Doctor Who Episode Review: The Doctor’s History Goes Awry

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Fugitive of the Judoon is the latest Doctor Who episode with Jodie Whittaker in the lead role and her faithful companions played by Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill, and Tosin Cole.  Chris Chibnall and Vinay Patel write this script with Nida Manzoor in the director’s chair.  Guest stars include John Barrowman, Jo Martin, Neil Stuke, and Ritu Arya,

There are a lot of twists in this episodes that are unexpected.  I try to be mindful of spoilers, but there are aspects I want to discuss which will require the spilling of some beans.  This episode sort of intrigued and infuriated me at the same time.

I actually have decided that I sort of like the Judoon, the alien mercenary police force who resemble rhinos.  The Judoon were first introduced in the era of Russell T. Davies in an episode entitled Smith and Jones, which starred David Tennant as the Doctor.

The Judoon have arrived in the town of Gloucester looking for a mysterious fugitive.  The Doctor and her companions have arrived to stop the Judoon from traipsing through the town leaving a wake of casualties.  A couple seem to be at the center of this hunt.  The companions are whisked away to some other ship and meet none other than Captain Jack Harkness, played by John Barrowman.

The Doctor discovers that a woman named Ruth Clayton has a much deeper secret than she realizes.  Ruth is able to regain her memories and proper biological make-up. The big shock is when she claims to the Doctor which is backed up by Whittaker’s Doctor checking on this development herself.

The suggestion has been out there that Chibnall intended to have it suggested that there was a female Doctor or Doctors before the time of who what the fans know as the First Doctor, played by the late William Hartnell.  This is what he has done.  Jo Martin, who is a black British actress, is cast in this rather dubious role.

I have to ask, what is Chibnall’s problem here?  He may not be about wreck the established, canonical history of the character since the Doctor has no recollection of ever looking like Jo Martin.  Jo Martin’s Doctor is also not claiming recognition of Whittaker’s incarnation.  There may be an alternate universe explanation, but we didn’t get a resolution to this at this time.

I try not to be too vitriolic when it comes to criticizing this particular era of what is my favorite series, but some of these decisions are making the temptation to join some of my fellow skeptics in their more strident objections a little too great.

Captain Jack’s return sort of smacks of a desperate effort to lure back viewers.  The ratings have been sinking for some time, and Chibnall’s efforts to bring back elements common in the eras of Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat do not seem to be helping.

There are some questions to be answered here, and I hope they will be resolved in such a way that does not trash the history that is already established.

I know this is merely a science fiction show, and writers can d whatever they want.  Doctor Who is certainly more durable in its format than other long-running shows. That is part of the genius of its development over the past fifty-six years.  Doctor Who does have some problems in its canon and continuity, so die hard fans already have to forgive a lot in its very long history.  I do think it would be asking too much to accept that Jo Martin is supposed to be some other secret incarnation who existed before the First Doctor we know and love.

A couple of things worked in this episode.  The Judoon looked fantastic.  Whittaker’s Doctor seems to be developing a bit of gravitas. She is not going to be a favorite of mine, however her astonishment and bafflement a some of these revelations seemed believable enough.  I guess we have not seen the last of Captain Jack.  Captain Jack turning up again is not something I really cared about.

Maybe Chibnall is just having some fun here.  Some would say that he has no real respect for the long time fans who grew up on this show and want to have some aspects preserved.  In the past couple of years, I have to wonder if the the more cynical voices are entirely wrong.


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