We were going to hold this review back until tomorrow but has the internet has already melted down, we might as well add fuel to the fire.
Although we will add a lovely spoiler-protection picture.
The Judoon are back in Doctor Who! And that’s just the beginning!
Promotion of Fugitive of the Judoon raised eyebrows across social media with its insistence that this episode would feature the most shocking reveal yet this series of Doctor Who. More gob smacking than the Master’s return! More world shattering than Gallifrey being destroyed! Again. And fandom immediately divided between people looking for clues everywhere (John Barrowman liking a BBC tweet immediately launching speculation Captain Jack was back) and those wondering if possibly it the episode was being oversold a little. In the end it hit the viewer with massive blow after massive blow, shock after shock. And that fact that John Barrowman’s Captain Jack is back, but that that’s not even the most jaw dropping thing to happen this episode should tell you everything.
And Jack, sweet sweet Captain Jack. Oh, how we missed you. John Barrowman succeeds in completely owning Sunday night. Only he could be in two places simultaneously, judging ITV’s Dancing on Ice as Captain Jack returned to BBC One. Blogtor Who can only imagine the mischief running through his mind as he sat there on live TV. All the while knowing full well the mayhem he must be unleashing on Twitter. In Chez Blogtor Who, there was an instinctive lean forward three words into the voice over by the Mysterious American Voice, followed by screams and cheers as soon as he appeared in all his cheesecake glory. Mrs. Blogtor Who has been crying out for Jack’s return for years, so suffice to say she was very happy. And loud.
It’s difficult to remember an episode of Doctor Who that contained more shocks or twists than this, though ultimately it raises more questions than it answers
Of course Chris Chibnall knows Captain Jack inside out (so to speak). After all, he wrote the character for two seasons of Torchwood. But while Jack could be somewhat dour on Doctor Who’s more adult spin-off, Chibnall seems to embrace the opportunity to set Jack’s dials to maximum joy here. Barrowman, too, is visibly vibrating with delight at being back. And he plays the moment when Jack discovers the Doctor is now a woman for all it’s worth. It may also be the first time since he’s arrived on the show that Bradley Walsh has somehow managed to have a scene stolen out from him, rather than the other way around. It seems almost criminal though for Captain Jack to not actually share any scenes with the Doctor herself. Though hopefully that’s just a moment they’re holding back for later in the series.
But that’s not nearly all!
Quite what the other big revelation this week actually means may take a while to be revealed. Certainly the idea of ‘secret’ Doctors isn’t new. Way back in Tom Baker’s time, The Brain of Morbius strongly implied that there’d been at least six Doctors before Hartnell’s. While, of course, 2013’s The Name of the Doctor unveiled Sir John Hurt as a brand new Doctor who existed between McGann and Eccleston. But can Jo Martin really be playing an incarnation of the Doctor that even her current self doesn’t remember? And does this tie into the ‘Timeless Child?’ Could it be that every generation of Time Lords is the same generation of Time Lords reborn over and over again? Or does this instead tie in to the idea of parallel universes as re-introduced in Spyfall?
Despite the title, the Judoon are almost a subplot in Fugitive of the Judoon, though one providing an excellent hook for viewers
For the moment Blogtor Who is leaning towards the latter – after all, we actually saw the first time the TARDIS gets stuck as a Police Box back in 1963. So that the Martin Doctor’s TARDIS is a Police Box seems to be the most impossible thing about her. But it’s going to be a fascinating journey to find out.
It all makes it seem almost a side show that there’s a platoon of Judoon loose about the toon! It’s a welcome return for the Shadow Proclamation’s New Rock boot loving enforcers. While it’s a bigger appearance than hanging around the margins of episodes like A Good Man Goes to War or Face the Raven, Fugitive of the Judoon doesn’t exactly see them take centre stage. It’s a slight shame, as they’ve always mixed danger and silliness in a quintessentially Doctor Who way. Still, their presence here is a stroke of minor genius. While Series 11 was sometimes so secretive about its plots that it was difficult to promote, billing this as a Judoon story gave it a hook for audiences, and also misdirected us from what it was really about.
Though the Judoon aren’t used in any kind of startlingly new way here, it’s a neat move to make them somewhat uncomfortable with their own orders
That said, what we of the Judoon sees them on top form. It may not top Blogtor Who’s favourite (Captain Tybo halting a race to stop the extinction of all life on Earth to insist the SJA kids pay for parking – “You pay! You display!”) but there’s quality fun to be had here. They bring the best out of Whittaker’s Doctor too as she rubs up against their sheer unreasonableness. Co-writer Vinay Patel fully embraces their potential, too, with the early scenes of Fugitive of the Judoon being as different from his previous script, Demons of the Punjab as possible. All Ears Alan and his whopping great file on Neil Stuke’s Lee, knitting being mistaken for a lethal weapon, and the “YOU COULD DO BETTER” birthday cake all show off the lighter side of Doctor Who at its best as well misdirecting the viewer before it all takes a dark turn.
While this is their third major appearance in a row, they’re searching for a fugitive alien on present day Earth, it does add the new wrinkle of them having an uneasy relationship with their own employer, Gat (Ritu Arya). It might have been nice, however, for them to have become more openly defiant of her by end. As it is, they simply grow deeply uncomfortable with her approach, and it seems a slight missed opportunity to add more to Judoon lore. (By the way, watch out for the name of the Judoon Captain in the credits: Pol-Kon-Don. Paul Condon was, by the account of everyone who ever met, simply the nicest person in fandom, so it’s a lovely tribute to the recently deceased Doctor Who fan.)
In terms of the overall arc, this week sets the Doctor down a path that may see her wind up in some dark places by series’ end
Ultimately, Fugitive of the Judoon defies all expectations. Far from being a mid-series runaround, it’s turnout to be a lynch-pin of the series’ arc. Not just in terms of being an Earthquake that shakes the foundations of Doctor Who’s canon. But also in its quieter moments. The Doctor’s character has darkened this season, and she’s grown more distant from her companions. If last year, the Thirteenth Doctor never seemed like that Doctor that would need “someone to stop” her, this year it feels like she might wind up needing them more than ever. Because, based on this, when she does track down the Master; when she does learn the secret of the Timeless Child; when she does face the Lone Cyberman… it might just break her.
Doctor Who continues at 7.10pm next Sunday on with Praxeus
What connects a missing astronaut in the Indian Ocean, birds behaving strangely in Peru and a US naval officer who washes up on a Madagascan beach? Team Tardis investigate.
Starring Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham), Mandip Gill (Yaz) and Tosin Cole (Ryan). Praxeus guest stars Warren Brown (Jake Willis), Matthew McNulty (Adam Lang), and Molly Harris (Suki Chen). Written by Chris Chibnall and Pete McTighe (Kerblam!) and directed by Jamie Magnus Stone (Spyfall Part One, Fugitive of the Judoon).