

      Vince watches the scene on repeat in Queer as Folk.

      Given the way RTDs uses it there, and how gay this series has been generally, I was surprised that when he brings back Sutekh here it’s much less kinky than before, and opts for shonky cgi dog instead. Maybe we’ll get another manifestation in a leather jackal mask next week.

      Frankly astonished RTD resisted the temptation to wade into ‘no kink at pride’ discourse by bringing back Sutekh as was, to face off with Ncuti Tom of Finland Gatwa.

      Maybe he just feels he can’t top the Slabs from Smith and Jones. As it were.

      Reply

      • Dan Abel
        June 16, 2024 @ 11:56 am

        I show my age by racking my brain to think of an Alas Smith and Jones Doctor Who Sketch until I realised how dumb I was being

        Reply

  10. renniejoy
    June 15, 2024 @ 3:00 am

    I don’t why the characters are assuming that the woman is Ruby’s mother – if it had been me who’d given birth in the last 24 hours, an empty street in a snowstorm is one of the last places I’d want to be.

    Reply

  11. Bill
    June 15, 2024 @ 4:24 am

    Elisabeth, I found your site by accident and have returned after watching each of the last three episodes to find your review.
    I very much enjoy reading your reviews and the comments posted by others and wanted to thank you.
    Thank you,
    Bill

    P.S. Jon Pertwee was my first Doctor.

    P.P.S.S Do you know if any thought was given to continuing with Jodie Whittaker under the new (old) regime?

    Reply

    • Reeycakes
      June 15, 2024 @ 5:45 am

      I believe Whittaker and Chibnall had always considered themselves in it together, and given that the former would have been pregnant through most of 2022 when filming for the RTD2 era kicked off, I doubt it was ever seriously considered

      Reply

      • Bill
        June 15, 2024 @ 4:49 pm

        Thanks Reeycakes,
        I’m so out of my depth here, I appreciate you taking the time to share your knowledge.
        B

        Reply

  12. Cyrano
    June 15, 2024 @ 4:39 am

    Lots of moment to moment fun, largely enabled by putting a great cast on quite a static, expository episode.

    In truth, I’m not sure I love it. Previous series finales have moved much quicker than this, a thicker patter of revelations and mysteries and peril, before pulling back the curtain on an even bigger stage for the finale.

    Series 3, for example. The episode starts by revealing who Mr Saxon is and why G-Men are tracking Martha. It has a lot of fun with The Master as Prime Minister and the Doctor and friends on the run, adds the new mystery of the Toclafane and ends with the even bigger pull back of the Master conquering the world.

    This just restates the questions we’ve had all along, and defers answers another week. ‘Sutekh done it for some reason’ is an exciting cliffhanger, but it means the only actual new development in the episode is the last 60 seconds, which I don’t love.

    That’s the clear headed narrative construction me.

    The fan me is thinking…Sutekh’s not a god. He’s an Arthur C Clarke ‘Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’ ancient alien. You could do everything in this episode the same with Fenric and it would make more sense. He’s always been characterised as an actual supernatural god, he’s got harbingers spread through the universe, his manipulation of families and bloodlines ties in with Ruby’s family issues, he’s previously incarnated in the form of a tech entrepreneur and a mythology that’s been co-opted by white supremacy would be a great thing to crash the first black Doctor and his joyful team of multicultural friends into.

    The fact that it’s Sutekh instead feels like a bit of a whoops, frankly.

    Reply

    • Ross
      June 15, 2024 @ 11:28 am

      Sutekh “feels” right for this sort of role – while the Osirans were explained as “sufficiently advanced aliens”, they were still “sufficiently advanced” at a level where “Actually capable ot ending all life in the universe” felt plausible. All the same, you’re right that this doesn’t quite align with the whole “The Doctor changed the rules of the universe and now the outer gods can show up, gods who are actual gods and not just sufficiently advanced aliens”. I’d put the Osirians and the Daemons both in that category – they’re basically Star Trek gods. They don’t necessarily rank differently in a practical sense in terms of the threat they can level or what kind of sacrifice would be necessary to defeat them, but they still kinda “vibe” as beings that still operate by the rules of the universe.
      Fenric, the Animus, the Gods of Ragnarok, maybe Kronos, those are the ones that would slot naturally into this new pantheon to my thinking (The Trickster, I’d maintain, could go either way, but I’d still class him as a lower order of being from the “proper” gods).

