Doctor Who: 73 Yards
May 26, 2024 8:45 AM - Season 1, Episode 4 - Subscribe

In which a visit to Wales goes awry.

Written by former Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies.

Behind the Scenes
posted by mrjohnmuller (44 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Apologies if anyone else was preparing a post for this ep, but I'm just eager to talk about it! Absolutely loved this one. Really strong episode.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 8:48 AM on May 26 [2 favorites]

Kind of a bummer. Let's have a companion live their entire life and then in the end it doesn't matter at all. What was she saying? Is the next person to disturb the fairy ring going to set off this curse? Why the same hand gestures? Why (as a companion) didn't she wonder if the old woman was hand gesturing to her?

But the scene in the pub was an absolute classic. A great episode yes, in that it was more ghost story than monsters on a space station.
posted by Catblack at 10:00 AM on May 26 [5 favorites]

Siân Phillips.
posted by sonascope at 11:03 AM on May 26 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I did feel there was a lack of payoff re: the gestures. It would have been cool perhaps if they had written in a way for her to be doing those moves at her moment of death, to complete the loop.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 11:19 AM on May 26

This episode baffled me. Why did everybody react that way ? How did she follow so quickly ?
posted by Pendragon at 12:54 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]

I'm all over the place on this one. For the most part* it was a really great episode. But I am hoping there is some sort of payoff when the overall Ruby mystery is resolved. I get that this season is trying to lean more into magic than strict sci-fi. But if you are going to do that then you should go more in that direction. Having it play out like a mystery only to not reveal anything at the end is disappointing.

* - The subplot with Marti felt gross and unnecessary. They had to set that up to make sure we knew the fascist war monger wasn't a good guy?
posted by Gary at 12:59 PM on May 26 [2 favorites]

This episode, like most of this season, felt like a mess. Why the hand gestures? Why did people run screaming from her if they interacted with DeathsDoorClara? What happened to the Doctor? Why was the TARDIS hard locked? Why didn't UNIT go and move the TARDIS once they knew where it was (we know they collect it whenever they find it)?

At least there was noone badly pretending to play a musical instrument in this one.
posted by coriolisdave at 4:31 PM on May 26 [2 favorites]

This got really dark and I really didn’t think the episode really had any payoff worth that severe level of dark. And too much plot resting on unexplained magic.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:10 PM on May 26 [3 favorites]

DeathsDoorRuby, you mean.

It is always lovely to see Siân Phillips, and individual fragments of the episode were very well done. But people freaking out at the old woman and running away from Ruby were far too core a conceit to just be dismissed with “and then the time loop closed”. That doesn’t explain *anything*!

Yes, if it was going to drive off the evil prime minister elect it had to be something powerful, but anything that could drive off Ruby’s mom, never mind Kate L-S, needs more explanation IMO.
posted by clauclauclaudia at 5:27 PM on May 26 [4 favorites]

I loved this so much. This worked for me on an emotional level, but also on a fairy circle getting broken by the Doctor stepping on something he shouldn't level as well. What's the strict logic of it? I'm not sure, but it played with a lot of horror movie tropes and nobody asks why Jason keeps coming back. If the figure was Ruby all along, how could she just be 73 yards away from her all the time?

Well, I guess that might come down to Ruby's origin story, which currently remains a mystery? There are several arc stories threading their way through this season, so why can't this be just a next piece in the Ruby puzzle?

Narratively it does some interesting things - Ruby eventually realises she used to make it snow, when young Ruby doesn't think it's her yet. She also encounters the hiker and recognises her from somewhere - but Ruby doesn't have all the information we as viewers have had. (The actress playing the hiker has been in every episode this season and one of the Tennant specials playing different characters. I didn't notice until someone pointed it out to me. For viewers who aren't online and searching for clues, this was a nod to something happening.) Yes, Ruby won't remember this information, but it's important for the viewers to be clued in at this half way point of the season.

The episode from Season 4 with Donna, "Turn Left" also gave the viewers information that we didn't have before but is basically a story Donna doesn't remember happening because it's an alternate timeline. One of the best of the show. And 73 Yards is even better.

The nightmare of everyone turning from you is just chilling and trudging through life without knowing what to do about this trauma is excrutiating.

But, in the end, as a ghost story, it totally worked for me. RTD has said he wanted to lean more into the supernatural and it was part of the text of this episode, as voiced by Kate from UNIT.

