Don’t stand so close to me

Spoilers for “73 Yards” follow.

Russell T. Davies admits that his writing eschews narrative formalism in favor of what simply feels right. Twenty years ago, his critics pointed to his use of deus ex machina endings as a cudgel with which to batter his reputation. But we are in a different era now, where vibes just as important as logic—both within the show’s new, more fantastical bent and in the real world. “73 Yards” the most alive new episode Doctor Who so far though I he even found it easy to sit back and enjoy what he was doing.

Doctor Who is a difficult show to make and some series have started production on the 1st day of the week or more behind schedule. To combat this, the show began creating “-lite” episodes that didn’t require the presence of hosts. There are “Doctor-lite” episodes like “Love and Monsters” and “Blink” and even “companion-lite” episodes like “Midnight”. This production process allows the star or stars to sit out of the filming of Episode A so that the guest cast takes center stage in Episode B.

Production on the new series began while star Ncuti Gatwa was still wrapping up her tenure at Netflix. Sex Education. So while he appears in the opening and closing moments of “73 Yards,” he was otherwise absent as the Doctor was erased from history. It gives us a chance to see what a modern-day companion would do if stranded in an uncertain area without an alien ally. The episode takes tricky turns from folk and village horror to kitchen drama before settling into a lighthearted homage. Taxi driver. Suffice it to say, this is another episode you won’t be watching with small children.

A picture of the Doctor and Ruby near the fairy ringA picture of the Doctor and Ruby near the fairy ring

Bad Wolf / BBC Studios

The TARDIS lands on a cliff in Wales, which the Doctor points out is another last place where magic is allowed to enter. He even mentions the war between “land and sea” and name-checks it. rumored spin-off fans discovered after checking the production documents. The Doctor talks about what a great country Wales is, except for Roger ap Gwillam, a Welsh politician who will lead Britain to the brink of nuclear weapons twenty years from now. He then enters the fairy ring, disrupting her web, and disappears as Ruby reads the paper notes attached to her. The notes mention Mad Jack, a fearsome figure who sounds like a villain from folklore.

Suddenly, Ruby is alone on a cliff, but now sees the blurry figure of an old woman waving at her in the distance. Ruby tries to get closer to him, but no matter where he goes, the figure stays the same distance (the titular 73 yards). Believing that the doctor is dreaming of him, he tries to solve the difficulty of this figure on his own. Ruby approaches a traveler (Susan Twist) and tries to find out where she’s seen him before (every episode so far), but can’t quite put her finger on it. He asks the hiker if he wants to talk to the old woman following him, but when the hitchhiker gets there, what he says is so terrifying that he runs away from the scene in terror.

Ruby goes to a pub in a nearby town, where the locals mock her – taking her hesitation as meanness. He asks one of the patrons to go talk to the woman, and when she does, the same thing happens. Ruby returns home and asks her mom to try, this time holding the phone so Ruby can hear what she has to say. But the phone call went haywire, and her mother was equally horrified by what she heard – soon locking Ruby out of her house. Kate Lethbridge-Stewart and UNIT are there to offer help until they encounter the woman, when they all abandon her.

Image of a shadowy figure.Image of a shadowy figure.

Bad Wolf / BBC Studios

The old woman stays 73 yards away from Ruby’s location at all times, unnoticed by anyone until Ruby focuses on her. He can’t get a picture of the woman’s face—it’s blurry—and he can’t get close enough to hear her ominous warning. In fact, there are many unknowns that are never resolved even by the end of the episode.

Ruby is strangely resilient and tries to build a new life for herself after moving beyond abandonment. He treats his stalker like a friend, wishing him well as he edits the next chapter of Ruby’s life. He gets a job, moves into his own apartment, and goes through a series of breakups as he slowly moves into his 30s, then 40s. Then on the TV, he sees Roger ap Gwillam on TV, who even mentions Mad Jack and remembers both the Doctor’s warning and the messages on the fairy ring. It doesn’t take long to be convinced that Ruby’s purpose in life is to save the world and prevent Gwillam’s nuclear disaster.