      But given Sutekh’s own vibe, he feels like a good choice; I just wish they had some way to bridge the understanding here – something to explicitly say that this is a metaphysical upgrade. (If you wanted to sound like Big Finish, maybe say something like “The Osirans manifested in our universe before, but that was through avatars that were bound by this universe’s physical laws; now that the supernatural can enter our universe directly, we’re seeing their true nature”).

      In a sense, Moffat did this kind of metaphysical recast in reverse with the Great Intelligence – it was traditionally interpreted as that sort of outer god in the old EU stuff, but he brought it back as something more like a Boltzmann Brain.

      Reply

      • Narsham
        June 15, 2024 @ 1:37 pm

        Sutekh presumably latched onto the TARDIS to survive the Time Corridor (I’ve always thought his fce in the TARDIS at the start of the story was him escaping at the end). He then traveled in the TARDIS from early Four to now. It’s possible the recent change in reality has helped him get out, but given the Doctor’s history the idea of a being becoming a death god inside the TARDIS just works.

        Gives us another way to interpret The Big Bang, too.

        Really, if you want to rationalize it isn’t hard: the Doctor thought Sutekh was an Osirian but if he was an Eternal who took the form of an Osirian he could be a god first. At some point, who cares?

        I’d forgotten Whittaker’s pregnancy. I wonder if RTD got her to do a quick scene and Ruby is Thirteen’s daughter?

        Reply

        • Citizen Alan
          June 15, 2024 @ 4:55 pm

          I’m kind of drawn to the idea that the Osirans were an ancient “sufficiently advanced race” on par with the Timelords who encountered Sutekh and sacrificed their entire civilization just to lock him away for a while. The idea of Sutekh being the LAST of the Osirans is just a mythologizing after the fact. And I would love for Sutekh and the Beast from the Satan Pit to be the same entity bound in multiple locations. It would tie in with the Egyptian mythos of gods being literally chopped into bits and those bits scattered to prevent the god from reformiing it self.

          Reply

  13. Steven E
    June 15, 2024 @ 5:11 am

    Enjoyed this episode. I think my favourite mode of RTD’s DW is his big, messy, scruffy finales – it’s clear we’re getting one. Best Gatwa outfit of the season, and funny how Mel being back is just taken for granted now – what a timeline.

    Couple stray thoughts:

    Lenny Rush is perfect for Big Finish. He’s just got a proper voice. Once this era gets ushered under BF’s licence, he’s going to be about for years and his character is going to meet, probably barring Tom Baker, every living Doctor.
    The misstep here is in CG Sutekh. And it’s a big one. It also speaks to the eternal mystery of VFX. The original design and implementation in S13 (bare with me if I’ve got that season wrong) is limited and primitive but it has presence, a strong silhouette and genuine heft. It felt like a totem, something people would worship. A god, basically. It’s stillness was kind of an asset. What we got kind of reminded me more of when Scrappy Doo takes steroids in the 00s movie.

    Reply

    • Steven E
      June 15, 2024 @ 5:12 am

      also anyone know how to change a profile picture on here? No idea why mine is a stockphoto of a bikini

      Reply

      • Rhy
        June 15, 2024 @ 9:01 am

        you profile pic is coming from gravatar, a wordpress service and tied to the email you enter when you post a comment

        Reply

        • Steven E
          June 15, 2024 @ 12:07 pm

          thank you! that thing had been haunting me for years

          Reply

    • Stef
      June 15, 2024 @ 6:55 pm

      … F2P?

      Reply

      • Steven Edmondson
        June 16, 2024 @ 10:12 am

        ello ello – been off twitter a long time now!

        Reply

  14. Przemek
    June 15, 2024 @ 5:24 am

    Well that was underwhelming. A whole episode about not much at all, spinning its wheels for 45 minutes. Fun 45 minutes but there just wasn’t much meat on the bones. I miss Moffat’s gift for exposition, this was a bit tidious.

    It’s weird how little build-up there was to the finale. If it wasn’t for online discussions, I would have missed the whole Susan Twist thing because I’m just bad at recognizing faces. And I would think nothing about that one conversation about Susan in “The Devil’s Chord”.

