Home Featured TV Shows All TV Shows Movie Reviews Book Reviews Articles Frequently Asked Questions About Us

Doctor Who: The Legend of Ruby Sunday

"For what it’s worth, I think you bring joy."

Doctor Who reaches part one of its big two-part season finale. The first of the Ncuti Gatwa era.

Where to even start with unpacking this...

It's difficult to review part one of a two part finale in a vacuum. There's just so much left to happen that can affect how we feel about the overall story and retroactively change how well any of this works. I suppose, in the end, the only real metrics that can be fairly applied to part one of two in these situations are: Did it feel like the episode was just treading water up until the cliffhanger reveal? and was the cliffhanger reveal satisfying enough to justify the previous forty odd minutes of story?

For better or worse, this one never feels like it's treading water. There's an awful lot going on. The issue is that a lot of the time all the things going on don't entirely feel like they all beling to the same storyline. That's not neccesary a bad thing, but it runs the risk of making everything feel disjointed if you don't put a hell of a lot of effort into reassuring the audience that all of this is sauntering toward one coherent whole picture. And I'm not 100% convinced that I felt that all the way through this episode.

There are a lot of seemingly unrelated threads dancing around in this one, so it might be helpful to break them down a little. We've been presented this season with what we might loosely term 'The Three Woman Problem.' (Apologies to Netflix.)

1: Who is Ruby's Mother?

2: Who is Susan Twist? Or should that be who are Susan Twist?

3: Who is Mrs. Flood?

They've been alternatively juggling or dangling those three questions for us all season. Although it bears mentioning at this point that the season being shortened to eight episodes didn't do them any favors for at least two of them. I like that the Doctor's presentation of all of the Susan Twists that he'd met recently included some that we as the audience hadn't been around for. That helped to provide a bit of scale for events. But it would have been nicer if they'd had more opportunities to insert Susan into other random events so that we got a more gradual sense of the Doctor and Ruby slowly realizing that she was a thing that was happening. As it is, the Doctor and Ruby kind of turn up in the opening of this episode already having pieced that together mostly off screen, which feels like a lost opportunity. It would have been cool structurally if we'd gotten an episode right before this one in which either the Doctor or Ruby realizing the ubiquity of Susan Twist provided the resolution for a completely unrelated issue. 'Wait... We've seen that woman repeatedly lately... which means that the REAL princess of Antipedurian is... the other one!'

Feel free, at this juncture, to begin writing your own 'Princess of Antipedurian' fan fiction.

Similarly, Mrs. Flood (who we'll circle back to in a bit) got so little screen time this season that we're barely reminded that she's supposed to be a mystery box. In one of her very few appearences she literally shows up half way through, says 'Oh, this episode isn't about me.' and sods off again. A couple more episodes – maybe one set in Ruby's home street in which Mrs. Flood could have played an important role – would have gone a long way towards building up to her moment with Cherry in this episode. Again, we'll get to that in a second.

Really, it's the question of Ruby's mother's identity that gets the proper amount of focus this season. It's snowed when they mention Ruby's birth just the right number of times for the explanation here to be satisfying. That moment in time is so damaged and torn up that even thinking about it too hard caused some bleed through. It's a poetic visual as well as underscoring why the Doctor can't just go back and see what actually happened.

Of those three women, we get the explanation for precisely one of them. It turns out that Susan Twist is a normal human who, for some reason, gets projected in her dreams into whatever adventure the Doctor and Ruby happen to be in the middle of at the time. I like that reveal a lot more than 'she's been Susan all along,' to be honest. It's all down to her being somehow tied to the classic big bad who's been waiting in the wings all this time in a way that hasn't been entirely explained yet, but I like how they're playing this thread.

It is worth taking a moment to think about what Harriet Arbinger was muttering about that Big Bad pouring energy into a vessel and seducing that vessel while the Lord of Time didn't notice. (It's a little too low to pick out in the mix when watching, but they spell it out clearly in the subtitles.) So who does that mean the vessel is? Is the Vessel Susan? Or is the Vessel Ruby, and Susan was just the vehicle for pouring? The Cruet of Evil, if you will. My money is currently on the latter.

