Title: Fugitive Of The Judoon
Release Date: 26th January 2020
Genre: Science Fiction, Drama
Fugitive Of The Judoon
Right, let’s begin. It’s hard to say where to start. It begins with Ruth Clayton, a tour guide in Gloucester. Happily married to Lee, a man clearly hiding something, further hinted by All Ears Allen, a cafe owner who has a thing for Jo Martin’s Ruth. He even provides a slightly creepy dossier on Lee Clayton, a document of everything wrong with her husband. All Ears Allen indeed suspects he’s not all he’s cracked up to be.
(And neither’s Allen’s acting if I’m honest). However, the Judoon quickly blast him to atoms, solving that problem.
Then we see the Judoon, stomping around all clad in leather, putting Gloucester on lockdown. There’s a fugitive on the loose. It’s a by the book plot that works for me. Lovely.
His friends discover the Doctor’s secret search for the Master since his exile to the Kasaavin dimension. She explains that she’s searching for him but will not reveal what she knows about Gallifrey. This back story is a highlight of the series so far that continues to tease us that something more is on the way. It maintains my belief that the twelfth series has been a massive improvement over Whittaker’s first.
It’s all started perfectly. A Judoon freighter is hanging above the Earth, the platoon descending on Gloucester. In the city, Graham disappears via teleport. But whose taken him? What has Lee so spooked that he runs home with Ruth to pack once the Judoon arrive?
So we have Lee and Ruth preparing to run away. Supposedly from Stroud, it’s evident that Lee is from somewhere else and is not who he says he is. Ten minutes in, and it’s hugely promising. It puts me in my mind of the Prisoner of The Judoon story from The Sarah Jane Adventures.
Could this episode get any better? well…
Captain Jack Is Back!
Yes. It can.
Captain Jack Harkness has been absent from Doctor Who for the last ten years, following his final fleeting cameo at the end of Tennant’s swansong episode, The End Of Time (Part 2). Throughout Moffat’s era, there were rarely any hints towards Torchwood or Captain Jack. Considering the length of time he’d been out of the show, it appeared unlikely the rogue Time Agent would ever resurface again.
Until now. Graham finds himself on the deck of a very flash spacecraft. An American voice booms over a tannoy, before Jack appears in a brilliant blaze of gl0ry. I could watch Jack with his endless charm and limitless energy all day long. It brings back so much nostalgia to see him back within the Doctor Who universe again.
From mistaking Graham as the Doctor and his interactions with Ryan and Yaz, while piloting a stolen spacecraft and his warning of the lone Cyberman, there’s nothing to fault for Jack’s part in Fugitive of the Judoon.
It’s a big if, but if I had to criticize the episode for anything, it’d be the lack of Doctor/Jack screentime, (of which there was none), despite a suggestion that Jack would be back again, and I sincerely hope so. A decent amount of Doctor/Jack screentime would go down a treat. Because at the end of Episode 5, his return felt a little short-lived.
Ruth Is Not Ruth
Meanwhile, as the Judoon target Ruth and Lee’s house, some home truths are coming to light. Lee surrenders himself as the others escape, and Ryan and Yaz disappear via teleport, taken to Jack’s stolen ship.
Commander Gat’s arrival reveals that Lee is not the fugitive, but ultimately just a ‘faithful companion’ to Ruth. She’s tracked him to Earth via the box, which contains his service medal. More clues to the real story, but still, it’s a bit vague. Lee dies, and the plot moves on. At the Cathedral, Ruth and the Doctor are surrounded by Judoon forces, as she receives a text from Lee that triggers a memory of a lighthouse.
In an unexpected turn of events, Ruth successfully takes down the entire group of Judoon, dishonoring the Captain by forcibly removing his horn, and forces them to leave. Ruth is not Ruth. As it transpires, another identity is hidden within her, a sleeper form activated by the text message. The lighthouse, she remembers, is her home, where her family has been buried, a part of her life she’d forgotten about for quite a time.
Unfortunately, at this point, I’m beginning to get bored. I had hoped the fugitive would have been revealed as some vicious planet-destroying alien long before now. Going back to The Sarah Jane Adventures, what would have improved Fugitive of the Judoon is if they’d have introduced a Prisoner Zero type of alien or Krasko from last year’s Rosa). This is where the episode starts to crack under the weight of a problem the Spyfall two-parter suffered from.
Too many plot lines!
The Doctor and The Doctor
So in the lighthouse, Ruth finds an alarm box (which reads break the glass). Follow the light, break the glass, as Lee’s text explained, now makes sense. In doing so, Ruth’s identity is restored. As the Doctor digs around a blank gravestone outside the lighthouse, she discovers a TARDIS buried beneath. At this point, as Ruth prepares to reveal all, I was expecting the Rani.
But no, she’s actually…, the Doctor, and the unearthed TARDIS is her ship…
However, she’s certainly not one of the thirteen incarnations we all remember.
Whittaker’s Doctor fails to remember Ruth’s Doctor and vice versa. This episode begins to bear the hallmarks of a classically complicated Steven Moffat story. It’s an intriguing reveal, just not one I expected. Ruth indicates that Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor is in her future, meaning she has to be an incarnation before the thirteenth. There’s later indication that Ruth isn’t aware of the Time War, which pushes her incarnation back before Eccleston’s short-lived ninth.
In the end, the climax of the story feels like a slightly tweaked rehashing of 2007’s Human Nature/The Family Of Blood two-parter (Chameleon Arch technology to hide Ruth’s identity), mixed with elements of John Hurt’s War Doctor from The Day Of The Doctor.
If you’re still following the plot at this point, it’s made clear Gat is working to deliver the fugitive to the contractee, and the Judoon were tasked with finding them, but the burning question that remains is, who are they all working for?
Gat is rumbled as Gallifreyan by the Doctor’s sonic, meaning she and Ruth have to be from her past, considering what we already know from Spyfall’s ending.
The Doctor and Ruth part ways. She’ll probably be back. From the Master, Captain Jack, and this new Doctor, it’s evident there’s far more to come yet from Whittaker’s second series. Fugitive of the Judoon had more twists and turns that I had to watch it twice to get my head around it all. This episode is truly bonkers. With nostalgic throwbacks to Gallifrey, Captain Jack, and the Judoon, it was honestly a joy to watch.
Sadly, it suffered under the pressure of juggling too many ideas. The Doctor/Doctor revelation was undoubtedly impressive, considering that The Master had destroyed Gallifrey at the end of Episode 2. But I fear they might have attempted too much for one standalone episode to handle. Yes, the Doctor/Doctor story would have worked better as its own episode entirely.
Anyway, it doesn’t matter; as all in all, it was a smartly written, eccentric romp of an episode. From Jack’s ominous warning of not giving the lone Cyberman what it wants, the touching ending between the Doctor, Graham, Ryan, and Yaz, to the larger mystery of Ruth’s Doctor, and what it all means for the timeline of the show’s lead character, it’s evident Series 12 is gearing up for big things, as next week, it reaches its midway point.
Want more from Doctor Who?, then check out last week’s review to Episode 4 here.
Verdict: A stomper of an episode. It gives as much as it leaves questions for the future. Great performances from everyone, intelligently written, and it left me grinning every time John Barrowman appeared on the screen.