    I wonder how new fans react to this finale. You start watching this new show and then suddenly the finale is all about UNiT and recurring characters like Kate (which you only saw twice before) and Mel (who you might not know at all if you’ve missed “The Giggle”) and the whole plot revolves around a classic Who companion and a classic Who villain. How effective is the Sutekh reveal for people who have never heard of him? It’s weird, this sudden lore dump, with presumably way more to come in part 2.

    Reply

    • Cyrano
      June 15, 2024 @ 5:56 am

      I don’t know if it would be much of a barrier at all. None of the returning elements are taken for granted – Mel and UNIT are established across previous recent episodes and there’s nothing about Sutekh that calls specifically back to Pyramids of Mars. This season has established that there are gods, who are awful and powerful and outside the usual laws of science and logic. Sutekh is a big bad one. It doesn’t even say the Doctor’s met him before.

      Reply

      • Loz
        June 15, 2024 @ 6:14 am

        Yes, you sell it by the reactions of the cast, not on assuming that someone who has only started watching Doctor Who this year immediately Googles it, finds that he was only in one story that was never mentioned again, watches it and only then says “Wow, the Doctor’s in trouble now!” The fact that he’s a returning monster is a small detail, not the key point for the story.

        Reply

      • Ross
        June 15, 2024 @ 11:58 am

        I’m brought to mind of the oddity that in Star Trek Generations, they’d originally written the girlfriend Kirk planned to marry in the Nexus as Edith Keeler, but the higher ups said that people who didn’t remember the episode would be “confused”, so instead it’s… Just a random name they pulled out of a hat.

        Reply

      • Einarr
        June 15, 2024 @ 12:02 pm

        I don’t know; I’ve already seen two or three YouTube reactors finish watching the episode with blank expressions of “who??” on their faces and heard accounts from friends of their parents responding similarly. I think the issue is not so much that it’s impossible to understand from the episode context who Sutekh is – it clearly says he’s a God of Death, head figure of a pantheon, the Doctor sells his fear of this figure, and if one has remaining confusion the name’s connection to Egyptian mythology and classic Doctor Who is easily gleaned online. But the way it plays the wordplay/pun reveal of his name feels very strongly like a “look how smart you were for figuring this clue out” beat (or, alternately “bet you’re kicking yourself for NOT figuring this clue out”). And it revolves entirely around the recognisability of the name itself in a way that is, I think, throwing off these viewers because they feel like the episode is strongly signalling to them “it’s THIS guy, you know this guy, don’t you?” rather than reintroducing them. Contrast Davies’ other big wordplay reveal – YANA – which doesn’t revolve around a name or concept the audience might be previously unfamiliar with, but a specific phrase from earlier in the season that makes complete natural sense in its own right.

        Reply

        • Przemek
          June 15, 2024 @ 12:13 pm

          Yes, that’s the part that I think might have been a misstep. It just puts emphasis on the wrong thing. If you’re doing the anagram bit, you should also have the Doctor say something about having encountered that villain before. “I should have recognized the name” etc.

          Reply

          • Elizabeth Sandifer
            June 15, 2024 @ 12:22 pm

            I think “It was the wrong anagram” largely served this purpose.

            I suspect nothing about the Sutekh reveal is as big a deal as we fans fret. “Big evil god thing” is a perfectly serviceable cliffhanger, and at this point the existence of lore for the show is known. I don’t think anyone who’s gone eight episodes into the Gatwa era is going to suddenly blanche at episode nine because the cliffhanger doesn’t explain the villain enough.

          • Cyrano
            June 15, 2024 @ 1:40 pm

            I think the performance and lines sell it anyway. Whether he’s met Sutekh before or not the Doctor’s clearly communicating “this is a big deal”.

            If anything explicitly saying “I’ve met him before” actually invokes the continuity exclusion you’re worrying about.

