Shortly after broadcast of ‘Fugitive of the Judoon‘ BlogtorWho published a review of the episode. Now we’d like to present an alternate opinion from one of our other writers.
*THIS ARTICLE WILL INCLUDE SPOILERS. Do not read on if you have not seen the episode and wish to remain unspoiled.*
My initial reaction to ‘Fugitive of the Judoon‘ was summed up using the following:
This week’s capsule review of Doctor Who comes courtesy of Wikipedia. “Jumping the shark is the moment when something that was once popular, but that no longer warrants the attention it previously received, makes an attempt at publicity, which only serves to highlight its irrelevance.”
Jumped the Shark
This was somewhat tongue-in-cheek but the point being made was a genuine reaction. The term “Jumping the Shark” refers to an incident during ‘Happy Days‘ where the Fonz jumped over a shark whilst on water skis. It was a ludicrous scene which epitomised the decline in quality of that particular show. That scene, and the term it has since originated, is attributed to writers attempting more outlandish and implausible gimmicks or plotlines in an attempt to draw ratings. Watching ‘Fugitive of the Judoon‘ triggered that reaction in this particular viewer.
In my opinion, and this is only my opinion after all, we have now reached a stage where the creative minds in charge of the show are simply throwing everything they can think of against the wall and seeing what sticks. What is most startling is the shift in strategy from the previous series. Series 11 was proudly fresh and free from the trappings of the past. Until we had a Dalek in ‘Resolution‘ of course. The Steven Moffat era was often criticised for the feeling that only dedicated viewers tuning in each week could actually follow the show. Well, if you missed ‘Fugitive of the Judoon‘ then good luck following anything else that happens in Series 12!
Most probably entered into ‘Fugitive of the Judoon‘ full of optimism for a fun romp with our favourite intergalactic rhinos. Sadly the returning Judoon, entertaining in the few scenes afforded to them, were an utter irrelevance. Instead the opening of the episode is afforded to some tedious, nondescript human characters. Ruth Clayton is a tour guide around the lovely city of Gloucester. But not a particularly successful one. There’s a lazily written comedy pensioner and two male characters. None of these did I remotely care for or have any interest in. Happily the Judoon became involved.
There is some nice material shot on board the Judoon’s ship. The lead Judoon looks superb and his troops stomping around Gloucester is equally sublime. This is Doctor Who at it’s best. Alien creatures juxtaposed within a terrestrial environment. There is also the intrigue of who, or maybe even what, the fugitive whom the Judoon are searching for is. But then we had Doctor Who at it’s worst.
A television show which has been going for over half a century will inevitably develop an established history. Authors would delight in playing with that lore. Again, Steven Moffat took great pleasure in doing that at times. Established elements are necessary. The Doctor is your central character. The TARDIS is the method by which you enter a new adventure. Other features such as Gallifrey, can be exploited to create intriguing drama and exciting stories. It’s all fair game.
However, the most successful are original takes or interpretations. What makes the strategy used in ‘Fugitive of the Judoon‘ all the more galling is that none of the ideas are even original. The chameleon arch, name checked during the episode, was a major plot point back in Series 3. A previously unknown incarnation of the Doctor was concocted for ‘The Name of the Doctor’. Even the setup of the Judoon pursuing their fugitive on Earth was lifted from the Sarah Jane Adventures story ‘Prisoner of the Judoon‘.
Whilst we all enjoy familiarity, if one is going to be bold and creative then be that. Don’t just lift from previous successes. Yes, Jo Martin has the potential to be a fabulously original incarnation of the Doctor. But in a series where we already have established arcs (The Master/Gallifrey) which need to be unravelled, do we need even more? Maybe not. So let’s throw in another one!
The Long Game
Returns of the Judoon and Capt. Jack Harkness were fan-pleasing ploys. However, in the context of the episode itself both became totally irrelevant. Speaking of irrelevant, the trio of companions continue to be completely futile. With nothing to contribute, Graham, Ryan and Yaz were simply lifted out of the main story to encounter Capt. Jack. They were used to setup a plot for later in the series whilst a far more interesting story unfolded elsewhere.