3.5 out of 5 stars

After seven episodes, including the Christmas special, it’s time for answers about who abandoned Ruby (Millie Gibson) as a baby in 2004, and why the same woman (played by actress Susan Twist) has been appearing in every adventure The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) has been on since meeting her. Unfortunately, “The Legend of Ruby Sunday” didn’t make a strong case that Russell T. Davies has a watertight explanation for everything, as a lot hinged on silly anagrams and a red herring.

The Doctor finally seeks help from UNIT to explain why the same woman has been appearing everywhere he goes. They reveal she also exists in the present day as tech mogul Susan Triad—or “S. Triad”, an anagram of “TARDIS”—who is about to launch her world-changing technology to the world by addressing the United Nations. Could she also be The Doctor’s granddaughter, Susan, given their shared first name? Perhaps, but it’s a long shot. The Doctor certainly thinks so, though I struggle to understand why a human relative would be capable of, or motivated by, any of this.

Regardless, The Doctor is sidetracked by the other ongoing mystery of Ruby’s origins. So, he uses an advanced “Time Window” at UNIT to upgrade her CCTV videotape of the Christmas Eve she was abandoned. This turns it into an augmented reality scene they can walk around inside. It was a beautifully realised sequence, too, with all the VHS fuzziness to the images. The Doctor and Ruby witness Ruby’s cloaked mother departing the snow-covered church. But what is she pointing at, just behind The Doctor as his past self emerges during “The Church on Ruby Road” story with the Goblins? And why can’t they still see her face?

Frankly, “The Legend of Ruby Sunday” was a compelling watch moment-to-moment because we’re naturally excited and interested in uncovering this year’s two big mysteries. However, Ruby herself is mostly a reactive character to everything happening around her, not central to solving her own mystery. The episode is also so full of returning UNIT characters like Kate Lethbridge-Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) and former companion Mel Bush (Bonnie Langford) that Ruby’s screen time is limited. We even have Rose Noble (Yasmin Finney) back for the first time since “The Giggle“.

The disappointing thing about this penultimate episode is how little of it made sense in the end. Another lazy anagram reveals that the minor new character, Harriet Arbinger (“Harbinger,” get it?), is an advance party for an ancient returning evil, a.k.a. ‘The One Who Waits’, who’s been teased since the 60th-anniversary specials. The entity is revealed to be a sinister red and black cloud that encircles the TARDIS, almost like a parasite, eventually revealing itself to be… Sutekh!

This will mean nothing to you if you’re not a die-hard Whovian, unfortunately. Sutekh (a play on words of “Susan Tech”—-“Sue Tech,” get it?) is an Egyptian god that the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) defeated in the classic 1970s serial “The Pyramids of Mars.”

It seems Susan Triad herself was a red herring and innocent of any misdeeds, although it’s not explained why her appearances in The Doctor’s timeline were happening or why she was experiencing them as bizarre dreams. I’m going to assume the finale will at least explain that, but there’s not much about this episode that fills me with hope because it all felt like a frantic attempt to pull a lot of disparate plot elements together. I’m not even sure why S. Triad was an anagram of TARDIS. As it suggested her unspecified game-changing technology was going to be based on Time Lord knowledge, there was no discernible connection there at all. Presumably, Sutekh will use it to spread death around the world via mobile phones, or something like that. That’s a very Doctor Who thing to do.

Of course, it’s not entirely fair to pass judgement on “The Legend of Ruby Sunday” as some of its issues could seem less troublesome after “Empire of Death” concludes the story. It did a good job of ratcheting up the tension, with a great sense of pace and momentum throughout, and a handful of movie-quality VFX made it all go down smoothly… but the pervasive feeling is that RTD doesn’t quite know how to pull these strands together logically. It’s just a lot of waffle and nonsense, placing too much faith in anagrams as a satisfying payoff. It’s not even clear whether the Susan Triad mystery and Ruby’s biological mother are connected! And why does Mrs Flood (Anita Dobson), another harbinger I presume, keep breaking the fourth wall? Is this just a creative decision? If so, it’s been misleading.

“The Legend of Ruby Sunday” built to a rousing conclusion that evoked memories of “The Sound of Drums” or “Doomsday” in its execution, but one marred by a feeling many viewers will be left confused about who Sutekh is. It’s treated like a very big deal, but Sutekh is an esoteric enemy, not on the level of the Daleks or The Master in terms of mass recognition, which weakens the impact of the reveal and makes it a disappointment after seven episodes of build-up. And Sutekh being a large CGI jackal-like monster may prove an unwise decision, as villains you can interact with as an actor are always better.

Still, I’m interested in finding out where things go, and fingers crossed that some of my criticisms will prove to be premature quibbling…

UK | 2024 | 44 MINUTES | 16:9 HD | COLOUR | ENGLISH

frame rated divider bbc

Cast & Crew

writer: Russell T. Davies.
director: Jamie Donoughue.
starring: Ncuti Gatwa, Millie Gibson, Jemma Redgrave, Bonnie Langford, Yasmin Finney, Alexander Devrient, Lenny Rush, Genesis Lynea, Aidan Cook, Susan Twist, Michelle Greenidge, Anita Dobson, Angela Wynter & Gabriel Woolf (voice).