          • Citizen Alan
            June 15, 2024 @ 5:04 pm

            My pet theory at the moment is that Mrs. Flood is the Trickster and he/she/it set up this elaborate Susan Tardis as a trap for the Doctor, only for the apocalyptic God of Death that even the other Gods are terrified of to somehow coopt it at the last minute by changing the S-Triad anagram to the Sue-Tech anagram. In the Mrs. Flood scene, she clearly knew that the One Who Waits was coming, but she didn’t seem excited or happy but almost annoyed and resigned. I’m amused at the idea that everything that has happened with Ruby and Susan Twist since The Church on Ruby Road has been an elaborate overcomplicated Trickster plot that was completely overturned at the last second by a bigger, badder God.

          • HelenaHermione
            June 15, 2024 @ 6:00 pm

            Trying to reply to a comment Citizen Alan made about Mrs. Flood being the Trickster, I was thinking that Mrs. Flood might wound up being the third member of the Triad, along with Harriet Harbinger and Susan Triad. If they’re sort of the three witches or three Fates, what used to be the Mother, Maiden, and Crone in mythology. Mrs. Flood in skull makeup would be interesting.

      • cirkus
        June 15, 2024 @ 6:37 pm

        Honestly, I’m kind of baffled by the decision to bring him back at all. We’ve already had a pretty much direct remake of Pyramids of Mars in Impossible Planet, they’ve mined most of his specific vibe there, so it didn’t really have to be Sutekh to fill the role of “big scary god.” The only real reason to drag him out is nostalgia, except nobody other than us anoraks has ever heard of him. I don’t think it’s actively bad or anything, but by and large when RTD2’s brought stuff back it’s pretty consistently tried to fix it, or at least bring something new to the table (the Toymaker and Mel, for instance), and I’m curious to see how they pull that off here. Or if they bother, I suppose, it could just be the RTD2 equivalent of wheeling out the Macra or something.

        Reply

        • Ross
          June 15, 2024 @ 7:18 pm

          I think the main thing they wanted was “Death God”, and it happened that Doctor Who had done “death god” before, so it made sense to use that one.

          I note with some amusement that in Stargate SG-1, Set/Seth/Setesh/Sutekh just ran a sex cult in Seattle, which technically made him one of the least intimidating of the Egyptian gods.

          Reply

    • WeslePryce
      June 15, 2024 @ 9:39 am

      I think you might be underestimating new fans here. To someone not in the know, this episode is “The Doctor shows up to hang out with their quirky scifi friends, and then they investigate.”

      Think about how easily you accepted the existence of the genius 13 year old—the casual audience probably accepted Mel as easily as that.

      As for Suetekh, I don’t think any classic series knowledge is required at all for that. He’s a big scary angry death god that announced himself as such while scary music plays. Non-knowledgeable viewers can figure it out.

      Reply

      • Przemek
        June 15, 2024 @ 12:10 pm

        I agree, I wasn’t trying to suggest that the new viewers must be confused. I’m just curious about their perspective. And honestly I’m quite surprised that in a season that’s so big on experimentation and freshness the finale relies so much on old stuff. Granted, this was only part 1 – maybe part 2 will give us some Earth-shattering twists. There’s always a twist at the end, after all.

        Reply

    • wyngatecarpenter
      June 15, 2024 @ 4:44 pm

      “How effective is the Sutekh reveal for people who have never heard of him?”

      Doing a quick straw poll in my house – I felt an unusual-these-days mounting sense of fanboy excitement as it became clear that those speculating about “Sue Tech” were right ; my wife who watches and often enjoys Doctor Who , but who isn’t a “fan” and hasn’t watched Pyramids of Mars was left unimpressed by the episode in general.

      Reply

  15. Loz
    June 15, 2024 @ 6:07 am

    Well that was fun. I don’t want to go back to ‘Dot and Bubble’ to check, but was the Doctor really on screen at the same time as Lindy’s Mum? And seeing as ’73 Yards’ undoes itself at the end it just amused me that RTD had to invent unseen stories to hurriedly set up the Sue Twist ‘mystery’. I think it was only when I was reading through the stuff here over the last few weeks that I realised it was a thing. They could have had her only turn up in this episode and insist she was there all along and I would have believed them.

    So now we get to look forward to next week and see how many open questions from this episode get ignored. I’m assuming that Mrs Flood will be important and, after being so menacing this evening, will turn out to be a goodie. I’m wondering whether the whole thing with Sue reappearing throughout time will be handwaved away as just ‘a lure to attract the Doctor’s attention’ but as she’s now a Sutekh thrall I can’t see much of interest happening with her until they get to the obligatory “throw off his control!” scene that they do every time an important character gets put in the ‘make them a Cyberman’ machine. I suspect that, as we’ve got Millie Gibson for another season, we may still not get the mystery of Ruby’s past explained. The Fourth Wall breaking will probably be ignored too.

