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Doctor Who leans into the misdirect and teases, but refuses to reveal, the Legend of Ruby Sunday

There's always a twist in the... mid-point of a season finale...?

Doctor Who 'The Legend of Ruby Sunday'
Image credit: BBC/Disney+

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Well, that wasn’t what anyone expected, was it? Except… maybe it should have been, which is what’s so much fun about the whole thing. ‘The Legend of Ruby Sunday’ finally attempted to address the mysteries at the center of this season of Doctor Who, and did so while playing with the viewer’s expectations as much as the Doctor’s. There really is always a twist at the end, isn’t there…?

Just maybe not the twist you were expecting, as it turns out. (Is that a double twist?)

Spoilers for the Doctor Who episode ‘The Legend of Ruby Sunday’ follow. Do not read any further unless you want to find out what S Triad Technologies is all about, and just how sneaky Russell T. Davies actually is. You have been warned!

Chekhov’s Gun, Unfired

Doctor Who 'The Legend of Ruby Sunday'
Image credit: BBC/Disney+

You have to admire Russell T. Davies for just how far he’s willing to go to tease fan service and misdirect the audience at the same time. By bringing up Susan even before the credits, and leading the Doctor, Ruby, and the viewers to suspect that Susan Twist’s mysterious old woman is, in fact, the Doctor’s granddaughter all along, he manages to jump in front of fan speculation and ever-so-briefly pretend that he’s going to reveal what many have been suspecting all along.

Except, of course, that’s not what happened — and we knew it wouldn’t be, because he’s actually told us that, already: the (hilarious) “S Triad is an anagram of Tardis!” scene, complete with everyone else in the room making fun of how obvious the anagram is, which was genuinely thrilling, was pretty obviously a message that a significant misdirect was underway. So, now we’re left with the obvious question: was the Susan thing all a red herring, to disguise the true identity of the big bad of the season?

Here’s my guess, and I’m ready to be proven entirely wrong by the next episode: we’re in the middle of a second misdirect right now, and Susan will be revealed to be Mrs. Flood, who’s clearly not who she appears to be, especially after her scene in this episode. (She also knew what a Tardis was, way back in the Christmas Special, remember…?) Oh, and she’ll be the woman who left Ruby at the church on Ruby Road, to ensure that the Doctor met her.

Will I be right? Will I be wrong? We’ll find out next week. (Also, does my theory mean that Mrs. Flood is Ruby’s mother, and Ruby is the Doctor’s great-granddaughter? I have no idea; I’m making this up as I go along. Something I suspect Russell T. Davies would appreciate.)

The Sutekh of it all

Doctor Who 'The Legend of Ruby Sunday'
Image credit: BBC/Disney+

So, Sutekh is the villain of the season, then. It’s not the first time he’s appeared — he first met the Doctor in 1975’s ‘Pyramids of Mars’ serial — but he’s certainly an obscure villain to revive for the season finale. Then again, not any more obscure than the Toymaker, who was central to the regeneration of the Doctor last year, so maybe that’s where the show is at these days. What’s funny about this reveal is that, again, Russell T. Davies actually laid in a pretty heavy clue that this was where he was going earlier this season, and no-one noticed.

Way back in ‘The Devil’s Chord,’ the Doctor and Ruby travel from 1963 to the present day, to find a wasteland that will exist unless Maestro is stopped in the past… which is a sequence lifted directly from, yes, ‘Pyramids of Mars.’ We knew, too, that ‘The Devil’s Chord’ was part of the running storyline through the season, thanks to the reappearance of the giggle and Maestro’s mention of One Who Waits… who was, not coincidentally, also namechecked by the Toymaker in 2023’s special episodes. It’s almost like these things are planned, isn’t it…? (In his previous appearance, Sutekh had been imprisoned for millennia; he would, inf act, be one who waits for his release.)

The ‘Pyramids of Mars’ callback wasn’t the only Sutekh tease in plain sight; the final episode of this season is titled ‘Empire of Death,’ which is entirely fitting for a godlike being that wants to eliminate all life on Earth. True, that description could apply to multiple Who villains, but still; it certainly feels as if Russell T. Davies wasn’t trying too hard to hide who was behind everything; it’s just that none of us picked up on it in the first place…

A Random Thought

I know UNIT prids itself on being super-secure and very professional, but it never noticed once that one of its employees had the name H. Arbinger? Really?

Doctor Who concludes next week — well, until Christmas — with ‘Empire of Death,’ in which we can only hope that mysteries get resolved, secrets get revealed, and we get some kind of resolution to the Ruby Sunday puzzle box before next season. But with Who, who knows…? The official description of the episode is a teaser: “The Doctor has lost, his ageless enemy reigns supreme, and a shadow is falling over creation. Nothing can stop the devastation... except, perhaps, one woman.” One woman being… Mr.s Flood?

If you want to start watching Doctor Who and don't know where to start, check out our handy Doctor Who watch guide. Or maybe you're already finished with the show - We've got the perfect Ten shows to watch when you're done watching Doctor Who guide for you too. If you're already heads over heels for the Fifteenth Doctor and want to learn more about the actor playing him, check out what he's been in before here. Or maybe you just need to figure out how the new series numbering is going to work (Are there really gonna be two series 1s? Yes.) - if so, this is the explainer you want.

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Graeme McMillan: Popverse Editor Graeme McMillan (he/him) has been writing about comics, culture, and comics culture on the internet for close to two decades at this point, which is terrifying to admit. He completely understands if you have problems understanding his accent.
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