Also, this was the first episode Millie shot as Ruby because Ncuti was still making Sex Education at the time. Yes, even before the Xmas special! Incredible performance for her first episode on the show.
posted by crossoverman at 5:29 PM on May 26 [8 favorites]

They had to set that up to make sure we knew the fascist war monger wasn't a good guy?

Given all the current fascists rising to power in the real world, maybe yes?
posted by crossoverman at 5:35 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]

DeathsDoorRuby, you mean.

posted by coriolisdave at 7:51 PM on May 26 [4 favorites]

I liked this. Pretty creepy. I'm scared of Wales.
posted by jordemort at 8:53 PM on May 26 [2 favorites]

I'm scared of Wales.

As an Australian, I found it particularly fascinating how completely Wales failed to look anything like the middle part of Eastern Australia.
posted by coriolisdave at 9:42 PM on May 26 [3 favorites]

The hand gestures are sign language, and purposefully garbled at that:

The Woman: (signing) Bless you. Thank you so much, that's so kind of you. When you gave me that little thing, it was just so precious. How am I ever going to repay you? But we will think of something.
posted by Servo5678 at 10:06 AM on May 27 [7 favorites]

So! There's a lot of this I think is really astonishing, so much so that it would seem brutish and dull to accuse the episode of faceplanting into nonsense at the end, which of course it does, but...well...pretty much every episode of this season has done that, and I'm forced to conclude this show just doesn't do endings well. Who expects perfection? I'd rather watch a show that sometimes hits on all cylinders like this does at its best than one that's just sort of ploddingly, consistently okay all the time.

I thought Kate's description of the liminal spaces where the rules as we understand them don't apply (or words to that effect) was interesting. The world under the control of the The Toymaker was.explicitly that; The Doctor bigenerated (and created a new Tardis) because "the rules of play" (I think?) were in effect. Has the world fundamentally changed after The Toymaker? Kate mentioned "and increasingly, the supenatural," which could be explained as a lasting sort of Play influence on the world (if one were inclined to provide an explanation for one's ostensibly science fiction series leaning more heavily into pure fantasy).

Pure coincidence, of course, but bespectscled Ruby reminded me a great deal of Stormy Daniels at the Trump trial, similarly opposing a conservative demagogue. Ruby also looked great for 40, presumably because in the future medicine keeps us looking like 20-somethings for decades. Keep that in mind as your awful politicians try to take away your NHS, British people!!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:09 PM on May 27 [3 favorites]

I really wanted to like this one, but there were just too many silly plot holes. Why 73 yards? What the heck was she saying to people? What made her own mother disown her? Where did The Doctor vanish to?
posted by maryellenreads at 5:43 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]

My thinking is that The Doctor and Ruby are both being punished for disrupting the circle. The Doctor broke it, so he gets straight up sent to the cornfield, but Ruby disrespected it further by reading two of the scrolls; "I miss you", and "RIP Mad Jack".

If reading the Mad Jack scroll was enough to unleash ap Gwilliam upon the world, then maybe reading the "I miss you" scroll cursed Ruby to drive people away.

Eventually, Ruby figured out how to use one curse to solve the other, but she was still required to live out the entire lifetime before being given a chance to undo the mistake and reset the timeline.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 6:17 PM on May 27 [7 favorites]

People are definitely saying plot holes when they really want the irrational rationalized. Kate even says something about this - we see the inexplicable and we make up rules to make it make sense. The episode wants you to put things together without giving you definitive answers. I know this sounds like a cop out, but it is the episode telling you how to watch it.

I dunno. Maybe being a fan of Twin Peaks, I've come to be okay with no rational explanations for things. But with both that show and this episode, it feels emotionally true. It's saying something about the human condition without suggesting everything we are is explainable.

I am much more annoyed by the Beatles defeating the Maestro with a C major than I am with a time loop episode that can be rationalized with the fairy circle.
posted by crossoverman at 4:38 AM on May 28 [11 favorites]

It sounds like a cop out because it is a cop out. They should have called this episode Doctor Who: Fridge Logic.
posted by Pendragon at 5:30 AM on May 28 [1 favorite]

I thought this was excellent - not just the best of the season but probably the best episode since 2015's Heaven Sent. It clearly follows magical logic rather than scientific logic, which appears to bother some people, but I was totally ok with it, given the fairy circle and general creepiness.

The hand gestures are repetition of the lines that Old Ruby speaks when she first appears on the cliff. Here's a description from a Den of Geek summary:
The Woman speaks: “I’m sorry I took so long, and I tried so hard. What else could I do? It took all these years, All these long years, and look at me, I was so young.”

