Doctor Who Series 12, Episode 5
“Fugitive of the Judoon”
Posted by Kim
In the build-up to the premiere of “Fugitive of the Judoon,” the BBC marketing department, both in the UK and the US, went EXTRA hard on the “You can’t miss this one” train, putting everyone on blast that they absolutely had to watch this one live, that you would regret it if you didn’t, that OHMIGOD for the love of Christ, you best do a social media blackout if you can’t, cause you’re gonna get spoiled. In the age of declining live-ratings and everyone choosing to watch things on their own time, it’s a marketing technique we all know very well when it comes to television. Rarely, oh so rarely, does an episode ACTUALLY deliver on the hype machine.
My pals, this one delivered. She delivered big time.
I mean, you know it’s an EPISODE™ of Doctor Who when the long-awaited return of the pansexual king of space and time, Captain Jack Harkness, isn’t even the biggest talking point of the episode!!!!!
Y’all, Chris Chibnall and Vinay Patel just said “FUCK CANON” with their WHOLE CHESTS not only by giving us a new regeneration of the Doctor that we’ve never met (and it’s totally unclear exactly WHEN she’s from) but by casting an incredibly elegant, middle-aged, black woman AS said new regeneration of the Doctor that we didn’t know existed.
THEY DID THAT Y’ALL.
I’m getting way ahead of myself. But here’s the thing, guys. Once you know what happens in this episode, you can’t un-know it. I just sat down to rewatch it and everything about it had changed. Like, the episode was good before, but it’s fucking brilliant on rewatch. They start planting the seeds that Ruth is the Doctor from the very first frame where she is staring at her watch and it has fucking TARDIS blue hands.
Looking back on this now, it’s like the universe knew to prepare me, that it was trying to tell me something. I spent the entire week between Christmas Eve and New Year’s with my television tuned to BBC-America, which means that I watched the brilliant “Family of Blood” and “Human Nature” very recently. So recently, that I’m a little embarrassed at myself for NOT GETTING it right away. (As an aside, that two-parter is still one of my fave Tennant performances of his whole tenure, and Paul Cornell, my dude, you did NOT have to go so hard on that script, it fucking slaps. STILL.) I sat in my parents’ rec room, working on an insane jigsaw puzzle whilst watching a two-parter where the Doctor buries his entire consciousness in a pocket watch, leaving his companion to fend for herself in the name of protecting him, forever burdened with not only carrying that knowledge, but letting the Doctor in on the secret when the time comes.
Has anyone ever really mentioned what a selfish mother fucker the Doctor can be?
I mean, think of how the knowledge that Ruth is actually the Doctor changes the character of Lee and his motivations. What once came off as shifty behavior becomes a companion just doing their goddamn best to follow orders. Lee has the same weary spirit that Martha Jones had in Family of Blood/Human Nature. You can tell he’s TIRED of carrying this burden, of always being on the lookout, of LIVING WITH SOMEONE who LOOKS like the Doctor but isn’t. The lovely Joy Piedmont asked me if I thought that Lee and the Doctor were together BEFORE she became Ruth and hoo boy that really opens a can of worms because on one hand the angst lover in me loves it, loves that maybe the Doctor didn’t fully open herself up to love until she wasn’t the Doctor anymore and then FINALLY saw what was in front of her. But on the other hand, if they weren’t together when she was the Doctor, then it’s hella creepy that they got together now, when Lee knows what he knows and is just playing into the charade.
They were already signaling us to look at the Tenth Doctor simply by bringing back the Judoon, who made their first appearance in the Series Three opener “Smith and Jones.” (Is this how Classic Who fans feel when their monsters come back, because GOD, it feels good to be catered to here, I understood EVERY REFERENCE.) The thing about the Judoon is that they’re pretty silly, as most Doctor Who monsters are. They’re Space Rhinos, for god’s sake. But this episode does a fantastic job of actually making them scary because they are ruthless when it comes to carrying out their mission and they don’t let anything or anyone get in their way. They just want to do their jobs because while they say they are the police, they are actually just mercenaries. Which means there’s a bigger bad out there. (And then an even bigger bad after that, but I’ll get to it.)
Truly, so much credit goes to Neil Stuke and Jo Martin as Lee and Ruth. Ruth’s fear and sense of helplessness is palpable when the Doctor bursts into her flat with Ryan and Yaz in tow, as is Lee’s shiftiness/being so mother-fucking STUCK cause he knows it’s GO TIME but all these fucking people are in his way. And for all the yelling that All Ears Alan did about how Lee wasn’t good for her (fuck that guy!), Lee absolutely steps up here. He knows what he has to do, and he makes protecting Ruth his highest priority, even if it’s at a cost to his own life. He gets Ruth out, he sends her a text message telling her to “Follow the light and break the glass,” and he stays behind to face the Judoon and face the mysterious Gat who hired them. Who is she? Even after the big reveal that she’s Gallifreyan we still don’t know. But we know she’s pissed and we know that she calls Lee a “faithful companion” before she has the Judoon dispose of him.
And yet, we were ALL STILL SHOOK when Jodie swept that dirt aside at Ruth’s parents “grave” and revealed a familiar looking police box sign. AND YET, we were still shook when Ruth LITERALLY broke the glass (she broke the fucking glass!!) and orange light came pouring out and she became herself again. She really is The Doctor, you guys. I’m so happy to meet her.
