Doctor Who: Throwbacks And Reminiscences Deal Intense Success
You know, I was ready to write this one off. The Judoon have never been my favourite villains for this show, and they’re right there in the title – Fugitive of the Judoon. Unless the fugitive was, I don’t know, Captain Jack Harkness or something, what could the show pull out that would actually keep me interested?
Really, this episode just feels nostalgic for me. And not just for the obvious reasons, though we’ll get to that in a paragraph or so – but because this feels like a lot like the British back-garden low-budget drama that I spent so much of my formative years watching.
I’ve written a lot about the Christopher Eccleston series, and could write a whole lot more if you ever feel like reading it, and one of the reasons for that is because it strikes such a warm and fuzzy spot in my childhood – that nostalgia is a hard thing to argue with, and that nostalgia was evoked like crazy by the first act of this episode. Following an eccentric British native, not even bothering to check in with the Doctor for the first few minutes, taking a solid breath to ground this in reality, and then dumping some silly-looking aliens in the middle of wherever was cheapest to shoot that month? Yeah, this feels just like the show that I watched as a kid, and I love it for that. If Rose and Mickey and Jackie (swoon) had rolled up to help out here, they sure wouldn’t have felt out of place, you know?
And, of course, let’s not overlook the most thunderingly bi dose of nostalgia delivered to us in this outing: Captain Jack Harkness himself. A gloriously camp and outrageously handsome John Barrowman returns in a basically tertiary but wildly entertaining guest spot that’s a gift for all us baby queers who grew up loving every inch of Jack and his fabulous taste in jackets. Honestly, this is really just a chance for Jack to yell some forshadowing flirtatiously at the assistants and keep them busy while the Doctor is off carrying the bulk of the real plot, but I’m glad he’s finally back in play, and that John Barrowman has continued to so nobly reject the concept of “subtlety” in the intervening years of his absence.
It’s mad for me to say that an episode where Jack Harkness returns has anything else in it that matters, but this was one of the first Chibnall outings to really delve into some of the dense lore that surrounds everything to do with the Doctor and Gallifrey. That earthbound lady we meet at the start of the episode? Yeah, turns out she’s actually the Doctor – though how and why and when and the everything else of all of that are left to mystery for the time being. Jo Martin makes history here as the first black Doctor, and she’s a brilliant addition to the canon, even if I’m not sure how she fits into it yet – she’s got presence, wit, and a distinctively different presence than Jodie’s wide-eyed bushbaby Doctor. We only really got a glimpse of her in this packed-out episode, but that outfit, that hair, that cool, collected confidence; this is the Doctor, through and through, and I’m already looking forward to seeing her roll into this season once more.
Bringing Gallifrey and the Time Lords back into play really allows for Jodie Whittaker to delve into a new edge of this Doctor, too, and I’m very much here for it. She’s sad here, a little angry, secretive, hiding herself from the people closest to her for fear of what they might find out and how they might react when they do. That fearful reaction at the end of the episode, as she snaps to Ryan that he doesn’t know her at all, is new, and a welcome development in the face of everything she’s dealt with just in the last four episodes alone.
This episode was jam-packed, to be honest, maybe a little too much so. But it’s a joy to see this season really diving into the lore that the show has to offer. So, they want to fit in a little too much all at once? I’m happy to let them play catch-up, and revel in the enormity of the story they want to share with us. Two Doctors, the Judoon, everyone’s favourite sci-fi-bi-icon; after a season of standalones, this run is really jumping in to its history. And, just like I said last week, history is where it seems to excel. And frankly, I can’t wait to see where they’re going to take the show’s own history next.
If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to check out the rest of my Doctor Who recaps right here and hey, how about checking out my movie blog, No But Listen? If you just stop by for these recaps, then might I draw your attention to the fact that my first book, Rape Jokes,was released in between the last couple of seasons, and, oh, just so happens to have a few five-star reviews, not that I’m counting? As ever, thank you for reading, and drop your take on this episode in the comments below!
(header image via Flickering Myth)