    I’m just wondering what deus ex machina RTD is going to pull out of nowhere to solve the problem next week.

    Reply

    • Susan
      June 15, 2024 @ 9:02 am

      “I’m just wondering what deus ex machina RTD is going to pull out of nowhere to solve the problem next week.”

      We have the memory window, the TARDIS feeling ‘solid’ within it, and the memory TARDIS still to come. That’ll be the ass-pull.

      Reply

      • Narsham
        June 15, 2024 @ 1:42 pm

        “Mom” was pointing directly at the TARDIS and the Doctor suggested something catastrophic will happen if the TARDIS goes back to that point and we already saw it (with Sutekh around it) having gone back to that point.

        Reply

    • Daibhid C
      June 15, 2024 @ 6:39 pm

      Yep, the Doctor and Ruby both see a clip of Lindy’s mother and have a conversation about it where the Doctor recognises her as the ambulance, and Ruby says she’s seen her before that.

      Reply

  16. Anton B
    June 15, 2024 @ 6:42 am

    TLDR
    It’s never Susan.
    Bah!
    But also Yay!
    And Sutekh turned out to be a shaggy dog story.
    So this is the RTD2 version of his classic DW two part finales. Forty minutes of epic exposition so that UNIT could show off it’s Disney budget. I’m not complaining, I loved the meta narrative of the Time Window being only able to show a dodgy VHS version of Doctor Who and Ncuti Gatwa dressing like he was heading for a 198Os gay bar.

    The question is, how much is RTD trolling us? There’s still Mrs Flood and Ruby’s mum to consider. I suspect the mystery of Ruby’s secret origin will be held over to next season but will Russell pull a Moffat and give us a heel-turn finale? Ignoring all he’s built up to tell an entirely different story. I wouldn’t be surprised.

    Reply

    • Richard Pugree
      June 15, 2024 @ 7:05 am

      I was thinking it would be the other way round actually. That Ruby’s mum/the hooded woman would be (largely) resolved next week, but that Mrs Flood is primarily a Season 2 thing.

      I too loved the gorgeous VHSness, and the glitching, and it retroactively makes the somewhat underused ideas about television screens in the Giggle work better too.

      I think Mrs Flood’s fourth wall breaking isn’t entirely unconnected to that, but I think hers is a different story.

      Reply

  17. Prandeamus
    June 15, 2024 @ 7:11 am

    I’m torn. It is everything that RTD does well, and so many weaknesses of his. I’m glad he’s being himself but… it’s great in the moment, but even as was having a nice Saturday morning watching it, I found myself wishing for actual plot. It was full of sound and fury, the significance as yet unassessable. Full of apparent contradictions like the fixed point the Doctor cannot re-visit but which changes when they manage to sort of visit. I know these can be retconned away but even still I’m not quite at ease.

    When the dust settles next week maybe we will see more clearly.

    How this plays out for the not-we I can only guess. Surely someone who only knows Gatwa who and without even a cultural awareness of the series history is going to find this a bit indigestible?

    I enjoyed it, sure, but I sincerely hope we’re not going down a mid80s route with so much “Return of the x” material

    Reply

  18. Feargal
    June 15, 2024 @ 7:29 am

    Ruby’s Christmas Eve birth and snow-causing powers would have to be a central part of the upcoming Christmas episode, surely? Her origin will probably be settled there.

    Next week will be mostly Sutekh, and I don’t think Ruby will be directly connected to him.

    Reply

    • Ben
      June 17, 2024 @ 7:32 pm

      I personally assume that Ruby’s backstory will get wrapped up next episode — 1) I believe RTD said in an interview that the finale will conclude most of the major mysteries, 2) Christmas specials tend to be big fluffy things rather than important arc stories, and 3) most importantly of all, Moffat’s writing the Christmas special, not RTD. I would imagine that Davies is prob going to resolve his major storyline himself.

