The possibility of incarnations of the Doctor before Hartnell’s depiction has been teased from back when he regenerated into Troughton. The discovery of a shaving mirror by some companions only added to the speculation. Then during the Tom Baker era story The Brain of Morbius the Doctor is confronted by a gallery of his previous faces, many of which are unfamiliar to the viewer. As the idea inbreeded itself into the mind of fans the possibility that the Doctor may not remember these previous version of them self.
Jump forward to 2020 and there’s a possibility that we may finally have the answer. As the ‘Chameleon Arch’ was broken we were introduced to a version of the Doctor not only unfamiliar to us, but also to each version of herself. This reveal was so well handled by all involved. As the site of a grave was revealed to be the familiar Police Box of the Doctor’s TARDIS a character previously known to us as Ruth revels herself to be the Doctor.
In any other episode the long awaited return of Caption Jack would have been the main story. Sadly for the wonderful John Barrowman his return was overshadowed by the previously mentioned revel. Piloting what suspiciously looked like a TARDIS his failed attempts to beam the Doctor aboard, leading to a couple of mistaken identities, was a great subplot. As always Barrowman’s performance was full of energy, you can tell his love for both the character and the show. Once again, just like his death as the Face of Boe, he signed off his appearance with a cryptic message. It was great to see him back, such a shame he never got to appear with Matt Smith’s or Peter Capaldi’s versions of the Doctor.
The episode also had great support throughout. Recognising Neil Stuke, Matthew number 2 from 90’s sitcom Game On, was a great nerd moment for me. Rita Arya as Gat (who I must admit I thought was the Rani for a while) was a great evil henchwoman.
The Judoon also gave us some great comedy moments. Loved the strange way their translators spoke English and the way they seemed a bit cowardly when confronted. It was fantastic to see these underused aliens back in the show.
Verdict: 10/10. Show runner Chris Chibnall has faced plenty of criticism since taking the helm, but his and Vinay Patel’s script popped and fizzled with excitement. This was helped by Nida Manzoor’s direction that was well paced and on point throughout. All of this added up to one of the best Whittaker era episodes so far.