The Judoon Have Returned!
Because that's who's really important in "Fugitive of the Judoon"
The Judoon returned! Not the most exciting twist of the episode? Fair enough. But after the Trump businessman last season, and many other social commentary episodes, the Doctor’s describing them as “trigger-happy police” and thus an enemy, seems rather pointed. They also tie into more than the nostalgia factor -- they're one indicator of many of all the converging elements.
Fans have been clamoring loudly to see the new Doctor flirting with either Jack or River, or presumably both. Now that has arrived…somewhat. With a “you can get excited now” and “ya missed me, right” he speaks directly to the audience not to Graham. This of course becomes the catch – he never actually sees the Doctor. He’s intrigued by the female doctor (“This I gotta see”) but never does.
Sure, he flirts with Graham and kisses him, but they don’t share much plot. That’s the oddness of Jack’s arrival – he has no plot himself and doesn’t team up on the Doctor’s separate adventure. He offers a message and departs. This pattern has been seen before from Rose and Martha –specifically as returning characters carrying on the season arc. Jack’s return, though a delight for fans, leaves him more of an arc-words message (something like “Bad Wolf” or “the Pandorica opens) than a character. And of course, he’s new enough to the three companions that the reunion is quite skewed.
He does indeed drop a new plot arc – the cybermen’s empire has been destroyed, but a lone raging cyberman remains. This parallels destroyed Gallifrey. At the same time, knowing the Master-and-destroyed-Gallifrey plot is happening this season AS WELL AS the new Doctor and Cybermen plot AND that we're a few episodes past THAT shocking appearance feels very like the Star Wars film finale – every plot and special effect that can be thrown in for an overwhelming ride that’s so fast and character-packed it may even be too fast. Not to mention Jack’s presence in itself.
Jack gets in more links with slightly older Who – he introduces the Cybermen and the Daleks get name-dropped too. He’s gleeful about all the new companions will get to experience. As with his first appearance, he’s stolen a ship and babbles about the sexual shenanigans he has experienced. Nanogenes attack him, calling back to his first appearance as well. All this functions as a wave to fans. Meanwhile, the Doctor’s sparring with the Judoon with her psychic paper and fake laws is very Tenant-era. Channeling the Tenant-era goofiness, she clearly enjoys rhyming Judoon on the moon or by a lagoon even as she takes her role of protecting earth’s civilians seriously. All this makes viewers feel like this is the episode’s big surprise, all before a much bigger one drops.
There have been many permutations of not-quite doctors, including the one of the Almost People and the more interesting one from The Next Doctor. There were also Yana and Missy. In short, there are many many possible explanations, even without time travel and alternate dimensions. Some fans have even guessed that she’s a regeneration of Tenant’s Doctor who remained with Rose. Her having the TARDIS certainly suggests she's the same character (and not a copy), but there's still lots to play with.
Her confidence (and did anyone notice that as a tour guide she offers specifically historical facts) and self-fulfillment (it’s fine if everyone ignores her) are Doctor-like. Her being in a long-term relationship with her scheming partner is a little more jarring…though Tenant fell for the World War One nurse when he lost his own memory, so perhaps it’s within the range. This new Doctor (or tour guide Ruth Clayton) battles Judoon hand-to-hand and pulls a big gun – not very doctor-like. Even ripping off a horn to dishonor the head Judoon creeps out the Doctor as she emphasizes that this was a bad choice.
Is she like the War Doctor – someone who was anti-Doctor-like enough to be banished from the lineup? Her contempt for the sonic screwdriver and dependence on a laser rifle (even a sabotaged one) support this. Did she destroy Gallifrey like the War Doctor did? Team up with the Master? Commit some other terrible crime? The white circles within her TARDIS are old-school enough that some believe she predates the first Doctor (a retro-canon particularly surprising in context of the sixties but intriguing). Of course, since her ship has been damaged and buried and may be confused by two Doctors, the white circles themselves are only a little suggestive. If she's a forgotten Doctor, she could be from anywhere in the timeline. (The Doctors neglect to compare ages or pull out a diary as Matt Smith did many times.) The other possibility of course is that she's forgotten Jodie and will in fact be the next Doctor, in an early glimpse or test run like Donna's or Clara's. That would be delightful. As the Doctor, Ruth is delightfully self-confident and certainly uses Doctor-like phrasing. With small tinted glasses and hair up, she appears quirky yet polished. The blue suit and bright top feel more Doctor-like than thirteen’s look -- “all rainbows and trousers that don’t reach.” Their interaction – similar but also competitive – echoes other Doctors on their team-ups, especially in the 50th anniversary.
All the fans filling the internet are agreed – the new Doctor, whatever she is – is very cool, and the twisting plot is delightful and intriguing. Jo Martin's older, taller Doctor feels more finished beside Jodie's -- the character blends confidence with a quirky fun side, even as she knows she's intriguing the audience. Having her understanding the episode's plot as Thirteen does not is a nice touch too, that leaves Thirteen even more knocked off base. She even ends the episode with a moment of despair as well as doom, anticipating that all these plot points indicate something is coming for her. As the Doctor puts it, "time is swirling around her." As with seasons like the Pandorica, it's clear that the convergence of enemies and friends have a part to play as the season ramps up for possibly its most chaotic yet. We’ll be waiting.
Valerie Estelle Frankel is the author of Doctor Who: The What Where and How; Doctor Who and the Hero's Journey; and The Women of Doctor Who. https://www.amazon.com/Valerie-Estelle-Frankel/e/B004KMCLQK/