Doctor Who: 12.05 Fugitive of the Judoon
A warning of spoilers before you precede with this review. Last night's Doctor Who was packed with some big moments that you will want to watch unspoiled...
I have to wonder just what Chris Chibnall's reaction was to his first series as showrunner on Doctor Who. With the general complaint at lack of scale to series 11, he must even have either gone 'crap, I need to up the ante' or secretly laughing, knowing what he has planned for series 12. Because there really is a sense that he has upped his game this time round.
It still plays a little too heavily as a homage to the Russell T Davies era (see the return of the Judoon this week) and lacks some of the complexity of Moffat's run. There's still a lack of depth to the three companions and even the big ideas feel largely borrowed from what has come before. But at the same time, I can't help it admire the scale of what he is trying to achieve this series. If some threads (the destruction of Gallifrey, a Time Lord disguised by a Chamelion Circuit, back to the manic form of the Master) feel circa 2007, there's no denying that right now Doctor Who is a lot of fun again.
And talking of fun, let's focus on the Judoon a moment. With lines like 'a platoon of Judoon near the moon / lagoon,' Vinay Patel's script isn't afraid to play up the humour of a force of space rhinos marching through sunny Gloucester. There were some great character comedy moments too, from the Judoon captain destroying the old woman's knitting and facing off against the Doctor - woman to woman - or the smaller character moments like the rivalry between Michael Begley's All Ears Allan and Neil Stuke's Lee.
And you don't get much more fun than Captain Jack Harkness. It's been nine years since John Barrowman last played Jack in Torchwood (and a decade since he was in Doctor Who), though fans can continue to experience his adventures over at at Big Finish. Keeping his return a secret is another great coup for series 12, following the debut of Sacha Dhawan's Master. Barrowman effort slips back into the role, flirting with all three companions, even if his role was largely to set up the Cybermen- and hopefully his - return in the finale.
However, Jack's return wasn't even the biggest surprise of Fugitive of the Judoon. Jo Martin's Ruth began the episode as a woman celebrating her 44th birthday and enjoying her life as a local tour guide in Gloucester and ended it as The Doctor. The clues to her being a Timelord disguised as a human were there the moment she used hidden abilities to take on the Judoon and then found herself driven by visions of her childhood home. The big question of course, was who she really was. Another Master? The Rani? Romana?
Ruth actually being another Doctor was a massive curve ball and one that I was excited to see wasn't brushed under the carpet like the fake Jackson Lake Doctor of The Next Doctor. Even more intriguing was the idea that she was actually a past / alternate Doctor, she didn't remember the Thirteenth Doctor from her past and Martin's Doctor is certainly not part of the established Doctor Who timeline. Where then, does she come from? Is she some kind of alternate Doctor - a kind of Unbound version as seen in Big Finish? Or perhaps she fits into the theory of one of the mysterious line of Doctors that existed before Hartnell, as glimpsed in The Brain of Morbius? Or is it something else entirely?
It's a delightfully fun mystery to ponder and whereas Chibnall forgot to give audiences a decent finale last series, this year, I'm incredibly excited for what he has in store. With Captain Jack poised to return and Martin's Doctor likely to be back too, I genuinely can't wait to find out what happens next.
Fugitive of the Judoon was a fun episode that packed in plenty of surprises - I just wish the BBC could have decided not to reveal that something big was going to happen in this episode along the lines of the Master's return. Sometimes knowing there's a surprise awaiting us takes away some of the impact. Fortunately both those surprises were strong enough to shock and entertain even knowing they were coming. And sure, Jack didn't do much story wise other than tease the upcoming Cybermen storyline and this is only the beginning of Martin's Doctor; if there's any fault that can be laid at the episode, its that it was largely a mythology stop gap between Spyfall and the finale.
Was it a comprehensive story or just a very fun mesh of new ideas, big twists and teases for the future? I'm not quite sure, but it was an great ride. While I appreciate the clean slate approach of Doctor Who series 11, the execution was less than stellar. Fortunately, the show has regained its footing, making for entertaining television once again. And Fugitive of the Judoon was certainly entertaining...