As for the other two women involved, we're given precisely nothing to guess at the identity of Ruby's mother. Assuming of course that the woman who dropped her off was Ruby's mother. She might have just been a friend of her mum's that was going out on errands anyway that night. 'Excuse me love, while you're out getting milk, would you mind just popping this newborn baby at the church next to the store?'

I'm not going to lie, I would totally love it if that turns out to be the answer.

As for Mrs. Flood, all we're given to go on here is that she's kind of a bitch to Cherry Sunday when asked for a cup of tea. And while I personally agree that being rude to Cherry Sunday should earn you a righteous ass kicking, that doesn't necessarily mean that she's evil. It just means that she understands what exactly is going on and isn't particularly concerned with manners. I kind of come down on the side that Mrs. Flood will turn out to be, if not good, at least part of the solution to defeating the big bad next week. Who knows. Maybe Morris Gibbons will turn out to be partially correct and Mrs. Flood will turn out to be Ruby's mother. That could get interesting, particularly in light of some persuasive online theories about who Mrs. Flood could be.

I do, however, reserve the right to call for her painful death if it turns out she hurt Cherry. I'm just saying.

Okay, we've danced around it long enough to give it its own section.


I'd seen this theory floated online as far as who 'The One who Waits' is, and I really was hoping it wouldn't turn out to be.

Don't get me wrong. I love Sutekh. You love Sutekh. Everybody loves Sutekh. He was one of the all-time great villains of the classic series. As a reveal here, judged solely by the modern series, he reads as a perfectly logical extension of The Beast from 'The Impossible Planet' and 'The Satan Pit.' Indeed, it was expressly the intention of those two episodes that the Beast we see there is an extension of Sutekh from the classic series. He gets name checked in the episodes and everything. They even brough back Gabriel Woolf to be the voice both for 'Satan Pit' and this episode. The connection between The Beast and Sutekh is iron clad intentional.

At the time of 'Satan Pit' it really wasn't important if you weren't a fan of the old series, it was just a cute little easter egg. Here, it's... more than that.

Yeah, we're going to have to talk about the legitimacy of caring whether new stories fit into canon. I know, I'm not happy about it, either.

To be perfectly clear and up front, as a reveal in this episode at this time, Sutekh the Egyptian God of Death being revealed as 'The One who Waits' works just fine. It totally tracks, we can believe why The Toymaker was afraid of him, it all works in isolation here. The problem runs... I don't know... not deeper exactly. Let's say 'interwoven' with that.

The thing is, the only reason to bring back Sutekh by name is to get a big rush for the old school fans who have seen and love 'Pyramids of Mars.' And that's all well and good. That's the exact same reasoning that brought the Daleks back. And the Master. And so many more examples from the modern series. But the problem is that the Sutekh we see here isn't even remotely the same as the one we got in 'Pyramids.' The Sutekh in 'Pyramids' was only called a god because the alien race he came from was so much more powerful that the human beings that he encountered. And literally the entire point of that story is that Sutekh was a petty little bitch from an alien race that just happened to be really powerful and who hated everything and wanted to kill everyone.

He wasn't part of a pantheon of capital 'G' Gods, he was a rogue member of a super powerful alien race who turned out to be a really shitty person, no better than the humans he wanted to kill. That was the entire point of that story.

Which means that the exact people who are intended to be excited by the return of Sutekh are the exact same people for whom this redical change in the character is going to be a problem. Is that a legitimate complaint for an episode of television made in 2024 which is making a callback to an episode of television made in 1975? I honestly couldn't tell you. I don't think that there even is an objectively 'correct' answer to that one. It bothered me, that's all I can tell you.