      Reply

  19. FezofRassilon
    June 15, 2024 @ 8:26 am

    It does feel a bit clunky in places, and it doesn’t quite work as an episode in itself, because Sutekh sort of comes out of nowhere. But really Sutekh is just going to be the backdrop for the Doctor meeting Susan again. A shaggy dog story, if you will.
    Davies sets up Susan’s return (and spends a lot more time on it than he should if he’s just going to drop it), throws in Sutekh as a mislead to add scale and stakes and make it feel like a finale, then we do all the actual meaningful character interactions next episode.
    My prediction – Anita Dobson is Susan, and at the end of the episode, she’ll regenerate into Verada Sethu, and joins the Doctor as a companion for season 2.

    Reply

    • Einarr
      June 15, 2024 @ 11:55 am

      That last detail is unlikely, given Dobson has been seen filming with both Gatwa and Sethu for the next season, including in a story set in 1950s Miami.

      Reply

  20. Andrew
    June 15, 2024 @ 10:20 am

    Sutekh racist? Please no.

    Reply

    • Einarr
      June 15, 2024 @ 12:28 pm

      At the very very least, Pyramids of Mars definitely is.

      Reply

  21. Paul Fisher Cockburn
    June 15, 2024 @ 10:47 am

    “Speaking of Pyramids of Mars, I was charmed to see Lewis Grieifer get his first Doctor Who credit some forty-nine years after the story Robert Holmes salvaged from his script aired.”

    By “salvaged”, of course, you actually mean “rewrote completely from page one”. Greifer’s “idea” was an alien perceived as ancient Egyptian god (how very 1970s) but I’m pretty sure the character (a) wasn’t even called Sutekh in his draft scripts, and (b) certainly didn’t have the core “destroy all life” motivation which I think pretty much defines Sutekh as a character.

    To be honest, I think the Griefer credit is more about BBC Studios/BadWolf/Disney covering their backsides in terms of any potential legal complaints from Griefer’s estate than genuinely recognising who actually devised the character as they appeared on screen in 1975.

    Not that Holmes would’ve required a credit for creating Sutekh; as a salaried script editor at the time, all his work belonged to the BBC.

    Reply

    • wyngatercarpenter
      June 15, 2024 @ 4:50 pm

      I thought Griefer’s script had even less in common with the finished story than that – somethking involving a criminal gang and a plan to plant rice on Mars or something.

      Reply

  22. SeeingI
    June 15, 2024 @ 11:49 am

    To be fair the script running through “the contents of Reddit for the last several weeks” in an episode shot over a year ago just goes to show how RTD is able to play fans like a violin.

    I predicted Sutekh from the first trailer (one who waits, billows of sand, the glimpse of a devastated future, and a pantheon of gods) but the misdirects were so good that up until the last moment I still thought that maybe it was something else. Also IIRC the whole reason Gabriel Woolf voiced The Beast is because at one point they considered having Sutekh be down the Pit. So conflating the two characters is only natural.

    Reply

  23. Christopher Brown
    June 15, 2024 @ 12:01 pm

    Well, I sure got that dopamine hit, alright. And yeah, Bonnie Langford has never been better-served on Doctor Who.

    Really hoping we get a physical Sutekh to talk to next week, so we don’t have to rely on the whiffy dog monster CG.

    Reply

    • Einarr
      June 15, 2024 @ 12:04 pm

      Dog monster CG looks so bad. Yeah they might give him a more menacing form next time, but I just… why would you not put your best foot (paw) forward for your epic finale cliffhanger? Baffling.

      Reply

      • Przemek
        June 15, 2024 @ 4:10 pm

        Yeah, the CGI dog was just boring. Neither realistic nor stylized interestingly, just… a big CGI thing.

        Reply

    • Corey Klemow
      June 15, 2024 @ 9:28 pm

      I’m guessing Susan Triad will continue to serve as the primary physical manifestation of Sutekh, just as she did in the final scene. And Sutekh can possess anyone he feels like at any point, so basically anybody in the cast can slap on the skull prosthetic and makeup and be the physical Sutekh as needed while Sir CGI Fisheye Nostrils is kept to a minimum.

      Reply

  24. William Shaw
    June 15, 2024 @ 12:39 pm

    The spirit of Vince Tyler lives on!

