Warning. I’m going to be spoiling the absolute piss out of the most recent episode of Doctor Who and then some. I will do my best not to spoil anything above the fold, however. I will also be doing a shallow dive into very deep and frankly confusing Doctor Who lore, so please keep that in mind. This is your warning. If you haven’t seen Fugitive of the Judoon, then please don’t read this post unless you’re like me and enjoy spoilers… in which case, read on fellow spoiler-junkie… but still see the episode.
I’ve talked about Doctor Who on this blog before. I’ve noted that it’s my all-time favorite show. And it’s weird, because it’s one of only two shows that I actually keeps my attention, the other being The Mandalorian (seriously… there was literally no TV show that kept me that engaged aside from Doctor Who before the Mandalorian dropped).
No… I don’t watch a lot of TV.
I’ve also discussed how I’ve considered Peter Capaldi’s Doctor to be my Doctor. I wasn’t super happy with every one of his episodes, and Moffat is not my favorite showrunner or head writer or whatever… that would actually be script editor Douglas Adams, who did script editing for the show for a time while Tom Baker was the Doctor (and before he [Adams] wrote the third Hitchhiker’s Guide book… which, BTW, started as a story for Doctor Who that was never shot). But I absolutely love Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. I think he was phenomenal, and was a welcome relief from the young, far-too-human (in my opinion) Doctors before him.
As for Jodie Whittaker… I think she’s absolutely phenomenal and is definitely in my top 5. Sadly, I wasn’t all that enamored with her first season (season 11, from 2018) over-all, but I have loved her characterization, her Fam, and where she’s going.
This season, only half-way through, has been a revelation, however. There was one bad episode (Orphan 55… sorry it wasn’t good) in a sea of good (so far) episodes (if you ignore a couple super problematic aspects of Spyfall Part 2 [i.e. the Doctor’s racism and wiping minds without consent… again]).
Then there’s the episode in question… Fugitive of the Judoon. Now, I do think it’s an amazing episode, but it’s also left me confused, speechless, and in desperate need of having a conversation about it.
So, starting now, I’m going to spoil the shit out of it…
Let me just get the return of Captain Jack out of the way. That was awesome… ish. “Ish” because…
As you can see, he just straight up kisses Graham without warning. It makes sense for Captain Jack’s character, but I felt uncomfortable for Graham in that moment. But maybe I’m wrong to? I should point out that if you don’t know who Captain Jack is or how he’s been written since his introduction by Steven Moffat in the Eccleston Doctor episode The Empty Child (an incredible episode I always recommend people see), his use throughout the series by Russel T. Davies, and him in Torchwood, then you wouldn’t realize that it’s entirely in character for him. He’s… very open and forward, and if he thinks someone’s attracted to him, he’ll act on that. He does also take “no” for an answer, but you do kind of have to say “no”.
Plus, he did think this was the Doctor and he was written as a character who could maybe have been a potential love interest for the Doctor (although the Doctor never really acts on those affections, and it’s left ambiguous as to whether the Doctor returns them… sometimes he [because this is back when the Doctor was played by Eccleston and then Tennant] seems to, other times he doesn’t). And since Captain Jack was and is very much attracted to the Doctor, it would make perfect sense for him to greet the Doctor like that.
In other words it is entirely within Jack’s character to straight up French kiss the Doctor by way of greeting. That said, I also think they had him do that to Graham because if he had done that to Whitaker’s Doctor, the reaction from the public would have been… fierce…
However, Graham, obviously, isn’t the Doctor, and has no idea who this complete stranger who just kissed him out of nowhere is. So… it wasn’t the best moment, IMO. I get why they did it, but… yeah…
Aside from that, I loved his return and hate that, at least in this season, he’s not gonna meet Whittaker’s Doctor. Hopefully he will in the Special or something.
So with that out of the way, let’s get to what I actually want to talk about…
So the basic gist is this: The Judoon are after a fugitive. (Wait. Nathan. What the hell are the Judoon?!?) The show makes you think it’s some white dude; it’s not.
Side note: I don’t mean to downplay Lee Clayton like that. That was more rudely dismissive than I intended. The character, Lee Clayton, was actually a very good and very important character to the plot. I guess I dismissed him because I felt like the show dismissed him, given how quickly they just killed him off… ironically to further the plot of a woman. It was a gender-flipped fridging, honestly. But in his few moments, he was very good and served a more important role to the story than I gave him credit for.
Ruth Clayton, played by Jo Martin, goes off to a lighthouse with the Doctor, where she finds what’s clearly a Chameleon Arch, breaks it, and regains her true memories and identity.