He volunteers for Gwillam’s fascist political party and eventually reaches a position near the top. Gwillam’s rise is swift and before long he promises to leave NATO and put his itchy trigger finger on Britain’s nuclear arsenal ready to go to war with the rest of the world. Gwillam’s swearing-in ceremony will take place at Cardiff City Stadium, while Ruby follows the politician hiding in the crowd.

Gwillam's photoGwillam's photo

Bad Wolf / BBC Studios

Ruby then starts to approach Gwillam through the restricted area in the stadium and you wait for him to pull out his gun. But instead, he pulls out his phone and begins measuring the distance between him and Roger until he reaches 73 yards. When he does, he makes a naughty gesture to get her attention, and when she sees him, she hears his terrible words. This shock is enough to get Gwillam out of the stadium, resign as prime minister, and prevent nuclear weapons.

But while Ruby hopes that’s the end of it, the figure stays with her for the rest of her life. Only on his deathbed does he realize that he can travel back in time, acting as a warning to the doctor not to enter the fairytale ring. It does so, preventing the crash in the first place and paradoxically undoing the entire time stream in the process. History continues on its merry way and all is well… for now. But given the risks of paradoxes Doctor Whoand the general sense that history has been resolved may not bode well for the future.

Millie Gibson and the TARDISMillie Gibson and the TARDIS

Bad Wolf / BBC Studios

73 Yards is an exercise in putting your character in an enemy world and seeing what they will do to fight back. This is an episode that doesn’t feel like much is happening at the time it’s written, because so much of its runtime is the discovery of Ruby as a character. Doctor Who thrives when the role of companion is taken by someone who wants to grab a handful of stories for themselves. And Ruby Sunday seems almost perfect in her ability to make sense of what she’s going through and work within it.

As much as you can draw narrative and thematic parallels between the new series and Davies’ original stint, this episode draws from Turn Left. Both explain what happened to the companion when the Doctor walked away from the story and what they did to right that wrong. Unsurprisingly, both are days away from Britain falling to fascism without the Doctor’s intervention.

Ruby’s humanity shines through so much that she tries to treat her tormentor with care. He refuses to fly or travel by boat in order not to endanger the life of the ghost that follows him, despite the damage to his life. When she sees Roger ap Gwillam on TV, she becomes convinced that it is her destiny to stop the nuclear weapon the Doctor warned her about. It’s another useful theme – the idea that Ruby has an instinctive grasp of the genre she’s in – as in Space Babies.

As for the ending, it’s probably best to talk about these “vibes” or slightly skewed associations in the logic of the show. At the end of her life, Ruby realizes that she can travel through time or somehow project herself to prevent the Doctor from falling. There’s nothing in the episode that hints at this, no indication that the ghostly figure is Ruby or that it has anything to do with snow or anything. But maybe the trick with an episode like this is just to ease yourself in and enjoy seeing the character development.

Susan Twist Corner

Obviously, Susan Twist plays the traveler that Ruby first encounters after the Doctor disappears, and Ruby feels the familiarity for the first time. In the materials sent by Disney, the character of Susan Twist is called the “mystery woman”.

And on the subject of twists, you’ll recall at the end of “The Church on Ruby Road” that Mrs. Flood (Anita Dobson) breaks the fourth wall in the post-credits. An annoying neighbor character who lives next to Ruby’s mother’s house turns to the camera and asks, “Haven’t we ever seen a TARDIS before?” (Given how surprised she was to see this earlier in the episode, it’s clear that her history may have been changed during the show.) When Ruby returns to her mother’s house, Anita Dobson’s Mrs. Flood is sitting on her steps with a chaise longue. out. Interestingly, when he sees the ghostly figure – and Ruby and her mother’s attempts to deal with it – he declares that it has “nothing to do with me” and goes inside. This again feels like a sign that Mrs. Flood and the mystery woman are apart

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