Timestamp #297: Fugitive of the Judoon

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Doctor Who: Fugitive of the Judoon
(1 episode, s12e05, 2020)

Timestamp 297 Fugitive of the Judoon

She’s the Doctor, but not the one you were expecting.

In Gloucester, 2020, Ruth Clayton awakens on her 44th birthday and makes breakfast. Her husband, Lee, heads out to buy a proper cake while Ruth asks the day to do its worst. She works as a professional tour guide, but business is slow. She later gets a coffee and the barista, Allan, shows her a dossier about her husband. Apparently, there’s something fishy about him.

Meanwhile, a Judoon spacecraft arrives in orbit and starts scanning the surface. At the same time, the TARDIS hurtles through the vortex as the Doctor tries to scan for the Master. The companions are concerned about her periods of deep thought and solitary explorations. Their discussion is interrupted by a Judoon signal that Earth has been isolated Earth due to a fugitive search.

The Judoon teleport enforcement patrols to the surface and begin scanning people. Ruth is scanned and cataloged, but her friend Marcia is vaporized for defying the patrols. The TARDIS arrives and the Doctor warns everyone (including Allan and Lee) to shelter in place. The team rushes out to face the threat, but Graham is teleported away. The Judoon find Allan’s dossier and execute the baker for touching one of the aliens.

The Judoon set their sights on Lee as the Doctor confronts the captain. Posing as an Imperial Regulator, she negotiates a stay to arbitrate a solution. While they work, Graham wakes up on the deck of a strange ship and meets Captain Jack Harkness. He mistakes the companion for the Doctor as he plants a kiss on Graham. The quantum scoop he used mistook Graham for the Doctor, but Jack has a message to relay: The future of the universe is at stake. Jack is also excited that the Doctor is now a woman.

The Doctor talks with Lee and Ruth, finding they’re both completely human. They find a box with an alien signature. Lee asks the Doctor to hand it over and offers everyone else a chance to escape. Yaz and Ryan stage a diversion and invite the Judoon captain inside before they are teleported away. Lee surrenders to the captain after sending a text message and the captain presents him to a new arrival named Commander Gat. The item in the box was a service medal from an intergalactic army, and Commander Gat fulfills her duty by executing Lee.

Jack mistakes Yaz for the Doctor, realizing too late that the Doctor is now traveling with three companions. The Judoon enforcement field is preventing accurate readings. When the ship’s systems begin to fight back against him, Jack tells the companions to warn the Doctor about a lone Cyberman before sending them home.

Ruth receives the text message – “Follow the light. Break the glass. Happy birthday” – and sees brief visions before the Judoon track her down. They identify Ruth as the fugitive and she spectacularly subdues the captain. She rips off the captain’s horn and the platoon teleports away. Ruth doesn’t understand how she was able to do what she did, but the Judoon have left the planet. Unfortunately, the change in tactics doesn’t bode well, especially after Ruth dishonored the captain. The Doctor offers to help her follow the activation message that Lee sent. It leads to a family lighthouse where Ruth claims to have grown up.

The Doctor and Ruth chat about her life as they travel. The lighthouse was left to her but she’s never wanted to return. Ruth has more visions as they pull up, and while Ruth gets a fire started, the Doctor investigates and searches for clues. Her search leads her to Ruth’s parents’ gravesite where a blank headstone marks the site.

Ruth finds a fire alarm marked “Break Glass” and does so, releasing a burst of regeneration energy. She changes clothes and finds a rifle while the Doctor digs up the gravesite and finds a TARDIS. Ruth arrives…

…and introduces herself as the Doctor.

The Fugitive Doctor teleports them into the TARDIS control room, a beautiful retro mix of modern and classic elements. The Thirteenth Doctor introduces herself in a struggle to catch up, and the Fugitive Doctor states that she is a past incarnation of the Thirteenth, but neither remembers the other. The Fugitive Doctor doesn’t recognize a sonic screwdriver but has access to the Chameleon Arch technology that shielded her.

The Judoon and Commander Gat tractor the TARDIS onto their orbiting ship. Gat confronts the Fugitive Doctor and disarms her. The Thirteenth Doctor steps in with a curve ball, introducing herself and causing discord with the Judoon. Gat reveals that she is also from Gallifrey and is shocked to find that their home has been destroyed. Gat doesn’t believe them and tries to kill the Doctors, but the Fugitive Doctor had previously sabotaged the rifle and it backfires. Gat is vaporized and the Judoon are forced to retreat as the ship enters intergalactic space.

The Fugitive Doctor takes the Thirteenth Doctor back to her TARDIS. Thirteen struggles to sort things out since she knows her own history, but the Fugitive Doctor is definitely from her past. She reunites with her companions and learns what Jack had to say.

The Doctor knows that something is coming for her and tells the companions that they have no idea who she is. They tell her that they know her now, the best person they know, and they’ll stand by her side no matter what trouble comes.

The balance of mystery and tension while wrinkling what we know about the Doctor’s history is fun. On the surface, the story is a pretty simple fugitive mystery racing alongside the defense of Earth against the overbearing Judoon. But then we get the twist, and if there’s one thing I love about Doctor Who, it’s how willing it is to rewrite its own continuity.

Doctor Who‘s continuity (and canon, for that matter) has never been consistent. In fact, it’s been pretty wibbly-wobbly depending on the story that writers and producers want to tell.

Note the distinction: Canon (in the non-religious sense) is the principle or behavior used as a guide, where continuity is the flow of all those trivia bits like the Doctor’s age. The Doctor Who canon began as a history show for children in a sci-fi wrapper, but it quickly evolved into something more.

Forty-four years before this story aired, The Brain of Morbius wrapped up with an explicit suggestion that the Doctor had incarnations before the First Doctor. According to then-showrunner Philip Hinchcliffe, the original intention was that the faces shown in that episode were meant to be pre-Hartnell incarnations, but fans of the time chose to ignore it.

Her reaction to the sonic screwdriver answers the question of where the Fugitive Doctor fits into the timeline. The First Doctor didn’t recognize such a device in the time around The Tenth Planet/Twice Upon a Time, but the Second Doctor used one in Fury From the Deep, The Dominators, and The War Games. The Third Doctor first used his own version in The Sea Devils without any hint of it being a strange device. We can also match that with the Third Doctor’s first appearance in Spearhead from Space, where he fell out of the TARDIS in the Second Doctor’s clothes.

Sure, the Time Lords could have orchestrated everything to place the Fugitive Doctor in the “Season 6b” space between Troughton’s and Pertwee’s incarnations, but Occam’s razor suggests otherwise.

It was good to see Jack Harkness again, particularly after how Torchwood concluded. I also love how the Doctor and the companions are starting to bond in the aftermath of Spyfall. The Doctor routinely visits the graveyard that is Gallifrey without her friends, and they’re helping her to heal from something that they cannot comprehend.

I wonder if she ever tries to travel to a time before the Citadel and the Time Lords were destroyed.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Praxeus


The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

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