Well, that was a bit crazy, wasn’t it? Fugitive of the Judoon on paper sounded like a pretty normal story with a returning alien race and turned out to be quite the mind bender. Since this is pre-spoiler warning, I’ll just say this: I didn’t see THAT coming, and I’ve watched, listened to and read a LOT of Doctor Who over the years! Let’s take a closer look then…
The Judoon are on the hunt for a runaway and they have narrowed their search down to modern-day Gloucester. The Doctor and her friends decide to step in before anyone can get hurt, but things are far more complex than they seem. A complex web is about to unfold, featuring a surprising new face and a worrying prophecy from an old friend.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
“Earth? Again? Even for me this has to be a record.”
Well, I guess I’ll start with the big reveal, but to give it some context: The Judoon are tracking down a fugitive (as the title suggests!) and a couple in a flat turn out to be the focus. The Doctor et al. find them and find a small lockbox that belongs to the male of the couple, Lee (played by Neil Stuke) This is where I thought he was playing a new incarnation of some non-Master Time Lord, like The Monk or even a male Rani, and the lockbox was his trigger to regain all his memories like The Doctor and the Master’s respective fob watches from previous uses of the Chameleon Arc. This turned out not to be the case, as he was soon killed, and his other half, Ruth (Jo Martin) was actually the fugitive, one who suddenly had super martial arts powers when reading a trigger word. So I thought, “okay, so the little lockbox was a red herring, and this isn’t some return of the Chameleon Arc”…
Ruth and The Doctor arrive at her “childhood home” and the former opens a watch on the wall and regains her Time Lord memories, meaning I was right with the Chameleon Arc stuff, but then The Doctor unearths a police box-shaped TARDIS and turns around to see Ruth a new outfit, introducing herself as The Doctor! Completely out of left field, really surprising twist. Loved it. So a quick conversation reveals this Doctor has no idea of sonic screwdrivers and has no qualms with using a gun, plus neither remembers being the other, so this Doctor is either from another time line or The Doctor’s own past is being rewritten in a rather dramatic way. Either way, as the credits rolled I was genuinely interested in where the show was going and I really wanted to see the next episode, and that didn’t happen at all with Series 11, so round of applause of Mr. Chibnall there!
Throw in Gallifrey’s apparent destruction at the hands of The Master and a new tease of “don’t trust the lone Cyberman” and this series has plot threads coming out of its proverbial arse. That last tease, by the way, came from a returning Captain Jack, who was really over-the-top in a fun Barrowman way as he talked to Graham, Yas and Ryan, though I can’t help feel his return was wasted, but more on that in the Bad. He was good fun though!
As for the rest of the episode? Well, it served its purpose. The Judoon are still a great use of practical effects, Graham, Ryan and Yas were fine in their scenes, especially getting annoyed at The Doctor keeping all her misery to herself and them finally dragging the truth from her at the end, and the climax with the apparent two Doctors and a random Time Lord who gets killed by new Ruth Doctor’s gun intentionally backfiring was interesting too.
He’s not bad really. This picture quality on the other hand…
As much as I liked Captain Jack’s appearance here, playing up the more jokey bisexual version of the character rather than the more mopey Torchwood version (though given what happened, it was understandable!) but it seems a tad wasted here. He doesn’t interact with The Doctor at all, and his return was completely, and I mean COMPLETELY overshadowed by the apparent new version of The Doctor. It really felt like it was a return for a return’s sake, rather than having any purpose behind it. Now, if he reappears later in the series and properly interacts with The Doctor (which given he is now a she would be good fun!) then I’ll disregard this as a bad, as it would then just be set up, which would be fine.
At the start of the episode we’re introduced to a café owner who is in love with Ruth and hates Paul, including making a birthday cake for Ruth with a “you could do better” message on it. He was far too sitcom-y for me, his overexaggerated acting took me so far out of the episode that I was expecting a laughter track. Thankfully he didn’t last too long…
“Fo Sho Bo Lo Ro!” Translated means “£4 for a cup of tea? Your avin’ a laugh!”
The Judoon first appeared in Tenth Doctor TV story “Smith and Jones”, and since then have only appeared in brief cameos. They also appeared in the audio stories “Judoon in Chains” alongside the Sixth Doctor and once again with the Tenth in “One Mile Down”.
Captain Jack Harkness was last seen in a major role, in Doctor Who specifically rather than Torchwood, in the Tenth Doctor story “The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End”, though he did cameo at the end of “The End of Time”. He first appeared alongside the Ninth Doctor in “The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances”.
That’s it really, the rest are related to the story arc that began with “Spyfall”.
I felt a great disturbance in the Fandom, as if a very vocal minority of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.
Fugitive of the Judoon is a story dominated by its shocking reveal, and thanks to that it has created a genuine buzz around the show again. The return of Captain Jack was good fun, though overshadowed, and the rest of the episode was decent. Not a 5-star classic, but worth it for the shock. Let’s hope Mr. Chibnall can keep the momentum going and stick the landing!