Doctor Who Season 1, Episode 8 – “The Legend of Ruby Sunday”

We’ve reached the penultimate chapter of Doctor Who, Season 1

We’ve reached the penultimate chapter of Doctor Who, Season 1, and the tension is palpable. I’ve got a long list of questions leading up to the finale, and “The Legend of Ruby Sunday” does a reasonable job of setting everything up. A mystery unravels at the heart of this story, with a rollercoaster of emotions leading up to a big reveal before the credits roll: Sutekh has returned.

Exploring the Return of Sutekh

The classic Who villain’s re-emergence is certainly intriguing. Sutekh first appeared in the 1975 serial “Pyramids of Mars,” a fan-favorite featuring Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor. His appearance in “The Legend of Ruby Sunday” is thrilling and marvelously showcases his menacing presence for viewers unaware of Who history. The practical makeup that turns Susan Triad’s (Susan Twist) face into a half-skull monstrosity is genuinely terrifying, and I’d love to see more of this over the Scooby-Doo-looking CGI for such an iconic villain. (It remains to be seen if the show will stick with this new look or go back to Sutekh’s old suit for the finale.) It’s also refreshing to see the show embrace its history with villains like Sutekh and the re-return of TARDIS alumnus Mel (Bonnie Langford), who shines in all her recent appearances.

The Standout Character – Mel

Among the large cast of characters in “The Legend of Ruby Sunday,” Mel stands out. She’s a powerhouse, especially when she formidably instructs The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) to pull it together, successfully rallying him at just the right time. It’s great to see The Doctor’s friends challenge him, or even be disappointed in him. He’s a morally grey character and generally works best when his actions are questionably alien more often than not. It’s a stark reminder that Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) could benefit from a few more scenes like this with The Doctor. There have been flashes of conflict between them this season, notably at the beginning of “Boom” and the end of “Rogue.” But that’s perhaps a consequence of such a short season.

Season 1 – Lightning Pace and Intriguing Narrative Threads

“The Legend of Ruby Sunday” still has all the hallmarks of why Season 1 has been so fun. There’s a lightning pace, plenty of laughs, and several interesting narrative threads to latch onto. However, this episode also represents an underlying problem with the brief episode order. It’s been a joyful run, but it’s also gone in a flash. There’s been little time for filler episodes or moments of genuine character-building between our leads. Ruby and The Doctor are firecrackers together and make each episode a blast, but it feels like we’ve missed something – an extra adventure, some time in the TARDIS, or having a roast with the family. It’s all implied, but never seen. While I appreciate that the penultimate episode needs to set up the season’s conclusion, have we taken the time to consider that “The Legend of Ruby Sunday” might’ve needed teeing up more as well?

Exploring the Depth of “The Legend of Ruby Sunday”

That’s perhaps more of an indictment of how this episode fits into the season as a whole, rather than as a singular episode. In isolation, “The Legend of Ruby Sunday” still has plenty going for it. It balances two mysteries, a large group of characters, and a returning supervillain into a tight 45-minute runtime. I especially loved how it forces the Doctor away from UNIT as he tries to investigate two potential threats, not knowing which to prioritize. Those at UNIT HQ are increasingly under threat without The Doctor present, and it provides a thrilling injection of nerves as we approach the episode’s final moments.

I also loved the creative exploration of Ruby’s origins, especially through the “Time Window” VHS scenes. The cinematography and direction throughout, particularly the eerie sequences featuring the ”Time Window,” are incredibly memorable and serve as an exciting narrative device. Murray Gold’s score also perfectly complements the sense of impending doom, adding significantly more emotional depth to every scene.

Anticipating the Season Finale

“The Legend of Ruby Sunday” strikes a fine balance between Ruby’s origins and Sutekh’s return. Revealing a mythical god of death as a major adversary teases an exciting finale, and the question of Ruby’s mother provides more than enough intrigue to boot. But are these two enigmas interconnected? We’ll have to wait and see. As we head into the season’s conclusion, the setup leaves me eager to see if the emotional and narrative threads will come together to provide a satisfying payoff. The stakes are high, and the finale still has the potential to make this season truly memorable.