    Reply

  25. Kazin
    June 15, 2024 @ 1:33 pm

    Was pretty underwhelmed it was all leading up to a Sutekh reveal. I wonder what the general public thinks about it, at least those who aren’t familiar with the classic series.

    I do hope to see RTD take on the problem of Susan, though. I feel he’d at least have an interesting take on it.

    Reply

  26. James Whitaker
    June 15, 2024 @ 2:55 pm

    Bit of a weird one, so much time spent recapping the plot of previous stories and reintroducing the cast, and the Susan Twist and Ruby’s Mum mysteries are set up in parallel when really they have nothing to do with each other – but keeps everything moving, lots of good moments, the time window is so eerie, and appropriately leaves things on a “where the hell is this going to go” cliffhanger

    Reply

  27. Annie J
    June 15, 2024 @ 4:00 pm

    i was quite disappointed with this one, I think it was a misstep.
    I can’t help wondering what someone completely new to the show would think, if they started watching from when Disney took over from the church on Ruby Road.
    Not only would the unit characters be completely unfamiliar and a callback to that they haven’t seen yet but the returning monster as well, his threat hasn’t been shown enough.
    Or to put it another way, this seems like an episode specifically designed for fans. I can’t see what a casual viewer would gain from it.
    It’s a shame because the best thing about Doctor Who is that it can reinvent itself constantly, but if it keeps clicking to the past I just don’t see any way forward.

    Reply

    • Cyrano
      June 16, 2024 @ 2:45 am

      Who’s this person who only started watching when the Disney collaboration properly started at Christmas? The specials were shown on BBC1, and streamed on Disney, just like this series. And, perhaps because they weren’t dropped on iPlayer first, were matched by many more people!

      Any episode could be someone’s first of course. But if think this episode was too sensitive to that. It was extremely expository, pausing for long introductions of characters the show has met before and questions it’s been asking all season.

      If anything, Sutekh is handled the best I think. The Doctor doesn’t say “I met him before, in the 1970s when I was Tom Baker. Let me tell you the story”. Gatwa sells the scale of the threat by looking absolutely horrified.

      Reply

  28. James P
    June 15, 2024 @ 5:13 pm

    So, when Colonel Chidozie died, was that Sutekh reaching through the time window? But only when Chidozie got close enough to the second (or first?) TARDIS to visit Ruby Road? And if Sutekh has been around/on the TARDIS all this time, how come anybody else who comes close to the TARDIS doesn’t crumble to dust? Or was Chidozie just unlucky because Sutekh chose to reveal himself at this moment?
    And does this mean the TARDIS has suddenly become dangerous at all the points in time in which it exists simultaneously? Am I overthinking it all? Will RTD stick the landing?!

    Also there is a certain deliciousness to a tech billionaire unwittingly unleashing death upon the world, even though everyone thinks she is ‘nice’.

    Reply

  29. Jake
    June 15, 2024 @ 8:05 pm

    I’ll be honest, I’ve not seen Pyramids of Mars, but ngl I’m not sure how much it matters that this big bad is Sutekh. Our Big Bad this season is functionally a brand new threat- The Ultimate God Of Death. But introducing a new villain for the finale is tricky- it’s never been done before for a finale (closest we’ve got is the Weird Hat Men from Name Of The Doctor & The Headless Monks, neither of which are really classics) so to provide the necessary mythic heft the character’s been dressed up in Sutekh’s iconography. That would explain the inconsistencies people have pointed out with the Osirians (is that their name? Gosh I’m a bad fan) and the bonus invocation of The Beast, for the benefit of us Nu Who fans so we don’t miss out on the intended effect brought on by seeing a vanquished godlike foe return. But ultimately it doesn’t matter because the concept holds up on its own merits- Susan Triad super unnerving talk of her dreams, the Harbinger’s recitation of the pantheon, the very spooky CG Evil Burning Fog, it’s all suitably epic and threatening in its own right.

    The crowning moment, of course, is the way it turns the TARDIS into something alien and ominous, which is a twisting of the series imagery befitting of a series finale regardless of who’s doing it. And what makes it so effective is that we’re evoking the past in a very general sense, because Sutekh here doesn’t represent a specific threat. Rather it’s the embodiment of that constant cloud of death that’s followed the Doctor’s travels. As monsters go, that’s an idea good enough to stand on its own. Sutekh’s just lucky it got picked to be the face of the operation over the Chronovore.

