If you saw the latest Doctor Who episode, you’ll know there is a lot to discuss. Whovians, regardless of who your favourite regeneration of The Doctor happens to be, have a habit of compartmentalising the series into tidy little boxes. Whilst some people might be thinking of the boxes seen in the 2012 episode The Power of Three, the boxes I’m referencing pertains to the various Doctor Who eras fans passionately cling to.
The latest episode, titled Fugitive of the Judoon, forces us Whovians to think outside the box as a platoon of heavily armed Judoon stomp the streets of present-day Gloucester seeking out a fugitive. By the time the end credits begin rolling, with the return of a fan favourite character, we have been presented with an episode many fans will appreciate.
The episode, as man Doctor Who instalments do, opens with a mundane scene of Ruth Clayton (Jo Martin) looking intensely at her wristwatch. With the second hand on her wristwatch quickly closing out the minute, it is 8 AM. The toast pops up in her toaster and she is seen buttering a slice. Paired with a boiled egg, Ruth’s breakfast is rather ordinary. It’s not an ordinary day because it’s apparently her birthday. Her companion, Lee Clayton (Neil Stuke), wanted to make his wife her birthday breakfast. She beat him to it. All Ruth wants for her birthday is a cake.
Do you see anything familiar? Whilst there is obviously nothing wrong with acknowledging one’s reflection in the mirror, there is something oddly familiar about Ruth’s mirror Whovians should recognise. It matches the shape of numerous TARDIS central consoles. Is showrunner/episode co-writer Chris Chibnall trying to tell us something?
Considering how previous episodes have unfolded, with numerous misdirects, there is nothing to suggest that the mirror has any real significance. It could be there to throw us off the scent of what’s really happening.
There is something in Lee’s facial expression, whilst it might be nothing, which suggests that this isn’t going to be an ordinary birthday for his wife. Because of how instantly likeable Lee is, we should have figured out that whatever happens in the episode, he’s not going to see a happy conclusion.
Exhibiting a joyful spirit on her way to work, Ruth happily encounters numerous people along the canal-side footpath. Ruth is a tour guide for the Gloucester Cathedral. Ruth apparently knows all the exciting facts about Gloucester. When a teenager asks Ruth to tell her something, the tour guide references a piece of history from 1216. With the girl not impressed with historical facts, Ruth tells her that the cathedral was a Harry Potter filming location. The teenager was more interested in the Harry Potter reference than she was with knowing that the 9-year-old King Henry III coronated there.
In a nearby café, as Ruth gets her coffee, the obsessive All Ears Allan (Michael Begley) expresses his desire for her in no uncertain terms. There is something simultaneously creepy and charming about the character with suggests a not completely harmless demeanour. Allan compiled a dossier pertaining to Lee.
It is here that we see the scene transitions to a view of the Earth from space. There is a large spacecraft in orbit. The Judoon have arrived and is preparing to execute an apparently illegal operation on Earth. Elsewhere, as The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) is clearly lost in thought, Graham O’Brien (Bradley Walsh), Yasmin “Yaz” Khan (Mandip Gill), and Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole) observe her work. When Graham asks The Doctor “what she’s looking for, she finally notices their presence.
The Doctor is looking for The Master (Sacha Dhawan) because she needs answers about a message he left for her regarding the fall of Gallifrey. Graham, Yaz, and Ryan don’t understand the complex relationship The Doctor has with The Master. The two Gallifreyans, The Doctor and The Master, have known each other since childhood. They were friends.
When asked about where she goes when off exploring on her own, The Doctor tells her three companions that she goes home. We know from a previous conversation that Yaz wants to see Gallifrey. Considering the planet’s current condition, with it being in ruins, we can see why The Doctor wouldn’t want to take her friends there.
There numerous engaging moments, especially within the current series, between The Doctor and the three companions. It doesn’t look like they are willing to give The Doctor a pass on her increasingly odd behaviour. As the series progresses, we see each of the companions challenge The Doctor to tell them the truth.
Whilst the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) frequently lied about his past, the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) was known to deflect conversations away from issues he didn’t want to address. The Thirteenth Doctor’s grief is all too apparent for anyone willing to see it. She is emotionally raw from her recent experiences with The Master.
A Judoon warning transmission takes priority over their intensely awkward conversation. The Doctor tells her companions that the Judoon are dangerous intergalactic police for hire. Worse than that, not that anything could possibly get any worse, the Judoon are known to be a tad trigger happy. It doesn’t take long for the Judoon to kill their first victim.
After establishing a level seven enforcement field around Gloucester, Judoon platoon beams down to the city streets and immediately begin cataloguing individuals. Whovians familiar with the episode Smith and Jones will recall the Judoon transporting a London Hospital to the moon so that they could locate an alien fugitive. The Judoon in this episode goes through the same motions as the ones seen in the 2007 episode. Moving from person to person, they stamp people’s hands to narrow down the suspect field.