Revisit the series of gestures that The Woman has been cycling through over the decades, and you could match them to those words. The Woman reaches out her hands (“I’m sorry I took so long, and I tried so hard”), she shrugs (“what else could I do?”), she rubs her palm (“It took all these years, all these long years”), puts her hand on her heart (“look at me”), clasps her hands together and shakes her head (“I was so young”).
As for everyone running away when they talk to The Woman, the idea appears to be that Ruby is being punished with total isolation. Alternatively, in order to stop Gwilliam and close the time loop, Ruby had to be isolated for her life to play out the way it did.

I'm a little fuzzy on what happens with Gwilliam now that the time loop is broken and Ruby (presumably) will not be working on his campaign. But it's not the kind of story that has clear answers. (Davies has explicitly said that he will not reveal what the Woman said to people to make them run away.)

For me, it's most similar in tone to the 12th Doctor episode "Listen", which was more a meditation on the nature of ghost stories than an actual plot (notwithstanding the ridiculous retcon of Clara soothing the Doctor as a child).
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 10:12 AM on May 28 [9 favorites]

I am much more annoyed by the Beatles defeating the Maestro with a C major than I am with a time loop episode that can be rationalized with the fairy circle.

Agreed. The Beatles episode gets stupider and stupider the more I think about it. If Jinkx Monsoon stole all the good music from the world, why are the Beatles still going to a studio and recording crappy music?
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 10:14 AM on May 28 [1 favorite]

dunno. Maybe being a fan of Twin Peaks, I've come to be okay with no rational explanations for things. But with both that show and this episode, it feels emotionally true. It's saying something about the human condition without suggesting everything we are is explainable.

I think it comes down to genre expectations, for better or worse. If this were an episode of The X-Files or Buffy, you could be all, "Well, that was weird. I don't really get it, but a wizard did it, I guess! It's ineffable," and you go on with your day.

But when it's a science fiction show, you expect explanations that make sense. Frankly, for me, I am -- off topic -- really impatient with the current vogue in horror films for endings that kind of devolve into "Lynchian surrealism," which to me feels a lot like just not knowing how to end your fucking movie. David Lynch can mostly can get away with this because he's David Lynch, but even that is a chancey proposition (I refer you to contemporaneous reviews of Lost Highway, a film with an ending that has way fewer holes in it than "73 Yards").
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:43 AM on May 28 [1 favorite]

Why 73 yards?

I’ve not seen a definitive answer to this anywhere, but it’s within rounding distance of 66.6 meters. 66.6m is about 72.84 yards which, if you’re trying to come up with a spooky number without being too obvious, works in a pinch.
posted by nathan_teske at 12:38 PM on May 28 [2 favorites]

I thought the scene in the pub was well acted and I liked the atmospheric shifts.

As for the bits that don't make sense, maybe they're going to pull an explanation out of their butts in a later episode?

(If the distant woman is future-Ruby, why are the people to whom she speaks so horribly frightened? And why do they then abandon present-Ruby? We get that Ruby's deepest and oldest fear is abandonment. But why does speaking to future-Ruby trigger it?)

This is starting to feel like the declining days of the first Davies era, when his method was "Throw a bunch of shiny things at the screen and run away." ...But, at least the things are shiny.
posted by Pallas Athena at 1:47 PM on May 28 [1 favorite]

Why 73 yards?

In the "Unleashed" episode about the show, RTD says he went to Swansea Pier and measured out the distance where someone was "a blur but not a blur" or "there but not there," something like that. He could measure it out to 73 yards by counting the posts that are 3.5 feet apart.

So, Ruby opens the first note and reads, "I miss you" which I presume unleashes the spell/curse that causes everyone to abandon her, including the Doctor. The old woman version of Ruby scares off everyone who talks to her b/c of whatever she says to them -- and RTD has said, “You will never know. I’m never gonna tell you what she says. It’s kind of up to you to sit there and think, 'Well, what could someone say that would make a mother run away from her daughter forever?' ... You could look at yourself and think, 'What would make me do that?' And once you start to do that, you enter the real horror story. The dreadful things that are being said there, terrible things.” Presumably the Doctor just disappears from reality because nothing that she could say to him would make him abandon Ruby.