And she’s The Doctor. Like… the actual Doctor, as outright confirmed by Chris Chibnall…
“The important thing to say is – she is definitively the Doctor,” he explained. “There’s not a sort of parallel universe going on, there’s no tricks.
“Jo Martin is the Doctor, that’s why we gave her the credit at the end which all new Doctors have the first time you see them. John Hurt got that credit.”
That… significantly narrows the options. See, I thought she was a parallel universe Doctor at first… a different timeline in a universe that isn’t “ours” (i.e. the main Whoniverse that we watch on TV on Sundays).
But unless Chibnall is continuing on in the grand tradition of show-runners lying (which has been a thing since at least RTD, if not earlier in the show’s history), she’s not from a parallel universe. And “alternate timeline” is just another way of saying “parallel universe”… or is it? Could she be an alternate timeline in our same universe? Can one universe have more than one timeline running through it?
Here’s the other thing… Martin’s Doctor is not a future Doctor. Based on her conversation with Whittaker’s Doctor, she’s a past Doctor, because she doesn’t remember being Whittaker’s Doctor at any point. The thing is, Whittaker’s Doctor doesn’t remember being her, either.
There are three theories. Two of them rely heavily on deep Doctor Who lore… one does not. I’ll start with that last one…
Theory 1 – Time is Being Re-Written
Something happened somewhere along the past of either the Doctor specifically or Gallifrey in general, re-writing the Doctor’s history. This basically means that the Doctor likely has a whole new swath of re-generations, and the current run as we know it is being written out of existence. This could mean that what’s coming for The Doctor (she mentions at the end of the episode that something’s coming for her) is that wipe of the timeline. That may be what the “Lone Cyberman” Captain Jack is talking about in the episode represents.
The downside of this theory is that, if it gets resolved the way it probably will, then Martin’s Doctor will be wiped out of existence at the resolution… unless (until?) our current Doctor regenerates into her (I cannot express in words how ecstatic I’d be if Martin was the next Doctor, even after all this; I do love her as the Doctor; she’s amazing).
So yeah… now let’s get into some deep Doctor Who lore…
So way way back in the history of the show, at the end of a serial called The War Games, which was the series finale of season 6 at the time, Patrick Troughton’s Doctor was tried by the Time Lords and found guilty of meddling in affairs he shouldn’t have been. They gave him two sentences: he was exiled to Earth, and he’d be forcibly regenerated.
Here’s the thing… no actor had been cast for the 3rd Doctor, yet, so they didn’t show Troughton’s Doctor regenerate into Jon Pertwee’s Doctor. We didn’t see Pertwee stumble out of the TARDIS until the first episode of the 7th season, Spearhead From Space. Now, yes, he was wearing what ostensibly were Troughton’s Doctor’s clothes, but otherwise, we didn’t see it.
So there’s a gray area there. You see, since Moffat inserted John Hurt’s War Doctor between Paul McGann and Christopher Eccleston, we’ve seen every regeneration on screen directly, accept for that one.
Over the years, this has led to a hypothetical idea called “Season 6B”.
The history of this hypothetical season is built on a few admittedly flimsy clues and questions:
1) Polystyle Publications was, at the time, publishing officially license Doctor Who comics. Between Hartnell and Troughton was easy enough because they showed the regeneration directly, and because there was only a week between the regeneration scene and Troughton’s first episode as the Doctor. However, as I said, the regeneration from Troughton to Pertwee was not shown on screen, and there was a six month gap between Troughton’s last episode and Pertwee’s first episode.
Polystyle Publications, then continued publishing comics featuring Troughton’s Doctor, but deliberately chose to not set them before the War Games. This means that, in an officially licensed comic series, Troughton’s Doctor was going on adventures after the sentencing and before he regenerated.
But of course, pre-internet, the comics weren’t shared widely, and their connection to Doctor Who canon (if there is such a thing) remains… contested.
Each time, he looks older. Of course this is because the actor ages in real life, but if you know anything about any kind of fandom, you know that we have to find in-universe explanations.
Also, he shows up with Jamie McCrimmon in The Two Doctors, and Jamie is older, as well.
3) At the beginning of Spearhead from Space, Pertwee does indeed start out with Troughton’s clothes… and also a bunch of things Troughton did not have at the end of War Games. Where did they come from?
4) In both the Two Doctors and the Three Doctors, Troughton’s Doctor is willingly working for the Time Lords, something he refused to do throughout his main run.
5) Also in the Two Doctors, Troughton’s Doctor possesses a TARDIS recall device, something he didn’t have in his main run and something Colin Baker’s Doctor didn’t have.