Bits and Pieces:

-- It's worth making the distinction: The Toymaker is a beloved villain from the classic series entirely because of the concept of what the Toymaker is. Indeed, almost all of the people who love the character never had a chance to see the story he featured in. Sutekh, on the other hand, is a beloved villain from the classic series because he was the baddie in 'Pyramids of Mars,' which was written by Robert Holmes, who was freaking brilliant and it's just a really great story, really well told. In concept Sutekh's not really that interesting beyond the 'Oh, but he was actually an alien' part. It was always going to be difficult to splice those two into one coherent pantheon.

-- Yeah, yeah, I know Robert Holmes isn't the only credited writer on 'Pyramids,' but let's be honest with ourselves. He wrote it.

-- Were we supposed to recognize all of the other gods Harriet listed? I know the Trickster was a thing on The Sarah Jane Adventures, and the Mara got a name drop just in time to push the season 20 blu-ray release in the US (I'm sure that's a total coincidence) but there were several gods on that list that rang no bells for me whatsoever.

-- I loved the way that they repeatedly showed the Doctor figuring out something dramatically only to have everyone else in the room say 'Yeah, we all already got that.' I was just patting myself on the back for catching the TARDIS anagram right before the Doctor pointed it out and got shot down right with me.

-- Steven Moffat taught us all back in 'Deep Breath' what a vanity trap was. We all just fell into one. The episode went out of its way to put the name 'Sue' over the word 'Tech' in the graphics and I never noticed it for a moment.

-- The CGI for Sutekh in their final form felt a little weak to me. I didn't hate it, but I was very aware that it was CGI.

-- I was wondering why they've decided that 'bonkers' is Mel's primary character trait, but then I remembered that she took off with Sabalom Glitz on a whim, so maybe it's valid.

-- That's two episodes in a row in which someone refuses to let the Doctor pretend to be okay and instead hugs him into acknowledging his feelings. I kind of like it.

-- The four specials were all so close together that I was genuinely surprised to realize that Rose had never met Ruby.

-- After more digging that I probably should have invested in, it appears that the absence of Shirley Anne Bingham is entirely due to a scheduling conflict and nothing more sinister. I didn't hate her replacement, but I did miss her.

-- The plotting went to great lengths to get Carla into the UNIT building but separated from Ruby. That might be entirely down to the need to get Cherry alone with Mrs. Flood, but I'm not entirely convinced that there isn't a larger purpose behind it.

-- The Susan Twists that we didn't get to meet looked pretty cool.

-- How long must the photo shoot have been for Susan Twist just to shoot all those magazine covers?

-- I might just be being dense, but who is the obvious evil genius with alien technology that they hadn't caught yet? Is this a British reference? Being American, once I heard evil my first thought was Donald Trump, but of course he's a fucking idiot, so 'genius' kind of rules him out.


The Doctor: "Ruby, this is Kate. We love Kate. I knew Kate’s dad. He was the best of men."

The Doctor: "Colonel Ibrahim! Someone has been working out."

The Doctor: "The name is TARDIS Technology."
Kate: "Well, obviously."
Colonel Ibrahim: "Even I got that."
Morris Gibbons: "Name, Anagram, TARDIS. Probability of a trap 95% and rising."

Kate: "We’ve got her undercover on the media team, and she’s discovered one surprising thing. Susan Triad turns out to be really nice."

Mrs. Flood: "I’m always just hiding myself away."

Cherry: "I would like a cup of tea."
Mrs. Flood: "Would you, sweetheart? Well, we’d all like a lot of things… that aren’t going to happen."

Kate: "A phoenix is just a bird until it burns."

The Doctor: "Kate, do you have a time window?"
Kate: "Wh... You expressly told us in the 1970s, UNIT was absolutely forbidden to experiment with any form of time technology."
The Doctor: "Do you have a time window?"
Kate: "Ten floors down."

Kate: "We’ve got sound and vision!"
I do love a Bowie reference.

Kate: "Doctor, when is that thing? Is it now, or 2004?"

Mel: "Finished? Now stop grizzling and fix it."