Off-camera, whilst we can hear the familiar sound of the TARDIS materialising, it appears in Allan’s kitchen. Lee is picking up his wife’s birthday cake. Allan wrote on the cake “You Can Do Better.” Lee’s behaviour indicates that he knows more than he’s letting on. He knows about the Judoon and what they are capable of.
As Graham admires the offerings in Allan’s café, he suddenly gets transported somewhere. Whilst you might initially think he’s been transported to the Judoon ship, with how the ship’s interior appears, this is a TARDIS. The tiles on the floor, the same shape as the mirror seen earlier in the episode, are TARDIS-like. Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) makes his first appearance in a Doctor Who episode since his cameo in the 2010 episode The End of Time: Part Two. Did anyone else release it has been ten years?
With Captain Jack not having encountered The Doctor during the past ten years, he wasn’t aware that his friend had regenerated into a woman. Captain Jack wasn’t seen with either the Eleventh Doctor or the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi). It comes something of a surprise to learn The Doctor is a woman.
Allan gives the Judoon the research he did on Lee. Him giving the Judoon the dossier doesn’t help him because he’s killed shortly thereafter. No apparent good deed ever does unpunished. OK. This wasn’t a good deed and it deserved being punished.
The Doctor, with the use of her psychic paper, passes herself off as an Imperial Regulator. She correctly notes that the Judoon doesn’t have jurisdiction on Earth. Consequently, The Doctor wants to know why the Judoon is using a Class Seven Enforcement Field to isolate the city. More importantly, not that The Doctor should have led with it, the Temporal Isolator the Judoon have targeted a building is an outlawed piece of kit. The Doctor, accompanied by Yaz and Ryan, takes over and enters the building looking for the fugitive.
Ruth’s first encounter with The Doctor, not that she knows who this stranger visitor is, allows her, Yaz, and Ryan to enter the flat. Lee isn’t happy because they need to leave. The Doctor wants to know what Lee and Ruth are hiding. At this point in the episode, Ruth doesn’t know she’s hiding anything. Lee, however, is absolutely hiding something. He knows the truth and isn’t willing to reveal it to anyone. The glance Lee shoots Ruth suggests, whilst the sonic screwdriver registers both Lee and Ruth as completely human, something we’re encountered before in another Tennant episode.
The Doctor wants to know what Lee is hiding. He refuses to tell her. The dynamic between Lee and Ruth mirrors that seen in the third series two-part-story Human Nature/The Family of Blood with the Tenth Doctor and his then companion Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman). This becomes evident when Commander Gat (Ritu Arya) refers to Lee as being the “companion.” The Doctor, as we all know, is closely associated with the word “companion.” Gat kills Ruth’s “faithful companion.”
As Yaz and Ryan confront the Judoon, like Graham, they are transported to Captain Jack’s ship. Captain Jack incorrectly surmises Yaz is The Doctor. Graham’s comment tells Captain Jack that The Doctor is travelling with three companions. Captain Jack wants to know if The Doctor is safe.
Captain Jack leaves the three companions with a message for The Doctor. “Beware the lone Cyberman.” With the companions not having yet encountered the cybermen, it means relatively nothing to anyone them.
Ruth, until “daddy rinoform” decrypted her biological shielding, was perfectly clocked. Not even The Doctor’s sonic screwdriver could penetrate it. Even though The Doctor asks Ruth who she is, with her having spoken the Judoon language fluently, it should be obvious who she is.
Whilst we have come to accept Ruth is a Time Lord hiding in plain sight, it should be obvious to anyone that has watched the episode extremely closely that she’s not just any Gallifreyan. She’s the “Impossible Doctor.” The Doctor finds Ruth’s TARDIS buried in a grave marked with a blank gravestone.
This is no ordinary alien invasion story. Having the three companions be beamed onto Captain Jack’s ship gives them something to do. Whilst it isn’t much, it is at least something. The story between Lee and Ruth could have been more meaningful if the showrunner had bothered to try a little harder.
“Hello,” Ruth says to The Doctor, “I’m The Doctor.”
This revelation must have blown a few minds when Ruth revealed her identity. The Impossible Doctor’s TARDIS interior looks vastly different to anything we’ve previously seen. The Doctor and the Impossible Doctor are somehow the same person. Neither of them recognises each other. The Doctor isn’t one of the Impossible Doctor’s previous regenerations and the Impossible Doctor isn’t one that The Doctor recognises from her past. Prior to the Thirteenth Doctor, all previous incarnations have been men. The Impossible Doctor used the Chameleon Arch to hide her identity. The Tenth Doctor did the same thing 15 years earlier.
Does the Impossible Doctor seriously think The Doctor will ever take a backseat to anyone? Yay, that’s not happening. Gat takes the Impossible Doctor’s weapon. The Doctor was never going to be quiet for anyone. Gat is a Gallifreyan. She doesn’t believe anything The Doctor says about Gallifrey being destroyed. The weapon backfires when Gat uses it. She’s killed.
The episode closes with the companions telling The Doctor about their encounter with Captain Jack. The Doctor reveals Ruth is a version of her. Even though Graham feels there is a simple explanation, with this being Doctor Who, nothing is ever simple.