~Spoilers ahead! ~
12.5 Fugitive of the Judoon – Vinay Patel & Chris Chibnall
Story & Review
Fugitive of the Judoon parallels the first outing for the RTD-era space rhinos. The intergalactic mercenaries are, as the title suggests, after a fugitive. They track them down to Gloucester, England, Earth and erect a force field. Then they start scanning and eliminating suspects. Oh, and occasionally killing innocent people that get in the way (both innocent deaths are written clumsily btw). So far, so similar to Smith and Jones.
I wondered whether Chibnall and Patel had opted to go for a the same plot in a different shade to play it safe. Boy, was I wrong. I don’t think anyone expected much from this episode, especially not the plot twist storm that we were served this weekend. Who would have thought that in an episode where Captain Jack Harkness returns, that isn’t the most exciting part? From Gallifreyans hiring the Judoon to the mother of all plot twists, in the reveal of another Doctor and a warning about Cybermen, the only word to describe this episode aptly is bonkers.
The Judoon plotline is set dressing and it mimics Smith and Jones because it’s not the point of the episode. This episode is lore heavy, it’s series arc-y, it’s everything I disliked about the bland standalone episodes of Series 11. Fugitive brings the return of Gallifreyens who aren’t the Doctor or the Master in the form of Commander Gat. I really liked the Ritu Arya’s performance as Gat, and her costume design is fab.
There some great misdirection in the first half of the episode, opening on a seemingly normal couple, Ruth and Lee. The latter is the prime suspect for being the fugitive, with Ruth assumed to be an innocent human. It isn’t until the halfway mark where the Doctor and Ruth, having evaded the Judoon’s initial attempt at capture, find themselves surrounded by a platoon of Judoon in Gloucester Cathedral and it’s like a switch is flicked. Ruth starts kicking butt and pulling out rhino horns all over the place.
The reveal is a little slower than I would have wanted, but my goodness is it beautifully done. The Doctor and Ruth end up at the latter’s childhood home. Here two things happen simultaneously: the Doctor discovers an unmarked gravestone and begins to dig while Ruth is drawn by whispering voices to break an emergency glass releasing a mysterious energy. At this point, I foolishly thought they were mimicking a Chameleon Arch, not realising that it was a Chameleon Arch. Ruth is a Timelord, deep undercover. Then, we see what the Doctor has found. There is an excellent shot of the TARDIS was and reader, the shock was real. Then we turn around and find Ruth, dressed up in a snazzy outfit, declaring that this is her spaceship and she’s the Doctor. W h a a a a t?
We, the audience, don’t recognise the Ruth-Doctor of course but she doesn’t recognise 13 either which must mean that Ruth is not a future incarnation of the Timelord. The Ruth-Doctor is brash, rude and a gun-toting time traveller. Not our Doctor at all. Commander Gat eventually catches up to the pair and the Judoon beam up the two Doctors to their ship. Here, we see a dark side of an already mean Ruth-Doctor where she rigs a gun to backfire on Gat, vaporising her. It’s unclear what exactly went on between the Ruth-Doctor and Gat but our Doctor concludes that as she has seen Gallifrey destroyed, twice, they must be from her past.
The companions don’t play a huge role in this episode. One by one, starting with Graham, they are beamed up to a strange ship. This is where you hear a familiar American voice speaking to Graham. I didn’t quite believe it was Captain Jack but I audibly gasped when I saw him. His appearance with the line ‘you missed me, right?’ is clearly directed at the audience and yes Jack, we HAVE missed you. I also very much enjoyed Jack planting a big fat kiss on Graham as he mistakes him for the Doctor.
Jack’s role in the episode is a glorified cameo as he beams up the companions by mistake, not quite ‘scooping’ the Doctor. It feels like this was a way to keep the Jack reveal under wraps, so it’s a little clunky watching those scenes back and it’s a shame that we don’t get to see 13 and Jack interact. His role in this episode adds yet another mystery to our list of mysteries as he’s here to warn the Doctor to ‘beware the lone Cyberman’. There’s a promise that he’ll return when the Doctor needs him which is a wonderful thing to look forward too
- The Doctor negotiating a time with the Judoon to intervene
- Basically all of Captain Jack’s lines
- I am 100% here for having people mistake Graham for the Doctor as a running joke
The return often chameleon arch – the device that alters a Timelords DNA and memory to go deep undercover as humans was a welcome throwback
‘Time is swirling around me…Something’s coming for me’ – I like everything about this
Loved the early shot of Ruth looking into the hexagonal mirror, very reminiscent of TARDIS interiors
Monster of the Week
Judoon are a fun inclusion from Russell T. Davies era and I think they’ve even improved the animatronics which is nice. Their language is so much fun and I love their Roman-esque uniforms.
There are a lot of theories swirling around about the Ruth-Doctor. The fact that the Doctor keeps repeating that she knows her past would suggest that she is a past incarnation of the Doctor. I would prefer a parallel or alternative universe Doctor. Putting her pre-Hartnell Doctor feels like blemishing DW legacy and feels too much like it’s messing with the lore of the show whereas having an alternative Doctor wouldn’t involve any retconning of show (Clara knowing all of the Doctor’s faces to the new set of regenerations). It would also work with the Master being an alternative Master, one who didn’t regress from all the character growth that Missy went through.
The fan reaction to Jo Martin as the Doctor has been a mostly positive one and I’m glad for it. Putting a black woman in the shoes of the Timelord was a bold move and one that could have really backfired. I’m not personally loving her and I don’t think she gives a very nuanced performance, but I enjoyed watching her more on the rewatch and I am excited to seeing what her backstory is. Side note, her TARDIS is so much classier on the inside than Whittaker’s.
Something I really enjoyed about this episode was that we’re finally getting that much-needed conflict between the Doctor and Team TARDIS. The idea that they might not actually know her and that she’s hiding things from them is so much more interesting than the love-in that was Series 11. Though when Graham, Ryan and Yaz reassure her that they’re family, it feels a bit shallow because we have yet to see those relationships building. You could swap Yaz for Ryan and I wouldn’t be able to tell you what the Doctor’s personal relationship with either of them were.
The graphics are just beautiful: from how Jack teleports on the ship, to that rainbow galaxy swirl that Gat appears from and of course the gorgeous time vortex which we don’t see enough of. I even enjoyed the music in this episode, which had a bit more of a presence.
To conclude, this episode was as fan servicey as it gets but as a long-time fan who felt like Series 11 was made entirely for a new audience, I’m not complaining. The plot is a bit thin, the dialogue a bit clunky but at this point I’m excited and it’s been a long time since I’ve felt that way about Doctor Who. Whilst it’s the most fun I’ve had in a Chibnall-era episode, the real determination of how good this episode was is in the payoff we get but I am excited for more.