At first I was a bit torn by RTD's comments about whatever she's saying, because, OK, fair point, imagine something so horrible that it would make you abandon your child, abandon someone in need, etc. But then it seems odd that everyone reacts in exactly the same way by running in terror immediately. That's a very specific reaction, and I think that, say, a mother abandoning her (admittedly adopted) daughter would do so in a different way than a rando Welsh dude who just met her, you know? Like, they'd physically do different things; just booking it makes it appear that they fear some very definedimmediate danger. I don't know, it feels like the Lovecraftian cop-out of "The Thing So Terrible It Could Not Be Described So Don't Ask Just Take My Word For It."

The second spell/curse "Rest in Peace, Mad Jack" presumably bound Ruby to make Mad Jack literally Rest in Peace, and, as mrjohnmuller argues, Ruby found a way to make one curse fix the other.
Regarding what happens to ap Gwilliam: just before he disappeared, the Doctor said that Gwilliam had taken the world to the "brink" of nuclear (destruction? war? holocaust? something like that, one would think?). But in the "alternate timeline" created by breaking the fairy circle, Ruby prevents him from bringing the world to the brink of nuclear (blank), because he resigns before he can really do anything warlike. No one at the time seems to think him getting the codes to the new arsenal will result in actual conflict or that there is any danger of that. But when she closes the loop, once more the Doctor says "brink," so it seems that without Ruby's intervention, Roger ap Gwilliam has a longer tenure as Prime Minister and is able to do some really terrible stuff. I wonder perhaps if that is going to be the nature of the larger challenge that Ruby ends up facing as her story develops: having to sacrifice personal connections in order to prevent some catastrophe.

I'm actually fine with a lot of this episode, except for Ruby quantum-leaping out of her deathbed to the hillside overlooking the TARDIS. A more thematically appropriate resolution would have had her make a dying visit to the hillside and mend the fairy circle, then merge into the past-timeline and close the loop. That's my idea, anyway.

So there's the actress who plays the hiker (Susan Twist). who has appeared (and will appear) in several episodes in this series as different characters. We also see the return of Anita Dobson as Ruby's fourth-wall breaking neighbor Mrs. Flood, who when she sees Ruby & Carla investigating the mysterious woman in the street, says something to the effect of "It's nothing to do with me!" and goes back inside. Also, I should point out that Old Ruby and The Woman are played by different actresses: Amanda Walker & Hilary Hobson, respectively. Not saying I know what it all means...

This is starting to feel like the declining days of the first Davies era

I don't want to add to your sense of dread, but:

On the shape of the series, Davies says that while "every episode stands on its own" there will be a "running theme and running story that’s going to build and build and build to 'The Most Devastating Finale'."

"Literally, the biggest finale ever," Davies proclaims. "There’s some shots of that in the trailers coming up. Oh my god, you’re gonna die."
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:06 PM on May 28 [5 favorites]

Oh also: No opening theme song / credits
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:37 PM on May 28 [1 favorite]

But when it's a science fiction show, you expect explanations that make sense.

I guess it depends whether you really think Doctor Who is science fiction, when the Doctor runs around with a magic wand and hardly ever solves things by science. There have been werewolves and sexy fish vampires in this show, for heaven's sake. Like the TARDIS is a science fiction conceit to take you to Robin Hood world or cat nun planet or Space Britain. The Devil's Chord wasn't science fiction. The Church on Ruby Road had goblins in it, though the problem was solved with time travel.

I just feel like every episode in this show for at least the modern era works on its own logic. Like short stories in a compendium.

I imagine if there was a time loop in The West Wing I'd get annoyed, but you know, CJ once stood an egg on its end during the equinox and the whole world didn't fall apart.
posted by crossoverman at 9:32 PM on May 28 [6 favorites]

Oh also: No opening theme song / credits

This was a great choice because you wouldn't want to break into this episode with the theme, but also it means there was no DOCTOR WHO title at the start. This was just a 45 minute story called 73 Yards about the Doctor's companion.
posted by crossoverman at 9:33 PM on May 28 [1 favorite]

There have been werewolves and sexy fish vampires in this show

.. not to mention a baby dragon hatching out of the moon! I think people still broadly file Dr Who under"science fiction" rather than "fantasy", though - which is why its magic-based episodes will always annoy some viewers.

