Big, big spoilers, as we take a look at recent events in Doctor Who, and theorise as to just what’s going on.
Back in what feels like a previous life, I covered one of my favourite ever TV shows, Doctor Who, for another website. I left there, as some of you know, back in 2018, and since then have struggled to find a home for such pieces. Indulge me, then, because I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this latest run of Doctor Who, and like many of you, sat jaw-dropped at the last episode (at the time of writing), Fugitive Of The Judoon.
This, then, is an extra article for Film Stories, our first venture into TV. It’s not replacing anything else, rather it’s something on top, to see if there’s interest.
From this point onwards, it gets spoiler-filled, for those who haven’t been following the show up to and including the aforementioned episode, Fugitive Of The Judoon. Scroll below Alf the Spoiler Ferret ™ only when you’re ready to find out more…
Right. It’s no revelation to note that this series of Doctor Who has had a lot more fun with the longer legacy of the show. The terrific reveal of Sacha Dhawan as The Master in the series opener, Spyfall, was a great place to start. The decision to reopen the fate of Gallifrey and make that what looks like the narrative arc of the series too – in fact the return to an overall overt narrative arc – was ambitious (in spite of some nervousness over whether it was just going to redo what’s been dealt with before). And there’s a sense already that series 12 is far more confident than the previous run.
And then we got to last Saturday’s episode.
When Captain Jack Harkness popped up half-way through Fugitive Of The Judoon, it’s very clear I wasn’t the only one that was flat-out delighted. John Barrowman’s affection for the show has always been evident, but the sheer glee of his performance, and learning of the new gender of the Doctor, was terrifically done. How lovely that Captain Jack’s return was kept a surprise, too. It’s this generation’s Cybermen at the end of Earthshock moment.
I’m willing to bet my new Series 26 boxset that Jack’ll be returning later in the series, and we also have the Lone Cyberman who he’s introduced into the story. I’ve avoided all trailers and spoilers for this series, but felt watching the white blurry figures in Spyfall that they were Cybermen. That’s not been confirmed, but it’s clearly seeded for later on in the series run. And the Cybermen’s fate – as damaged as they may be – is clearly to a degree wrapped up in what Captain Jack’s been up to.
But that’s not really what we’re here to talk about now. Instead, just as John Hurt’s introduction as The Doctor at the end of 2013’s The Name Of The Doctor sent the internet into meltdown, so the revelation that Jo Martin’s Ruth was the Doctor had a similar impact.
A few thoughts and theories, then.
What we know from the episode, if you take it on face value, is that Ruth is the Doctor. A version of the Doctor, we’re told, from the past. With a TARDIS whose aesthetic fits her place as earlier in the Doctor’s timeline. Also, Ruth – for most of the episode – didn’t know she was the Doctor. We’ve seen something similar before, back in Utopia, where it was revealed that Derek Jacobi’s character was in fact The Master, something he didn’t know until the end of the episode.
Neither the Doctor nor Ruth know each other, or remember each other. The sonic screwdriver has identified they are the same person. Questions, then.
Who is Gat?
Gat is the person who hired the Judoon to hunt the missing fugitive. The fugitive assumed to be Lee for most of the episode, but actually Ruth. Gat is from Gallifrey (and is called a Time Lord). She doesn’t regenerate when she’s shot, she doesn’t’ know Gallifrey is gone. Crucially, she’s working for someone. The assumption at this stage is she’s working for The Master. But they’re not telling yet.
How could Ruth be the Doctor?
If she is indeed the Doctor, then a couple of theories stand up here. One that she could be – and this’d be a stretch and a half – a pre-Hartnell Doctor, but that’d be rewriting elements of the show’s arc long established. The internet would love that. I’d suggest it’s a long shot.
The other option, given the chat of other dimensions we’ve already had in this series, is that this is the Doctor from another dimension. But that’s an even longer shot, surely? The TARDIS, after all, stands for Time and Relative Dimension In Space. Dimensions is part of the deal of having a TARDIS, and it’s long established that Time Lords travel between them (even if they’re not really supposed to). Count this as an outside possible theory, then. But I ain’t buying it.
If Doctor Ruth is the Doctor, then Lee is her companion, presumably. Does he have more significance than that, though?
Is there something about the First Doctor we missed?
One side theory here. It may not be that Doctor Ruth is the Doctor. But we know that the Doctor originally stole a TARDIS and went on the run. What if the Doctor, too, stole an identity as well? It’s a very long shot, but it’s the internet, I’m allowed to speculate. What if, someone, the Doctor stole more than a TARDIS right back at the start, and that’s somehow where Doctor Ruth comes in? That she was the Doctor whose identity the Doctor we now know took on? It doesn’t cover the DNA, granted, but thought I’d put it out there.
If Ruth isn’t the Doctor, who is she?
Well, I’m going to put my chips on her being The Master. I had a long chat with an old colleague of mine – hello Tony! – and I think there’s something to this.
Go back to the moment just before Ruth smashes the glass in the lighthouse towards the end of the episode. She hears a voice. It’s not a voice that you can identify, but then we’re four episodes into the series and six from the end, and we’re not supposed to identify it yet. The point is: we hear a voice. That someone is saying something.
That, to me, calls back once again to Utopia. To the Professor hearing a voice before he opens the fobwatch. To Tennant’s Doctor hearing a voice before he opens the fobwatch in The Family Of Blood,
Doctor Ruth only hears one voice that I can tell. And to me, it feels like The Master is behind it all.
There are further clues: Doctor Ruth, after all, doesn’t use a sonic screwdriver. She prefers laser. Coincidentally, so does John Simm’s Master in The Last Of The Time Lords. And perhaps there’s something to the fact that Captain Jack is back, appearing out of nowhere. He did that before, without warning or build-up, in Utopia. Finally, the matter of the Doctor and Doctor Ruth having exactly the same DNA? Go back to The End Of Time, and that’s where we have precedent for The Master being able to manipulate DNA. At the end of part one, after all, he turns everyone in the world into himself. And the plot of Spyfall was about manipulating DNA (Spyfall, too, has The Master concealing his TARDIS, and we’ve seen him do that before).
Now, whether Chris Chibnall and his team have followed these precedents of course remains to be seen. They may be writing an entirely new set of rules. But we’ve got some classic Who ingredients bouncing around this series. Captain Jack out of nowhere. The Timeless Child. The Cybermen/Cyberman returning. And, of course, The Master. And my guess is they’re working with existing ideas and foundations, and going by some of the guides that come with them for this new series.
Another colleague of mine argues for the Lungbarrow theory. Tying into abandoned plans for Who in the 1980s, this was developed by then story editor Andrew Cartmel, along with Ben Aaronovitch and Marc Platt. It would have challenged the theory that Omega and Rassilon were the founding figures of Gallifrey, suggesting another entity in there too. ‘The Other’. This would have been developed in a story called Lungbarrow, that was ultimately abandoned (although hints towards it are in later Sylvester McCoy episodes). The story has been picked up in novels since, but not on the screen. Could – again a long shot – Doctor Ruth tie into that story?
And one final theory…
Here’s one further idea. I’m now sure I buy this, but I’ve had one or two people suggest this. Remember the Dalek/Human hybrid we got in Daleks In Manhattan/Evolution Of The Daleks? What if that’s what Chibnall is up to. What if we’ve someone got a character who’s a hybrid of the Doctor and the Master? Created by The Master? Again, there are ideas in Who past that suggest this is possible. But again, I ain’t betting on this one.
Those are just a few thoughts. Add your own speculation in the comments, and let us know if you want more articles of this ilk at Film Stories…
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