Susan: "Well, top marks for enigmatic."

An enthusiastic part one for the finale of Ncuti's inaugural season. I'm going to have to wait to give this a score once I've seen how it all plays out.

I did enjoy it a lot, though.

Mikey Heinrich is, among other things, a freelance writer, retired firefighter, and roughly 78% water. You can find more of his work at the 42nd Vizsla. If you'd like to see his raw notes for this and other reviews, you can find them at What Was Mikey Thinking.


  1. As I have fallen behind on the new show, I still catch bits and pieces here and there, and saw they brought Sutekh back, which has several problems, most of which you've listed here already.

    I love 'Pyramids of Mars' it's one of the classics that has held up so well, and features both of my all time favorites; the 4th Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith. Gabriel Woolf's performance in it is absolutely brilliant and he was of course great in the Impossible Planet and the Satan Pit. His voice and skill are perfect for the kind of villain that could frighten you while just asking for you to pass the butter, a lot like Vincent Price really, and that's high praise from me.

    It's a TV show, it's a TV show about time travel and lots of strange things that don't always work, but despite the link between the beast and Sutekh, the 4th Doctor destroyed Sutekh and I despite my love for Woolf, I didn't want to see Sutekh return, and if they mess up his original lore, which I loved that the Osirans were just really powerful aliens that were worshipped as gods as opposed to actual gods, that bothers me more than having him survive the time tunnel. I actually like when new Who calls upon classic Who as I prefer the classics, wobbliness and all, but not when they screw up important aspects like that. School Reunion is my favorite new Who story partly due to seeing Sarah Jane Smith again!

    Part of why I wish Davros too has been a one story villain is that I prefer Michael Wisher as Davros, and he really should have died at the end of Genesis. Julian Bleach does a good job with the character, but it still feels like they're just stringing us along by having him back over and over. Sutekh makes a bit more sense story-wise, but still not a fan of this.

    Linking the Mara, the Toymaker (I just got the animated blu-ray of the Celestial Toymaker animation, but still need to watch it), and others with Sutekh feels weird to me as well, but that may be partly that I'm reading about the show instead of watching. It makes at least some sense based on them powerful, odd, and largely malevolent entities, but also very different approaches to things.

    And I agree on Trump. I can't stand him, and my state is a battleground state so it's going to be a long, long summer.

    1. I totally agree about Davros. I wish they'd left him as a really great one off in Genesis, even if I have enjoyed a lot of his further appearances.

      Back in the wilderness years the New Adventures put a lot of time and effort into trying to do something similar in combining a lot of god like powerful entities into a gang. Their explanation was hat they were beings from the universe before ours so they obeyed different fundamental laws. As I recall they included Fenric, The Great Intelligence, The Animus from the web planet, and a couple others I can't quite remember. That one never entirely gelled either.

      Is the Toymaker animation out already? How did I miss that?

      Thanks so much, I always enjoy your comments

    2. I remember that as well! I have some of the books too, although been awhile since I read them. I always dig your reviews too!

      I avoid trying to be the 'man yells at cloud' guy, since I don't hate new Who, I just prefer the original, but while I do think there are times new Who just does really well (Dalek, School Reunion, The Empty Child, etc.), I find a lot of the concepts don't work for me as well. Classic Who did make some awful decisions at times, especially the mid/late 80s, that's for sure, so it's not 'classic good, new bad', but more of a general preference for me.

      I just got the Toymaker blu-ray on Saturday, I got lucky that I went to check the release date in the US, and it was the11th or 12th, so ordered it right away.

  2. The evil genius is Elon Musk.

    1. I'm genuinely not trying to start any arguments here because I love that our comment threads are always friendly and respectful, but I honestly don't think Elon Musk is either of those things.

      That doesn't mean that that wasn't what the script intended, of course. He never even crossed my mind.

