*** Spoiler Alert — If you have not seen “Fugitive of the Judoon” you may want to watch that episode prior to reading this article.***
This season of Doctor Who has brought us a few surprises, starting with a new incarnation of The Master (played brilliantly by Sacha Dhawan), and with the destruction of Gallifrey (again?), this week the series also dropped a few more surprises, which ignited a range of emotions and lit up social media with reactions.
“Fugitive of the Judoon” was written by series showrunner Chris Chibnall and Vinay Patel. It began with the return of the Rhinoceros-looking aliens called the Judoon, who are a vigilante police force. In this episode they were on a mission to find a person in Gloucester, England. Their arrival of course sparks panic by the humans and the Doctor comes in to help save them from this incursion. The Judoon’s return was not much of a surprise since the BCC promoted them sometime before the current season began. Chibnall’s approach to Doctor Who does not shy from tapping into the terror aspect for help add some peril to those in the story, which means a few victims in this episode meet a gruesome end.
The episode had a few big surprises the first of which was the return of the one and only Captain Jack Harkness (played by John Barrowman). We have not seen Captain Jack since his appearance in David Tennant’s final episode as the Doctor in “Journey’s End” several years ago. Barrowman’s infectious charismatic energy filled the room and I am sure delighted many fans. Jack’s appearance was not a pleasant one because it came with a warning of an upcoming danger, yet his attempts did not go as planned because he kept teleporting The Doctor’s Fam and not the Doctor herself. Jack had to pass along his warning to them instead, which also came with a heroic exit only fitting of Jack. The warning sets up the return of The Cybermen, which was rumored and there is no Doctor Who without having the occasional Dalek or Cyberman pop in to wreak havoc.
Barrowman’s return to the series was a huge secret, which to my surprise, was not leaked or rumored at all! Even Barrowman, who is active on social media, did his part to conceal his involvement by sharing a false plan that includes doing some home renovations in Cardiff. Now the actor’s return may not be an on-off cameo based on the way things ended with Jack, which means fans can only wait and see how this plays out over the course of the season, and beyond.
The second surprise was on the scale of a huge bombshell and was one which rips the fabric of time itself, and perhaps upends the lineage of the series as we know it. The surprise is the introduction of a second female Doctor! As such, this reveal naturally comes with a bunch of questions: the first one is which incarnation is she?
Fans learn quickly that this incarnation of the Time Lord (played by Jo Martin) is younger than our current incarnation of Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor. Weirdly, our current Doctor has no recollection of this ‘past’ version which will naturally spark a number of theories and questions. . Whovians will remember that this is Doctor Who and a little mystery, as well as ambiguity, is natural for this series.
Hats off to Chibnall and Patel for bringing something new to the series, by literally shattering the established line of succession for the Doctor. The introduction of the ‘past’ Doctor (since she does not have an official designation or name yet) also gave viewers and opportunity to see a different TARDIS design and a new costume, of course. The design of this TARDIS interior is reminiscent of the ‘classic’ interior with the round ports and classic looking console. Although there was no Sonic Screwdriver for Martin’s Doctor, so she does not use one? Her personal history is a little mysterious, yet at this point, we do have a hint that this incarnation may be good; however, she has a strong personality and an ‘edge’ similar to the War Doctor.
The plot device to conceal the true identity of Ruth Clayton before the huge and brilliantly crafted reveal is the use of the Chameleon Arch, which is used only in emergencies to rewrite a Time Lord’s DNA, memory, as well as his/her essence in a small device like a pocket watch (which they call a “fob watch” in the series). Fans who are familiar with this device will recall its first introduction when The Master concealed himself as Professor Yana, in “Utopia.” It was later seen again in the two-part story “Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood.”
As a person of color myself, I also believe that the introduction of this new Doctor will be a spark to appeal not only the global Whovian fan base but also appeal to the casual viewer of the series who are looking for heros and titular character who look more like them. It was also great to see that this appearance was even reported on CNN’s website, which is a respectable feat for the series.
With several episodes left to go this season, fans should expect more unanswered questions to keep popping up, before the season finale hits. Hopefully, this ‘past’ Doctor storyline arc is thrilling to watch, and that we all get to know her better soon.