Monday, 27 January 2020

Doctor Who - Fugitive Of The Judoon

Jack And The Box

Doctor Who - Fugitive Of The Judoon
UK BBC1 Airdate: 27th January 2020

Warning: Big spoilers right from the outset. If you don’t want to know, don’t read. You were warned.

Okay... this is what Doctor Who is all about. Or at least, what Doctor Who has become for the last ten or so years... a devious puzzle with a side helping of nostalgia thrown in from a couple of angles. Finally I can report that another new episode of this year’s series seriously knocked it out the park.

For starters, Fugitive Of The Judoon actually had some decent writing from someone who seems to really understand how the chemistry between The Doctor and her new companions works. There is concern and strength in unification of the team at the heart of the latest iteration of the extended ‘TARDIS family’. Also, when the various companions got separated from The Doctor, she continued to pull the threads of her own part in the story without, actually, even knowing something had happened to them. The show didn’t stop to play up the emotions on the bits that didn’t matter... only on the sections that built the character of the team operating as a unit.

So we have the return of the Judoon, who have placed a deadly perimeter around Gloucester while they are looking for a dangerous fugitive... or at least have been hired to find said fugitive. From the start of the episode it’s pretty obvious that the person they’re looking for is going to be one of two people... and as it turns out it was both, technically (or three if you think about the consequences of what happens later in the episode). It’s obvious two of them are disguised as humans and it soon becomes clear that one of them, Ruth, played by Jo Martin, is even disguised from herself. At this point, my ears pricked up and I thought... ‘pocket watch containing a Timelord’s identity?’. Well, no, not a pocket watch this time but a ‘break glass’ sign in the lighthouse this character thought she had lived her early life in. So, basically, a safehouse.

Meanwhile, to set up the first of a couple of important plot points for the overall story arc of this series, we had the very welcome return of Captain Jack Harkness, played by John Barrowman (which meant he was on two channels simultaneously, also busy judging the ice show on the other side when this thing was broadcast). He’s here to give a warning to The Doctor... which he has to settle doing through The Doctor’s companions as he is ejected from the ship he used to scoop them all up in by anti-theft nanites... to ‘beware the lone Cyberman’ and don’t give it what it wants. Okay, so I’m sure that advice will certainly both come in handy and be totally ignored by the end of this series, for sure. But it was great seeing him back and I’m sure we’ll see him again at some point very soon.

Meanwhile The Doctor, not knowing that Ruth, who she left alone in the lighthouse, is about to unlock her Timelord cover personality and reveal the true her, starts digging up an important looking unmarked grave outside. Only to discover she’s digging up another version of her own TARDIS. Now this is more like it as it’s soon established that both The Doctor and Ruth are the same person... but neither of them can remember the other from their past although our current version of The Doctor takes the destruction of Gallifrey as proof, for some reason, of the fact that she is a future incarnation of Ruth. There’s also another person who is working for whoever hired the Judoon and she may well be The Doctor as well, for all I know (we’ll see how that plays out but she’s dead for now). So, yeah, lots happening with... possible heavy-ish repercussions for the future fabric of the show’s history... though not ‘so much’ I suspect.

So... big episode with some really nice moments. I knew Graham wasn’t dead when he seemed to disintegrate, especially since the writers went out of their way to show another ruthless disintegration soon after to show just how serious they were being here. Wasn’t expecting to see Captain Jack teleporting him away though. So that’s a good thing.

Also, I love how Ruth, in automatic mode, pulled the horn off the Judoon (who are basically vertically walking rhinoceros people in heavy police uniform) and it was explained that she had dishonoured the Judoon in question. This is great stuff and, I suspect, comes directly from ancient Japan when, in days of old, it was a huge disgrace and dishonour if a samurai’s top knot was cut off. Indeed,  I wonder how many Westerners, when they watch Akira Kurosawa’s magnificent movie Seven Samurai, realise the absolute gravitas and anticipation that is built up in the opening scene for Japanese audiences when Takashi Shimura’s character shaves off his own top knot in order to disguise himself as a priest? It was great to parody this ‘loss of honour’ here with the Judoon and it also gives them a little more substance than they had on their previous appearances throughout the show.

So, yeah, this one was a rollercoaster and with the lone Cyberman and the ‘other Doctor’ out there, this looks like the writers are finally ‘really going for it’ at this point. I’m keeping my fingers crossed they are anyway.

Where could all this lead? Well, there’s always a chance that the Master could be hiding within this other Doctor still, I guess... unless s/he was the one who hired the Judoon in the first place (or heck, maybe it was even Rassilon or Omega from old Timelord lore, who knows?). Or it could be that The Master and The Doctor have always been the same person and the Timelords have split them into different time strands over the years... and this is why The Master chose to destroy Gallifrey just recently. Or something else. Either way this is compelling puzzle setting here and, even if the solution to the puzzle turns out to be a little underwhelming (as it so often did in the Steven Moffat era), it doesn’t take away from the brilliant set up that we got this episode. And I still haven't forgotten that Matt Smith reference to having had his memory tampered with in a previous Cyberman story... could they be finally tugging on that old Moffat thread here? I doubt if next weeks episode will have much, if anything, to do with this weeks story line but I am looking forward to when the writers start yanking on these strings again. This could go either way but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it stays challenging to the viewer. With Fugitive Of The Judoon, my faith is somewhat, partially, restored... or at least distracted for the time being.

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