Last Sunday, the best episode of Chris Chibnall’s Doctor Who aired. “Fugitive of the Judoon” not only brought back a fan favorite foe and a beloved companion, it also had one of the biggest surprises in Doctor Who history.
The episode introduced us to Ruth Clayton (Jo Martin), a tour guide in Gloucester who turned out to be another version of the Doctor hiding in plain sight thanks to the good ol’ Chameleon Arch. The wrinkle is this: neither Ruth nor the Thirteen Doctor (played by Jodie Whittaker) recognizes one another. That means, Ruth can’t be the Doctor’s past and Thirteen can’t be Ruth’s. So who is this new Doctor?
Fan theories have been swirling since the episode aired and Chibnall, the showrunner, has spoken out about one in particular. Speaking to The Mirror, he confirmed that Martin’s Doctor is not from a parallel universe.
“The important thing to say is, she is definitively the Doctor,” Chibnall said. “There’s not a sort of parallel universe going on. There’s no tricks. Jo Martin is the Doctor. That’s why we gave her the credit at the end, which all new Doctors have the first time you see them. John Hurt got that credit.”
Martin’s role is not only a major mystery, but it’s also history-making. The actress is the first black Doctor ever on the 57-year-old show, the first black female Doctor, and the only the second female Doctor ever, right behind Whittaker of course.
Chibnall’s dismissal of the parallel universe is well-founded but there’s no reason Martin’s Doctor couldn’t be from a parallel universe and still “definitively” be the Doctor. The show has discovered parallel worlds before and even left a second, half-human Tenth Doctor on one of those worlds with Rose Tyler. It would also go along with the up and down history of Gallifrey, the home planet of the Time Lords, which has been destroyed or lost too many times to keep track of. Who is to say Martin’s Doctor isn’t from another Gallifrey in another time? Well, Chibnall says that’s a no-no.
If this new iteration of the Time Lord isn’t from a parallel universe, there are a lot more questions that need answering. Much was once made of the Doctor’s limited number of regenerations so much so that Eleven had to be gifted a new cycle in order to regenerate into Twelve rather than die permanently. It doesn’t seem to fit then for this new Doctor to be from the past. Maybe she is Thirteen’s future but experienced a memory wipe that reset her further back in their shared timeline.
Chibnall swears answers are coming. “There will be answers to some of these mysteries this series,” he said. “But as ever with Doctor Who, answers often reveal new questions. It’s all very deliberate. We’re telling an ongoing story and there are plenty of things in Doctor Who that change all the time but I’m very aware of the history and very aware of the continuity. It’s a delightful thing. But stories are ongoing pieces of fiction. They develop and evolve. My job is to be bold with the storytelling and have fun.”
One bold move he took was bringing back Captain Jack Harkness, played by the incredible John Barrowman, in “Fugitive of the Judoon”. Sadly, we won’t be seeing more of Barrowman this season, despite Jack promising to see the Doctor again. He also had vital information about the Cybermen that he was forced to pass on through the Doctor’s three companions rather than tell her face to face.
“Who knows when he might pop up again?” Chibanll said. “We love Captain Jack. We love John Barrowman. I hope that won’t be his last appearance and that at some point he gets to meet the 13th Doctor.”
Doctor Who airs Sundays at 8/7c on BBC America.