The Doctor’s Fam meets an old friend and faces a targeted invasion.
Gloucester is invaded by the Judoon, the space rhino cops-for-hire, who are searching for a fugitive. They attack Lee and Ruth Clayton (Neil Stuke and Jo Martin), but the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) saves them. At the same time, Graham (Bradley Walsh) is abducted by a teleport only to find himself face to face with Captain Jack Harkness (John “The Sexiest Man Ever” Barrowman). Jack reveals that he thought Graham was the Doctor in a new regeneration and abducted him by accident, trying to give the Doctor a message. The Doctor discovers a box in the Claytons’ home, but Lee denies knowing anything. As the Judoon come in, the Doctor, Ruth, Ryan, and Yaz (Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill) all escape while Lee surrenders, only to be killed by a former associate, Gat (Ritu Arya). Ryan and Yaz are then transported to Jack’s ship, only for him to be attacked by the people he stole it from.
The Doctor and Ruth go to Gloucester cathedral where they are attacked by the Judoon and Ruth proceeds to instinctively beat the crap out of them. A text leads the pair to a lighthouse, where Ruth smashes an alarm box and the Doctor finds a buried TARDIS. Ruth emerges from the lighthouse identifying herself as the Doctor and the owner of the TARDIS. It’s revealed that Ruth and the Doctor are, in fact, both the Doctor… but neither one remembers being the other. Ruth reveals that she was forced to work for Gat at one point and that Gat is chasing them. The TARDIS is abducted and Ruth faces off with Gat, only for Gat to reveal that she is a Time Lord and was ordered to bring the Doctor back to Gallifrey. Since Gallifrey was destroyed by the Master, the Doctor realizes that Gat and Ruth have to be in her past, but she doesn’t remember either of them. Ruth tricks Gat into killing herself, returns the Doctor to Earth and departs. She meets with the Fam who give her Jack’s message. The Doctor, not understanding what’s happening now, believes something is coming for her.
Well, dang, just when I was worried that the show was losing track of what made the show work, it puts out this episode and I’ve got to say that I am blown the hell away. Not only did they bring back one of my favorite characters in the history of the show for a very cute cameo (though no reunion… yet), they completely blew me away by having the reveal that there is yet another Doctor… from the past. You’d think that since they did that once with the “War Doctor” it might seem a little derivative, but I honestly felt that the surprise and the excitement were just as genuine as they were for that reveal. It’s even better in some ways because Doctor Ruth is a sassy and jaded counterpart that perfectly balanced the Doctor’s heavy optimism. Given how they set her up, this can’t possibly the only time she shows up, and I look forward to the return.
This episode managed to do a ton mostly by keeping the audience on their toes and pacing it perfectly, literally the opposite of what the last two episodes did. Pacing and connection is especially important in this kind of episode, because it really is a number of misleads that could easily have come off as trite or cliche. The only reason they didn’t is because the episode focused on the Doctor and Ruth and revealed most of the twists to us and them at the same time, allowing us to watch their responses to the new information. That response makes it feel earned. Admittedly, it helped that most of the twists were completely unexpected and compelling, but if they hadn’t felt earned, they wouldn’t have worked.
I also thought that the dialogue stepped up quite a bit in this episode, feeling a lot more natural, particularly between Jack and the Fam.
Overall, just a solid episode of Doctor Who that leaves me wanting more. This is basically what I was hoping for after the explosive premiere.
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