  3. Like you, I'm largely holding back on deciding if this was a good or bad episode until next week when we see if it sticks the landing. That being said, there's a lot that I enjoyed here, like the Doctor running around UNIT and saying hello to people. It helped to establish that he knew and cared about and was comfortable working with, and also, it's just a great character moment. Like Kate said, he brings joy.

    I also really enjoyed everything in the Time Window. Maybe the scene went on a bit long, but it was very tense and exciting. I love that they made the TARDIS itself threatening. It's always something safe, but they turned it on its head. Also liked the explanation for why Susan Twist kept appearing.

    Unlike a lot of people, I totally missed the TARDIS anagram, so the Doctor would have impressed me! haha But I did like that everyone looked at him like "yeah, we know," only for everyone to be wrong! A very well executed twist there! Now, I'm solely New Who, so I had no idea who Sutekh was or is (and I had avoided that bit of online theorizing), but I absolutely love "The Impossible Planet"/"Satan Pit" so if he's the Beast, I'm on board. (Seriously, that's prob my fav/their strongest two parter that they've made.) Unlike you, Mikey, I thought the CGI was pretty good. Sure, my brain recognized that this was an impossible creature, so it's obviously CGI, but I loved the design.

    I'm into it. Even knowing nothing about him besides a basic understanding of Egyptian mythology, the Doctor's reaction sold him as a threat. Although... is he definitely The One Who Waits? I'm sure that he is and I'm just misremembering what the Harbinger called him. But it feels like there's another player hovering on the edges. I don't know what evil billionaire UNIT was referring to. Was it supposed to be a jab at Elon Musk? Maybe? But since I couldn't think of someone right away, I also wondered if it wasn't set up for next season. Rogue and (I think) the Meep mentioned a new boss. Someone powerful and scary. And I somehow can't see them referring to a massive winged, dog headed god of death.

    Mrs. Flood might be Susan? As in the Doctor's granddaughter? If only because she had an off handed comment about hiding herself away right after the Doctor explained that Time Lords can regenerate to hide themselves. Although Mrs. Flood was mean, and I don't know if they would make Susan so mean. (I did think that she might hurt Cherry, which scared me.) But otherwise, who is she? Maybe some kind of primal water/storm based god?

    And who is Ruby's mom???? There's no way that it's a coincidence that the TARDIS seemingly got infected right where Ruby was left at the church. Is she meant to be on Sutekh's side, or maybe his opposite? I'm leaning towards that. Sutekh seems to bring pain and misery, and Ruby has been shown to be the opposite. She's bright and full of music and love. I kept hoping that Mel's fancy "what are you" device would be used on Ruby. I doubt it would come back fully human.

    1. Very glad Shirley was just a scheduling conflict, although that does bring me to a different point. Apparently, Gatwa had to finish up Sex Education, which is part of the reason why we had "73 yards" and "Dot and Bubble" as Doctor-lite. But when you only have 8 episodes, losing a full quarter of them hurts. It especially hurts the Doctor and Ruby's relationship. I mean, when was the last time they were on screen together, interacting TOGETHER for the majority of the episode? "Boom"? Even last week, they had their own adventures. I love them both, but something just feels hollow. I read a comment on reddit about how past seasons felt like we were with everyone "in real time" as it were, that we saw every adventure that they had. But this season, we aren't. We're missing months and months of adventures, and any bonding or development that happened off screen. So, while I thought the extra Susans were really cool, it would have been even cooler to see those adventures. (Seriously, give us more episodes!)

      Seeing Rose was nice and unexpected, although all it did was make me hope for Donna and/or Fourteen. (Did we see a glimpse of him in the trailer for next week? I couldn't tell.) It'd make sense for him to come help considering they're in modern day London and this is apparently a huge threat, but also, he would totally upstage Fifteen. Right?

      (oh wow first time I needed to post two comments! haha I guess I had a lot to say)

    2. 2 comments from you is twice as much goodness :) See, that's exactly what I was wondering as regards coming to the Sutekh reveal solely as a new Who viewer. The Sutekh was see here certainly talks much more like the Beast from Satan Pit that Sutekh did in pyramids of Mars. And seeing the Sutekh we get here as a return of the Beast without the old series baggage probably works really well.