6) Again in the Two Doctors, Troughton’s Doctor’s console room is noticeably different from the console room he had during his main run.
7) Jamie McCrimmon knows things in the Two Doctors that he shouldn’t… like… he shouldn’t know about the Time Lords because they wiped his memories of the Doctor in the War Games and he didn’t know about them before that… yet he does know about them in The Two Doctors… meaning the episode had to be set after the events of the War Games for Jamie.
It was Paul Cornell’s, Martin Day’s, and Keith Topping’s book “The Discontinuity Guide” that provided the answer to these and more questions that became the Season 6B Theory.
The idea was that after his sentencing, but before his forced regeneration, Troughton’s Doctor was picked up by the Celestial Intervention Agency (the Time Lord’s CIA) and forced to work for them before finally be sentenced to Earth and forcefully regenerated into Pertwee to carry out his sentence in full.
But what does any of that have to do with Martin’s Doctor?
Well… it could be that Troughton’s Doctor was fatally wounded during his work with the CIA, and he regenerated naturally into Martin’s Doctor. She discovered something so heinous about the CIA or the Time Lords that she fled to late 20th Century Earth and used the Chameleon Arch to hide herself from the Time Lords. Unfortunately, they eventually found her, wiped her memory, forced her to regenerate into Pertwee’s Doctor, then made sure that all evidence of her existence was entirely wiped, not just from the Doctor’s memory, but from all memory. How she’s running into her future self now is still a mystery, and who knows what consequences it will have for the show and for the Doctor… a past regeneration that she didn’t choose to forget, but was forced for forget and that was entirely wiped from existence now suddenly exists.
There are some downsides to this, of course…
It entirely screws up the counting of the Doctor’s regenerations, because it means, in fact, that Tennant’s second regeneration (because according to Time of the Doctor, that incident that created the Metacrisis Doctor in The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End was, in fact, a full regeneration) was, technically, the Doctor’s final regeneration, not Smith. So this would mean that he should have died in The End of Time, not regenerated into Matt Smith’s Doctor.
Of course, that one’s easily taken care of by saying that part of wiping the Martin Doctor from existence was also returning that regeneration cycle to the Doctor, thus keeping Time of the Doctor numbering intact.
Another downside, though, is that Martin’s Doctor doesn’t recognize the sonic screwdriver.
Except that she doesn’t actually say she doesn’t know what it is. She dismisses it as being too smart to need one. Whittaker’s Doctor assumes she doesn’t recognize it… but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t.
The final downside is explaining this to a general audience in an hour-long episode in a way that isn’t too convoluted and leaves them confused. How do you explain how Martin’s Doctor wasn’t just forgotten, but was straight up wiped from existence, including giving the Doctor back that regeneration, and yet now she’s here?
That one doesn’t have such an easy answer, and it’s so convoluted and relies so much on deep Doctor Who lore that I don’t think even Moffat would have gone there.
And yet the next theory is somehow even more convoluted…
I’ll quote from the TARDIS database for this…
The overall plan for Cartmel was to reveal that the Doctor was some form of a reincarnation of the Other, a mysterious figure from Gallifrey’s past who helped form the Time Lords’ society and perfect the time travel technology of the Time Lords.
Cartmel did indeed try to work this into the series, but he never had a chance due to the cancellation of the series at the time.
So how does that relate to Martin’s Doctor?
Well, first off, every appearance of Rassilon has him appearing as a bad guy… someone who is desperate for power and glory. So… the idea is that Rassilon, in his desire for power and glory, betrayed Omega and the Other. He exiled Omega to a pocket universe, and his fate is explored in the serial The Three Doctors.
As for The Other… well… he destroyed the Other by forcing them to continually relive their lives. After a certain amount of regenerations, they would die and start over at the beginning. The Other, as noted above, is the Doctor.
Or… in The Three Doctors, Omega’s fate is actually noted to be a result of his work of creating the supernova that powers Time Lord civilization. The multiple lives could be the Other’s fate, as the Other could be the one who figured out regeneration, but as a result, was doomed to be reborn after so much time… a sort of forced immortality. (Although that would contradict the theories that it was Rassilon who figured out regeneration, so…)
This would make Martin’s Doctor pre-Hartnell, but without changing Hartnell as the 1st Doctor… of this current timeline. The Other/Doctor would still have a police box because they would end up on the same general trajectory, even with different regenerative forms.
This one, however, has several problems…
The first is… well… what about the Last Great Time War? Does it always happen, or was this something new? Had the Doctor stumbled onto the Daleks in these previous lives or not? If this is the case, and Hartnell’s Doctor didn’t remember the life that included Martin’s Doctor, why did Peter Capaldi’s Doctor remember being Matt Smith’s Doctor and all the ones before?
