Doctor Who – “Fugitive of the Judoon”

“Fugitive of the Judoon”
Doctor Who: Series 12 – Episode 5
Written by: Vinay Patel & Chris Chibnall
Directed by: Nida Manzoor

Synopsis: Ko Sho Blo! Trigger-happy space police the Judoon are targeting 21st-century Gloucester. The Doctor, Yaz, Ryan and Graham race back to Earth in order to prevent them doing too much damage to the cathedral city. But who are they looking for, and what did they do to incur the wrath of the Judoon?

Shortly before the release of this episode, the official Doctor Who Twitter account teased a shock twist that would out-shock the end of “Skyfall (Part One)”, and I have to admit that I was dubious. How could an episode featuring the Judoon hold any major reveals in it? Well, I was certainly wrong – this might be the most bat-shit crazy episode of Doctor Who I’ve ever watched, and I’m so glad that I wasn’t spoiled in advance. It reminded me of when I used to watch LOST and I would have to sit down and decompress to absorb and process what I had just watched. I am a sucker for a mystery, and while I enjoyed the accessibility of the last series of Doctor Who, it definitely lacked that overarching connective tissue between episodes and rewarding payoff in the finale.

Firstly, let’s talk about the return of Captain Jack Harkness – his first appearance in the series since “The End of Time” and his first televised appearance since the end of Torchwood: Miracle Day. The character has been busy over in audio with the Big Finish releases, but this guest appearance seems relatively free of continuity as Jack mainly appears to offer a cryptic warning to the Thirteenth Doctor. Given the brevity of his appearance and the lack of meeting between him and the Doctor, I suspect we will see John Barrowman reprise the role again in the near future – hopefully in the season finale. It was great to see the character again, although I was a bit disappointed that he was largely incidental to the actual plot and was just a way to move the companions off the playing field while the Doctor dealt with the mystery. His role was very similar to Rose Tyler’s appearances in Season Four, and I liked the symmetry there. Barrowman slipped back into the character as if it hadn’t been a decade since his last appearance, and barely looked any older.

So, let’s talk about the “WTF” moment of the episode. Pretty early on I suspected that the fugitive would be a Time Lord using a Chameleon Arch to appear human, although I mistakenly believed it would be Lee Clayton. Given the foreshadowing about the Master at the beginning of the episode, I thought that we might be introduced to yet another incarnation of the Master who was going to team up with the Sacha Dhawan version. Once the Ruth Clayton identity was removed and we were introduced to a mystery incarnation of the Doctor, I wondered whether it might be a replay of “The Next Doctor” when Jackson Lake had his memories merged together with the Doctor. Or perhaps this Doctor was actually the Fourteenth Doctor and we were getting an unprecedented glimpse into the far future, but the script seemed to go out of its way to definitively say that both ladies were the Doctor and the Ruth Clayton Doctor was a secret past incarnation, much like John Hurt’s War Doctor was. The question is, whereabouts does she fit into the timeline?

There are two potential theories as to who this new Doctor might be, given the clues in the episode. One: this is a Doctor from a parallel universe, much like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and the reason the two Doctors don’t remember each other is because they are separate versions with their own separate memories/regenerations. This could also explain why Gallifrey still exists for both of them, and might even explain why the Sacha Dhawan Master seems to be alive (given Missy’s death in “The Doctor Falls”) and back to factory settings. The second theory is that this is another unseen incarnation of the Doctor that fits inbetween the Second and Third Doctor, proving the existence of the Season 6B theory that the Second Doctor was forced to work for the Celestial Intervention Agency before he regenerated into Jon Pertwee. This would explain why the Doctor is on the run from the Time Lords/Judoon and who she might be working for. Out of the two, I prefer the idea of an alternate Doctor from a parallel universe than the concept of another secret incarnation – mainly because it contradicts the plot point of Matt Smith’s Doctor being the last regeneration and needing a whole new regeneration cycle.

Aside from the mind-blowing reveals in this episode, “Fugitive of the Judoon” was extremely engaging and would have been thoroughly enjoyable without the shake-ups to the series’ core mythology. The Judoon are a fantastic enemy, coming down to Earth like a bull (or rhino) in a china shop and mercilessly eliminating anyone who might resist their bullying tactics. The costume design on the Judoon is fantastic, and proves once again that physical make-up and prosthetics are far superior to CGI monsters. The level of detail on the Judoon’s faces was amazing, and I love that they are these mercenaries-for-hire with no real moral compass either way. It is refreshing to have monsters that aren’t out for world domination, yet still pose a threat to humanity.

A stunning mix-tape of past concepts and characters, “Fugitive of the Judoon” is one of the most shocking and surprising Doctor Who episodes in recent memory. While it relies on nostalgia at times, Chris Chibnall establishes his own era as one where anything can happen and the rulebook can be torn up if he wants it to be. Taking things that worked from previous episodes and remixing them may feel like fan-service at times, but Chibnall’s flair for misdirection and shock reveals (brought over from his Broadchurch days) elevates the material and distinguishes it from past seasons. I was blown away by this episode and overjoyed at the character development we are getting for both Whittaker’s Doctor and her companions as they are tested harder than they ever were in Season Eleven. There is still a sense of trepidation over these huge secrets and the “everything you think you know is a lie” promise from the Master, but the series feels daring and exciting again, which is exactly what it needed to do. Oh, and I sincerely hope we get another Torchwood series out of this!

Score – ★★★★ ¾

Next Episode: “Praxeus”
What connects a missing astronaut in the Indian Ocean, birds behaving strangely in Peru and a US naval officer who washes up on a Madagascan beach? Team Tardis investigate.

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