In all my yelling about the happenings of this episode, I haven’t properly shouted out just how brilliant Jodie Whittaker was this entire episode. What I have loved most about Series 12 so far is seeing the shades of darkness in her Doctor. Her Doctor was so peace, love, everyone get along, we’re not leaving until we sing “Kumbaya” in most of Series 11, and not that it wasn’t great, because I do believe that’s what her core is. But the fact is, she is a Time Lord who’s lived thousands of years. To quote HER, she’s “lived longer, lost more, and loved more” and it’s been so amazing actually seeing that in this series. (Again, Angst Lover here!) But even through all of that pain, the Doctor has always known who she is. And this? A regeneration that she has no memory of? One that’s confirmed to be in her PAST because Ruth!Doctor and Gat didn’t know that Gallifrey is gone (again)? Well that revelation rocks the Doctor to her very core. Jodie plays this devastation so beautifully because you SEE how she’s trying to convince herself otherwise right up until the very second that she can’t lie to herself anymore. Ruth is her and she is Ruth. And when there are things she doesn’t like about Ruth (like her penchant for weapons), they are really things she doesn’t like about herself. What does all this mean for the Doctor as we know her? I have no fucking idea, but I’m sure excited to find out.
Meanwhile, Captain Jack Harkness.
Reader, I can’t believe I, in the year of our Lord 2020, am talking about Captain Jack Fucking Harkness in a recap of an episode that JUST AIRED like he is alive and PRESENT in this Whoniverse and God Bless Us, Everyone. And Barrowman hasn’t lost a STEP in the TEN YEARS since he’s been on the show. The jacket still fits, the twinkle in his eye and the propensity to chew scenery is still there, and by GOD, he gave us the greeting that all of us who longed for Jack to meet Capaldi’s Doctor deserved, kissing Graham full-on the mouth and calling him sexy. (At Gallifrey One, Barrowman once said he would greet 12 with just a simple “Daddy” and it never left me.)
I don’t know how in the hell they managed to keep this a secret, but I’m so glad they did. I’m so glad I listened to the BBC warnings and wasn’t spoiled because the minute I heard that VOICE, I sat straight up on my couch and started babbling an incoherent jumble of “Is that?” “No!” “It IS…” “OH MY GOD?” and “JACK!!!!!” at my TV screen. Again, as a principally New Who fan, I feel so catered to right now, and fuck, if we aren’t eating good in this Chili’s tonight.
But Jack is not back for shits and giggles. (Though it would be perfectly fine if he was! CATER TO ME CHIBNALL I LOVE IT.) No, he carries a warning for the Doctor. “Beware the lone Cyberman,” he tells a befuddled Graham, Ryan, and Yaz before being forced to teleport back to his own ship. “Don’t give him what he wants.”
Well. That sounds…ominous. Even more ominous considering that one of the few pieces of knowledge Chibnall dropped this year is that the Doctor will face the Cybermen. The only question now is…does she face them alone or with another one of her regenerations by her side? Does her unknown regeneration have anything to DO with this? Where is the Master hiding out?
Ladies and Gents, we wanted a season-long arc. Well. Now we’ve got one.
DON’T FUCK IT UP.
- Sage would like me to point out that Jo Martin also played Andrew Scott’s secretary in season two of Fleabag and now she’s the fucking DOCTOR, so really, she’s living her best life.
- DID YOU NOTICE that Jodie literally never says “I’m the Doctor” to Lee and Ruth????? It’s so subtle, because we’re so used to the Doctor always introducing herself that you don’t realize she hasn’t done it until you realize she hasn’t done it.
- I love that the Doctor is still in a funk (to put it lightly) and it’s now escalated to her sneaking away from the fam to go search for the Master. And, as Sage pointed out last week, it’s nice to see a little bit of tension brewing with the fam as they call her out on her shit. More of this please.
- THE JUDOON WAS ALSO A LADY. Guys, I think Doctor Who has been taken over by women?
- Of course Jack’s fave is Ryan.
- I have to shout out JUST how good Barrowman is. Jack Harkness was the role he was born to play, and you can tell he knows it. After lobbying to come back for years, his joy is palpable. And kudos to RTD for signing off on it.
- Between Barrowman and the Master, they really are trying to make amends for spoiling John Simm in Series 10, and no I will never forget it no matter how hard you try and make me.
- Cosplayers must be LOSING THEIR MINDS because we have a new Doctor Costume to put together literally two weeks before the biggest Doctor Who Con in North America. God be with all of you.
- Ruth implied that she and Lee had been hanging around Gloucester since ’99, which…twenty-one years is a LONG TIME to be hiding. And what time was Lee from? We don’t know. And what merited the hiding!!!!
- Speaking of Lee, what the fuck kind of training was he doing with Gallifreyans that they would be taught the same methods?
- Who else screamed when Ruth when all Matrix on the Judoon’s asses and literally RIPPED OFF THE CAPTAIN’S HORN? Just me?
- Yaz picks up on the whole role-playing this real fast, I’m JUST saying.
- What is with Ruth!Doctor’s clenched teeth “I KNOW” when Thirteen calls her out about the Doctor not using weapons???
- I love how Ruth!Doctor has NO PATIENCE for Thirteen. I’m desperate to know why she is the way she is, and I really hope they tell us.
- Ruth!Doctor telling Thirteen to get out of her ship is devastating.
- I haven’t really touched on it (NO TIME THERE’S TOO MUCH IN THIS) but the Fam’s pep talk for the Doctor at the end is so fucking great. I love that it’s a bit of a tense balance lately, but they always come back to the fact that they love her and they know her now, and the sins of her past aren’t important to them, and that’s just. That’s really special.
- Why oh why oh why are we getting what appears to be a standalone episode next week?