Remember, Capaldi was not the 13th Doctor. He was the first. In order to regenerate, the Time Lords had to give Smith’s Doctor a whole new regeneration cycle, which is, basically, a whole new life. The reason for this is because what happened to Tennant’s Doctor in The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End was indeed a regeneration… Tennant’s Doctor regenerated into himself. That alone made Smith’s Doctor the 12th incarnation. Then the 50th Anniversary special introduced the War Doctor, played by John Hurt, who came between Paul McGann and Christopher Eccleston. This made the regeneration from David Tennant to Matt Smith the Doctor’s last regeneration. Had the Time Lords not interfered in Time of the Doctor, the Doctor would have truly died.
That does indeed make Capaldi the first Doctor, and Whittaker the second Doctor. And yet both continue on the same lifeline as Hartnell through Smith. Had this happened to the Other/Doctor before? Does this always happen to them? Or is this a fluke in the timeline… a massive change?
Second, this does contradict canon going all the way back to The Three Doctors where Hartnell’s Doctor is indeed referred to as “the earliest one”. In other words, the TV show goes out of its way to show that Hartnell’s Doctor was the original… pre-regenerations.
Or did it? That is a hotly contested point in Doctor Who fandom. Some think it did, and it is what Philip Hinchcliffe, who was producer of the series at the time, intended, but many think those were either previous incarnations of Morbius (although that doesn’t quite fit with the episode unless Morbius confused his previous incarnations with the Doctor’s for some strange reason) or a complete fake-out by the Doctor used to beat Morbius at his own game.
So it either does or does not contradict the show depending on how you view it.
Third, Martin’s Doctor’s TARDIS is stuck as a blue police box. Yet we know, according to the show, that it didn’t disguise itself as a blue police box until the Doctor and his granddaughter Susan landed in Totter’s Lane in the 60s. So why does a pre-Hartnell incarnation’s TARDIS appear as a blue police box?
And finally, this is perhaps even more convoluted than the Season 6B theory, at least to the general audience.
Both of these theories (6B and Master Plan) involve deep Doctor Who lore that the average fan simply wouldn’t be aware of, and explaining it is rather outside the scope of a one-hour episode of Doctor Who. Unless the goal is to explain either one over the next five episodes of the current season, I don’t see how either can be pulled off in a way that doesn’t confuse the general audience.
To further confuse things is what happened in this season’s opening two-parter Spyfall (parts 1 & 2). The Master (who has returned) destroyed Gallifrey because he discovered a secret about the Time Lords, him, and the Doctor that ruined everything. It was a horrible secret, one so bad that it seemed to the Master that Time Lord society deserved to be utterly destroyed over it. It has something to do with “The Timeless Child”, which was first mentioned in the 2nd episode of season 11 (Whittaker’s first season), but then not mentioned again until Spyfall, when the Master mentions it. And what does the Lone Cyberman have to do with any of it?
Is all that connected to the existence of Martin’s Doctor? Is there a connection?
Of course there must be… but what?
Honestly, this might be the biggest shake-up of Doctor Who lore… ever.
To be fair, Doctor Who doesn’t really have a “canon” as such. Of course this is in part because the show is fundamentally a time travel show, so literally everything is canon. If it’s DW-adjacent in any way, then it is canon… including the parodies and the Dr. Who and the Daleks films that featured Peter Cushing playing a human known as Dr. Who who discovers time travel.
Or perhaps that’s not the case… perhaps there is a canon, and it’s just the main TV show and the 90’s TV film. But even that involves a ton of ridiculous contradictions (The Brain of Morbius, for example… and the TV film claiming that the Doctor is half human… which is not even hinted at before and is straight up ignored after).
I’m personally conflicted. One the one hand, I’m really worried. I simply can’t see how Martin’s Doctor fits outside of a parallel universe. Both Season 6B and the Cartmel Master Plan are fascinating, but are far to messy and convoluted to work. Yet Chibnall did say that Martin’s Doctor is not from a parallel universe.
On the other hand, I’m excited. I honestly cannot wait to see how this is resolved and I wish I had a time machine to jump forward to this coming Sunday and the Sundays after to see each following episode to the finale, and then the Special… and then jump forward again to the next season to see the consequences of all this play out.
I’m worried, but dammit I’m hooked. So either way, Chibnall’s done a damn good job, here… at least at piquing my interest and making me ecstatic for the rest of this season.
What do you think? Do you have any theories about Martin’s Doctor? Where is she on the Doctor’s timeline, especially if she can’t be from the Doctor’s future?