My strongest impression of this episode was it's debt to MR James' ghost stories. The figure following Ruby feels like a direct lift from a story of his called Oh, Whistle and I'll Come to you, my Lad.

posted by Paul Slade at 1:00 AM on May 29 [2 favorites]

I'll let it go after this, but I think the big problem I have with "well, it's fantasy now" is that to me that's basically the same as "it doesn't have to make sense, just go with it." I mean...go with what? At least half the episode is Ruby trying to understand what's happening, and if ultimately there's just no there there, what we're left with is, does this story that doesn't make sense entertain us enough as a story that it's more entertaining than it is frustrating and annoying. At first, I thought so; but to be honest, the more we discuss it, the more annoying and frustrating I find it, lol.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:56 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]

ETA: I think that I'm forced to conclude that maybe the episode works with this ending, but that, to me at least, it would have been a much stronger episode with an ending that made the previous 45 minutes actually make sense.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:04 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]

What doesn't make sense?

On a trip to Wales, the Doctor inadvertently breaks a fairy ring, a powerful bit of folk magic. Ruby further desecrates the circle by reading messages not meant for her. The Doctor is punished by being winked out of existence. Ruby is punished by having to live out her existence in isolation, stuck in a time loop where she literally has to maintain distance from herself. While this may have driven others to despair, Ruby uses her particular circumstance to stop a bad man from ruining the world. She lives out her punishment, and upon reverting to the beginning of the loop, her good deed allows her to break the loop, prevent the Doctor from stepping on the circle, and going on with her life.

To me, that story makes a lot more sense than the Devil's Chord. It's fine to say "why 73 yards" or "what did she say" but I don't think the answers really matter. You might as well ask why the three ghosts visit Scrooge - they just do.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:57 AM on May 29 [8 favorites]

Some random notes:

Wild Blue Yonder: The Doctor & Donna run into Isaac Newton, who discovers his theory of mavity. His maid is Mrs. Merridew, played by Susan Twist.

Church on Ruby Road: The Doctor (an abandoned child adopted by others) meets Ruby (an abandoned child adopted by others). They battle goblins who eat babies and who use some kind of magic the Doctor calls "the language of knots" or something similar. The Doctor has gloves that counteract the force of "mavity." Mrs. Flood breaks the fourth-wall, and Susan Twist plays a woman in a headband at Ruby's concert.

Space Babies: Ruby accidentally steps on a butterfly in the distant past and is transformed into someone else. The Doctor uses a bit of spare regeneration energy to bring it back to life, restoring Ruby, then activates the "butterfly compensator" on the TARDIS. The Doctor & Ruby then encounter the titular infants, who mistake D&R for their mommy & daddy. Susan Twist plays Gina Scalzi, one of the officers seen on a recording protesting the space station's closure.

The Devil's Chord: The Doctor & Ruby face the Maestro, child of The Toymaker, and father to Henry "Harbinger" Arbinger. D&R twice walk across Abbey Road, the second time at the end it turns into a giant keyboard. Susan Twist plays the "Tea Lady" in the studio cafeteria, commenting on Margaret Lockwood's performance in The Wicked Lady. The Maestro breaks the fourth-wall at least once, looking to camera and playing the theme song; they later play a song about their father the Toymaker, "Daddy Was So Mean." The whole episode ends with the Doctor breaking the fourth-wall with a wink and the entire cast doing the song & dance number "There's Always a Twist at the End" -- which, notably, does not seem to feature the actress Susan Twist, but does show H. Arbinger still around.

Boom: The Doctor accidentally steps on a landmine and spends the entire episode trying to survive. They defeat the Villengard algorithm when an AI ghost rewrites the software to protect his daughter; probably not coincidentally, the ghost's last name is Vater, German for father, he's literally the father of a child, and if he's an ordained Anglican marine, the proper honorific for him is probably "Father" -- so he's potentially a father 3x over. Susan Twist plays the Villengard Ambulance AI.

73 Yards: As noted above: The Doctor accidentally steps on a fairy circle and disappears; Ruby is abandoned by her mother. Susan Twist plays the hiker who first approaches the Woman and then runs fearfully from Ruby (Ruby initially asks the hiker if they've met before). The fourth-wall breaking Mrs. Flood asks Ruby about talking on the phone to her mother on the street, then leaves, saying "It's nothing to do with me." Kate Stewart tells Ruby that "this timeline may be suspended along your event" when they discuss the Doctor's unexplained absence.