    Reply

  30. Cyrano
    June 16, 2024 @ 2:53 am

    There seems to be a greater than normal amount of fanxiety over this episode. Lots of people worrying whether non-fans will understand or appreciate it.

    Is this just because Sutekh is a returning monster that’s not part of the commonly understood Doctor Who package? Is it because ratings are down?

    Reply

    • prandeamus
      June 16, 2024 @ 5:53 am

      Speaking for myself, I’m not a ratings wonk. Ratings are not meaningless, but the shifting nature of streaming, the Disney relationship, length of season, and so on, make it hard to compare one year to another except in the vaguest of ways.

      Generally speaking it’s still possible to “join” the show at any point. Though I have scattered memories of Troughton episodes, in effect Jon Pertwee falling out of the TARDIS in Spearhead is where I started. I think that’s probably still true, and there will be new fans who get onboard with “The Church On Ruby Road”. For those people, if Sutekh has been retconned it shouldn’t really matter. He’s the big bad. He’s got mates like Maestro and Toymaker. No one needs to know that Toymaker last showed up in a dodgy Chinese caricature outfit.

      Having said that, I think that the 2005 season did a better job, at the time, to introduce the show to complete newcomers. Necessary, given the length of time passed since the TV Movie and Survival. It was almost a reboot, with the Daleks being the contractually mandated reference point to the past. It goes out of its way over 13 episodes to build up the essentials of the Doctor, the kind of person he is and what the show can do. In 2023-2023 we have to establish with the new world-wide Disney audience and, at the same time, right the wrongs inflicted on Donna Noble, establish what may become the salt-at-the-end-of-the-universe-lets-the-gods-back arc, change the core cast to Ncuti/Millie, and set up the “Susan” and “Twist” themes that will surely not both be resolved next week. And we’ve had two doctor-lite Ncuti episodes. And probably some sort of setup for whatever spin-offs may come.

      I have absolutely enjoyed every episode from 2023-4 so far (although the superlatives heaped on Boom are a mystery to me). I just have a niggling concern that it will be insufficiently engaging to the not-we, which is the only way a show like this can survive. Maybe I worry about the ratings not in an objective way but subjectively.

      Reply

  31. Ross
    June 16, 2024 @ 8:24 pm

    So, not directly connected to anything, but is there something weird about Colonel Ibrahim? Like, nothing in how he’s acted or written, but every time I see him, I feel like I sense an unreal quality. When I first saw him in the teaser scene, saluting the incoming TARDIS, for a second, I thought he was computer-generated, and the rest of his scenes there was a similar quality, I don’t know if it’s a filter or something, or just that the dude is much more buff than I was expecting. Gives me Chris Redfield vibes.

    Reply

  32. Juno
    June 17, 2024 @ 4:11 am

    I think there is something very cool about Sutekh emerging from a VHS from 2004, the very end of the Wilderness Years, and the power-up he seems to have received fits with that. This is how powerful Sutekh seemed to a kid who would have watched Pyramids of Mars on tape in the 90’s. Few villains loom so large in the fandoms imagination.

    Reply

    • James Whitaker
      June 17, 2024 @ 8:57 am

      Oh I love this interpretation – the shoddy visuals and wonky tape, yet still exuding raw power and menace..! You know I wonder if you might be onto something here – perhaps, like the Ring, the tape might be able to trap Sutekh…

      Reply

  33. Isaac Kelley
    June 17, 2024 @ 12:00 pm

    I think it is hilarious to think about how concerned RTD was to not alienate new viewers with continuity in 2005 and now we have the Doctor and Ruby teaming up with Donna’s daughter, The Brigadier’s daughter (from Downtime) and Mel to investigate what became of Susan and the twist is that the villain is a one-off baddie from the 70’s. Times have changed.

    Reply

  34. Ross
    June 22, 2024 @ 12:15 am

    Oh my god, I just realized. We all overlooked it. How were we so blind?

    Mel is a REDHEAD.

    That is, her HAIR BE GINGER.

    HAIR BE GINGER
    HAR B INGER
    HARBINGER

    Reply

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