Doctor Who 12×05 “Fugitive Of The Judoon” Review

By
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TV:
Christian Bone

Reviewed by:
Rating:
4
On January 26, 2020
Last modified:January 26, 2020

Summary:

An episode with the ambition of a finale in the middle of the season, Doctor Who delivers one of the most genuinely mind-blowing outings in its history.

The opening two-parter of Doctor Who season 12 made it very clear that this run wouldn’t simply repeat season 11’s stripped-back, ultra-accessible style. In fact, with new fans eased in across Jodie Whittaker’s first season as the Doctor, the return of the Master (in the form of Sacha Dhawan) proved that this year is all about getting them up to speed with Whovian mythology by throwing them into the deep end. Tonight’s “Fugitive of the Judoon,” however, reveals that it’s actually more like being dropped into the middle of the ocean.

From all the promotion, “Fugitive” appeared to be your average middle-of-the-season episode, with the added bonus of the comeback of the Rhino-headed Judoon. And for the first fifteen minutes or so, that’s what it was. But then John Barrowman showed up as Captain Jack Harkness and, before you know it, we were in an adventure that was teasing some other story with a Lone Cyberman and, look, here’s a mysterious woman who’s actually a past version of the Doctor herself. Wait, what?

You have to hand it to showrunner Chris Chibnall, who co-wrote this episode with Vinay Patel. The two big rug-pull moments hidden in these 50 minutes are amongst the best surprises you’ll find in the entire history of the show. To pull off not just one but both of them without either leaking out is seriously impressive. The official social media accounts had been teasing some shocks to come for the past couple of days, but we were certainly not expecting anything on the level of either of these finale-sized bombshells.

Of course, Barrowman has been rumored to be making a return to Who for the past couple of years, with fans being desperate to see him suit up as Captain Jack again ever since Torchwood was cancelled in 2011. And, just as you’d hope, he’s just as marvelous here as he always was in the role back in the day. Turning the dial up to 11, he’s clearly having a blast embodying the immortal Time Agent again. From his smooch with Graham to his recollection of dirty dreams, this is 100% the Jack we remember – even if it’s not quite the way he actually was. Much like the portrayal of David Tennant’s Time Lord in 2013’s “The Day of the Doctor,” his darker edges have been smoothed off and we’re left with the larger-than-life lothario we all love.

The big downer is that we didn’t get to see him share the screen with Whittaker, but obviously, we’ve not seen the last of him this season. The Lone Cyberman references clearly tee up with those glimpses of a rundown Cyberman we got in the season 12 trailers. Intriguingly, it’s believed that the Cyberman episode – potentially also featuring Frankenstein author Mary Shelley – isn’t the finale, so we could be in for another Barrowman appearance within a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, while Ryan, Graham and Yaz are with Jack in his stolen (Time Lord?) spaceship, the Doctor is trying to solve the mystery of Ruth Clayton, an apparently ordinary woman who’s being sought after by the Judoon. Sci-fi savvy viewers will no doubt work out soon into the episode that Ruth is an alien disguised as human, with some sort of fake personality hiding her true one. I charge any of you, though, to have pre-empted the actual reveal that Chibnall was going to drop on us. That Ruth is actually the Doctor, a regeneration we’ve never seen before, who used a Chameleon Arch to make herself human.

Honestly, from hereon in, the show belongs to Jo Martin. She’s simply excellent as the Doctor (the Ruth Doctor? Is that what we’re going to call her?). She’s commanding, tough and willing to get her hands dirty, the exact opposite of Whittaker’s Thirteen. Who exactly she is we don’t find out, but the clues seem to suggest she comes from an earlier point in the Time Lord’s timestream than William Hartnell’s First (or so we thought) Doctor. Remember what the Master said in “Spyfall”? “Everything you think you know is a lie?” He was darn right about that.

Doctor Who

An episode like this one almost defies a typical critical evaluation. As a piece of drama, “Fugitive” certainly isn’t the strongest one we’ve had in the Chibnall era – Patel’s debut in 2018, “Demons of the Punjab,” for instance, is more moving. And you wouldn’t exactly say it sports a well-plotted, coherent narrative. But it’s undoubtedly a blast and the bait-and-switch at the heart of this episode is worthy of Steven Moffat and his love of subversion. Whether it’ll stand up to repeated viewings once the shock factor is removed remains to be seen, but at least on the first go around, this is the most fun you’ll have watching Doctor Who since this era began.

Frankly, it’s so much fun and so full of fan-service that I’ve no idea how the season 12 finale can top it. Or if it even should. When this season is all said and done, I’m worried it’s going to drown in all the mythology-building that Chibnall’s suddenly so keen to dive into. In fact, Moffat previously fell prey to this problem a couple of times. But let’s remain optimistic for the moment and, on the back of the giddy highs of this episode, hope they can stick the landing with the second half of this run of Doctor Who.

Doctor Who 12x05
Great

An episode with the ambition of a finale in the middle of the season, Doctor Who delivers one of the most genuinely mind-blowing outings in its history.

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