So, some motifs: Babies, Absent/Dead/Adoptive Parents, Abandonment, Stepping on Things, Knots/Rope/Magic Things, Breaking the Fourth Wall, and Susan Twist. "Mavity" seems to have been a thing only up to Church on Ruby Road, explicitly at least; I haven't noticed any references to it since then, and I was checking the console read-outs during Space Babies to see if there was any mention of "mavity" or "mavitational pull," but I didn't spot anything.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:11 PM on May 29 [6 favorites]

Oh and how could I forget that we've had musical numbers in
The Giggle
The Church on Ruby Road
and The Devil's Chord,
plus the Doctor sings to calm his nerves in Boom.

I think that's more musical numbers than in the previous totality of Doctor Who.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:15 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]

Thank you, Ben Trismegistus. That's how I read it but haven't been able to articulate it so concisely.

I haven't noticed any references to it since then, and I was checking the console read-outs during Space Babies to see if there was any mention of "mavity" or "mavitational pull," but I didn't spot anything.

It is there, as noted in the Tardis Wiki:

The telepathic circuits translated a word in the language used by Baby Station Beta into "Mavity" for Ruby. (TV: Space Babies)
posted by crossoverman at 9:58 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]

It's fine to say "why 73 yards" or "what did she say" but I don't think the answers really matter.

I'm trying to figure out why the 73 yards thing doesn't bother me at all, but knowing the woman was future-Ruby and having no explanation for what she said bothers me a lot. One came across as spooky atmosphere and the other was a mystery to be solved. I think I just want a little more sci-fi in my Doctor Who and this episode came really close. Where as the episodes that start the "Is Doctor Who a Panto?" discussion are so far off the mark I don't bother thinking about them.
posted by Gary at 11:23 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]

I don't have a problem with Doctor Who being a fantasy, I think where my issue lies is that I want the story to be complete (and, bonus points, make some sort of sense).

As written, this episode just isn't complete. I don't expect every single plot thread to be tied up neatly, but core factors need to be resolved. And, for me, this episode doesn't do that.
posted by coriolisdave at 3:58 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]

Relating to the list of reoccuring themes above:

The whole episode ends with the Doctor breaking the fourth-wall with a wink

The Doctor also breaks the fourth wall earlier in The Devil's Chord. When Ruby is taken from the studio he says 'I thought that music was non-diegetic' before running after her.
posted by Laura_J at 7:47 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]

Re: 73 yards, I saw a comment elsewhere that it just happened to be the distance that the Woman was when Ruby first saw her. Old Ruby, in bed, was projecting herself into the scene as she remembered it. That distance was then forever maintained because the important thing was to make sure she noticed the woman enough to trigger a reaction and get Ruby to stop the Dr from breaking the circle.
posted by freya_lamb at 3:04 PM on June 3

To cite the above I think it came from the fascinating comment thread under the review at Eruditorium
posted by freya_lamb at 3:11 PM on June 3

I thought it made sense on its own terms, more or less. The ending almost worked for me, but not quite. Some reason why she was able to "go back" and stop the Doctor treading on the circle would have gone a long way, beyond I suppose the easy one, namely that perhaps she was dying and the spell was finished with her.

It was still an extremely strong episode, and in my estimation the best the show has been in a long, long while.
posted by BungaDunga at 9:05 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]

It occurs to me that this is sort of the perfect punishment to devise for a companion of the Doctor. She lives what I imagine is the worst fear of an ex-Companion: that she has been too touched by the Unnatural and will be rejected, or unconsciously reject, all mere mortals. She's denied her family, and then denied the fellowship of UNIT and its connections with other ex-Companions and the Alien and Uncanny, and then we see that she can't connect properly with new relationships, either, people who don't even need to be uncannily whispered at to be put off.

And all at the hands of literal magic that she never understands and never could.

Even when she finds a way to use it, nothing changes: she's still stuck with it. No shortcuts or proper victories. ap Gwilliam gets his hands on the nuclear codes in the "real" timeline anyway, so this wasn't about saving the world, after all. No way out but to live through that entire lifetime.
posted by BungaDunga at 9:37 PM on June 3 [4 favorites]

I really liked this. I am loving this season. My absolutely favourite thing about Dr Who is that it can and should be lots of different things, lots of different stories. Sure, there are stories that need the explanation at the end, but this is not one of them.

This is a story about how Ruby deals with a curse from which there is no escaping, and in so reveals her character. She lives with dignity, and acceptance, even using the curse to make the world better. Maybe at the end nothing has changed, but we have. We have learnt a lot about who Ruby is, and that will tell us things going forwards
posted by Cannon Fodder at 10:25 AM on June 6 [7 favorites]

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