Sunday 26 January 2020

Fugitive of the Judoon - Review

Blimey! What a lot to take in.
It all starts off looking like it's going to be a fairly light-hearted runaround, in the style of a Russell T Davies episode, or a story from The Sarah Jane Adventures, with a platoon of Judoon arriving in the city of Gloucester in search of the titular fugitive. So far, so Smith and Jones. We knew that someone was gong to be returning to the show this episode, thanks to a BBC America tweet earlier in the week, and it looked as though this might be the Master, as the Doctor is searching for him as we first see the TARDIS and its crew. However, the returnee proves to be the surprise reappearance of Captain Jack Harkness. Sadly, he never gets to meet the Doctor, let alone interact with her. He scoops up the three companions accidentally, and only just has time to warn them about an upcoming storyline, before vanishing. This was a great shame, as we would have loved to see how Captain Jack would have interacted with the latest Doctor, though I think a Barrowman / Capaldi meeting would have been the one most fans would have loved to have seen. Jack promised he would be back, and hopefully we'll see this later in the season, when the character is properly integrated into the plot and not just some fan-pleasing bolt-on. The suspicion is that he won't be back this season, though, as Chibnall has spoken of a 5 year plan for the series. Let's hope the ratings give him the opportunity...
Question: if Jack knows all about the "lone Cyberman" from her future, why doesn't he know that the Doctor is now female?
Then, just when you think that was the big surprise of the episode, we get the big reveal of tour guide Ruth's real identity. She's used a chameleon arch to hide her real self - a hitherto unseen incarnation of the Doctor which must predate the Hartnell one. A previous regeneration cycle, or some sort of alternative timeline one? Time, as it always does, will tell.
Question: if the Ruth Doctor does predate the Hartnell one, why does her TARDIS look like a Police Box?
Frankly, the whole thing was a bit of a dog's dinner, not entirely sure of what sort of a story it was telling. We were simply whacked on the head with revelation after revelation - none of them particularly satisfying.
Question: how much of this story was written by Patel, and how much by Chibnall?
All these big developments meant that the Judoon were under utilised, Neil Stuke was under utilised, and Captain Jack was under utilised. Even the city of Gloucester was under utilised. It could have been filmed anywhere, with the cathedral only appearing in a couple of scenes. They could have filmed inside Landaff Cathedral and saved some money, for all we saw of it.
Question: what is it with all these badly acted old ladies getting killed these days?
The Ruth Doctor's TARDIS was nice, and the opening TARDIS sequence was also very well done, with a more brooding Doctor, snapping at her companions. A shame we haven't seen more of this.
And even if he wasn't properly integrated into the proceedings, it was great to see Jack again.
I've asked a few questions above, but there are obviously lots of big questions thrown up by this series so far. Series 11 deliberately avoided any story arc, beyond the dropping of a reference to the "Timeless Child" way back in the second episode, then having the villain of the first episode reappear for the final episode. Perhaps we've gone too much the other way with this series - and we're only half way through. There's been the return of the Master, the Judoon and Captain Jack. The Timeless Child has been mentioned again. Gallifrey has been destroyed due to some dark secret in its history. A new earlier / alternate Doctor has been introduced. We've got Cybermen on the way (and more Daleks in the next festive special), and the Doctor is now hinting that something is coming for her, manipulating time around her. Chibnall had really better deliver an exceptional pay-off to all this.


  1. To be fair, Jack didn't said that the loner Cyberman comes from the Doctor's future POV, but I Kudos to the writing for being shadowy enough.

    Don't ask me how, but the more I dig depper into the dialogue here, and the way that alternate timelines were handled in Orphan 55, the more I feel like that pre-Hartnell cycle theory was some fat big red herring...

  2. Since writing this review I've had a look at what people are saying on-line, and most seem to be going with alternate Doctor rather than pre-Hartnell. The police box TARDIS makes me think the same. Some fans are actually saying that they will abandon the series if they do go for the previous regeneration cycle.

  3. Finally we get an episode which is both enjoyable to watch and delivers some WTF moments! Been a while.... No surprise that it had the feel of a RTD episode, with some Moffat-type story arc shenanigans running in parallel. Has Mr Chibnall suddenly remembered what made the series worth watching, I wonder?

    So - Dr Ruth (the name surely a tongue-in-cheek reference to the famous TV sexologist of the 70s/80s)? Whither goes Mr Chibnall with this? I'll throw in my two pennorth which is doubtless wide of the mark but here goes.

    Like everyone else, I have been wondering whether the Sacha Dawan Master comes before or after Missy. Because of the nature of time travel we don't have to meet all of the Master's incarnations in his/her timeline order - the Doctor could easily bump into a Master several regenerations further along at any time and then meet an earlier Master incarnation later in her own time stream. That got me thinking that we couldn't say the same for the Doctor - because if the Doctor meets her future self (let's say one regeneration on), then the actor playing the future Doctor would have to be actually cast as the next Doctor. Then I thought - is this what Mr Chibnall has done? Has he stealth casted the next Doctor and kept it a secret? Will we see the Doctor regenerate into Dr Ruth at the end of the next series?

    Highly speculative of course, though I might put a tenner on it at the bookies. Whatever the reason, it's far more likely to be something to do with why the Master destroyed Gallifrey.

    Most fun I've had watching Who for ages!