Doctor Who: “Fugitive of the Judoon” shakes up the series in the best possible way

Mandip Gill as Yaz, Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor, Tosin Cole as Ryan, Jo Martin as Ruth Clayton, Neil Stuke as Lee Clayton - Doctor Who _ Season 12, Episode 5 - Photo Credit: Ben Blackall/BBC Studios/BBC America
Mandip Gill as Yaz, Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor, Tosin Cole as Ryan, Jo Martin as Ruth Clayton, Neil Stuke as Lee Clayton - Doctor Who _ Season 12, Episode 5 - Photo Credit: Ben Blackall/BBC Studios/BBC America /

Doctor Who season 12 pulls out all the stops with “Fugitive of the Judoon,” a nonstop hour that brings back a fan favorite and drops a bombshell that could change the series forever.

For those of us who thought that “Fugitive of the Judoon” was going to be a fairly standard (meaning: forgettable) midseason Doctor Who episode featuring the return of a nostalgic psuedo-villain, well. Boy, where we wrong.

The return of the humanoid rhino space mercenaries is probably the least exciting thing about this installment, which brings back fan favorite John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness and introduces us to a brand new version of the Doctor, all in the same hour.

In short, allow me to sum up my reaction in a single GIF: EXPLAIN! (Yes, please read that in a Dalek voice.)

There’s a lot we don’t understand yet about what exactly “Fugitive of the Judoon” will mean for Doctor Who, both in terms of the rest of season 12, and the series’ overarching lore in general. The introduction of Jo Martin’s Ruth as a camouflaged Time Lord would have been shocking enough on its own, but the revelation that she’s (apparently?) some never before seen version of the Doctor takes everything to an entirely different level.

So many questions: If she’s an earlier regeneration, why doesn’t Thirteen remember her? Her weird outfit and Hartnell-esque TARDIS indicates that she probably is from a ways back in the Doctor’s timeline. But her ship’s “Police Box” exterior means she has to have come after William Hartnell’s Doctor.

Those of us who watched the 50th anniversary special live and saw the introduction of John Hurt’s War Doctor are very familiar with this feeling of wild confusion, but the fact that there isn’t any real gap – or unseen regeneration – to insert this version into makes things even weirder.

Is it possible that Ruth is a Doctor from an alternate timeline or dimension? An escapee from some other pocket universe? A Doctor from a previously unknown set of regenerations that somehow ties in to the whole dark history of Gallifrey subplot.

Honestly, we have no idea. And, personally, I can’t wait to find out.

Martin’s Ruth is a ton of fun, even before we discover the truth of her Time Lord identity. And once she does become the Doctor, she’s fascinating. Bold, whip-smart, and more than a little familiar with how to handle a firearm, a fact which does seem to support the whole alternate reality thing. Would our Doctor have programmed a weapon to explode if an enemy tried to fire it?

The Ruth Doctor (I have no idea how to refer to this character yet, I apologize) also has an immediately rich and complicated history, which we as viewers are only allowed to see a small piece of during her introduction. How did she end up hiding on Earth, concealed by a chameleon arch that hid her identity from everyone, even herself? What was her relationship with her (sadly, now dead) companion like? Who was Gat a Master-like Time Lord, who’s been chasing Ruth around the universe with a platoon of Judoon, and what was their relationship like? And why did neither Gat or Ruth have any idea about

And when will we see Ruth again, now that she’s aware of who she is and she and the Doctor each know the other exists?

Yeah, it’s a lot to take in.

And that’s not even the only big twist the “Fugitive of the Judoon” drops on viewers. Yes, everyone’s favorite time traveling space conman and Torchwood operative is back, looking great and being just as exuberant and sassy as we remember him.

Jack hasn’t been seen on Doctor Who since the season 4 finale “Journey’s End”, though he starred in four seasons of Torchwoodone of which we don’t really acknowledge-in the meantime. He’s been through some stuff, but if his brief return here is any indication, he’s still the character we all know and love. Barrowman’s presence is little more than a glorified cameo as Jack kisses Graham in error, learns the Doctor’s a woman now and offers a grim warning to “Beware the lone Cyberman”.

This would probably have been more shocking if the series’ trailers hadn’t revealed the Cyberman would be returning for season 12 well before the first episode aired, but as it stands, at least Jack’s cryptic comment and promise to return when the Doctor needs his help means we’ll probably (definitely?)see him in the finale, if not before. Fingers crossed, anyway.

Next. Doctor Who: A delightful take on Nikola Tesla powers season 12’s fourth episode. dark

What did you think of this surprising episode of Doctor Who? Let us know your thoughts on the series’ brand new Doctor in the comments.