      I'm kind of torn about Ncuti Gatwa's scheduling conflict. On the one hand you're totally right and it really cut into the time they had available to develop he and Ruby's relationship. But on the other hand I really loved Sex Education and that last season featured some of my favorite Ncuti moments of the whole series which I would have hated to miss. The funeral scene where they all sing With or Without You and Eric and his ex makes peace with one another is such a great scene.

      But I digress.

    3. Aw shucks, you'll make me blush!

      I just don't understand why they couldn't move production back a few weeks. Yes, yes, I know that it isn't that simple. But it just seems like very poor planning considering that Gatwa's prior commitments were definitely known when hiring him.

      Also, fun moment I wanted to mention but didn't. In the Time Window, they mentioned something (I forget what exactly) was 66 meters away. 66 meters... also known as 73 yards. And sure, 666 number of the beast and all that, but given we had a whole episode around that exact distance made it feel weightier.

    4. I get the impression that there was a LOT of pressure from Disney to get things rolling as soon as possible. Remember, we'd just waited most of a year between Legend of the Sea Devils and Power of the Doctor, and before that was another gap since Eve of the Daleks. I think everyone involved was under pressure to get this thing back on a regular schedule by any means neccesary

  4. I never think of Musk as a genius, that's for sure, but evil I can see.

  5. Having just come off The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit (so far my favorite episodes ever), I was frustrated by the way this episode revisited those concepts but without the technical accuracy to really achieve any pay off.

    Much like last week's episode, a huge part of the plot hinged the function of a machine whose function was never explained. The set design for the time window was fantastic -- eerie and beautiful -- but I never understood how it worked and why it was any different than revisiting the past themselves, nor the restrictions on movement. Moreover, I think it simply sucked up too much time -- for being a dead end (and a dead end that didn't lead to much character development besides the Doctor's moment of grief over Chidozie's poorly executed death) it got the full music, moment, etc treatment.

    I think my biggest gripe with the episode (which is entirely possible that the finale will wipe this out) is the lack of payoff of the Susan Twist mystery, although maybe not in the way people might expect. Although I found the explanation -- she's a harbinger who's been dreaming all these moments -- rather lacking, what I was most disappointed by was the way the episode entirely brushed past the Doctor and Ruby realizing their was even a mystery to solve in the first place. Like you said, it feels like a missed opportunity.

    Also, as you bring up AHF, this episode also struggles with the fact that it we still don't know the Doctor and Ruby that well, nor do we know their dynamic. Gatwa and Gibson are very good at selling it but they simply don't have quite enough history to work with yet.

    Everything about the Suteck/the Harbinger's chanting really worked for me in terms of building mood. However, while very similar devices were employed to great effect The Impossible Planet, the mood and story there were deeply connected. Here, because Suteck is such a random appearance (they build up a season long mystery about Susan Twist, skip past that, and now it's the TARDIS that has a problem??), it winds up feeling weightless, like so much window dressing trying to convince us that Suteck is a big deal without having anything built up to support it. (Also, despite not being a classic Who watcher, what you said in your spoiler section is EXACTLY the type of thing that would bug me haha!)

    This has been a lot of complaints, so some positives!

    -This show is so charming!! I may have a lot of technical gripes but sure as heck enjoyed my time watching!

    -I really like whenever the show acknowledges its history, so I'm glad to see Mel again, even if I haven't actually seen her time as a companion yet! (I'll get to the original start someday...)

    -The casting on the small scale is great -- Harriet in particular stood out as a character I was sad to have co-opted into a harbinger, though her actor did a great job with both aspects of the character!

    1. Honestly, the Mel we see here is SO much better served than she was back in the 80s. At the time they really struggled to give her a coherent character (fault of the scripts, not Bonnie Langford's)

    2. It sounds like Mel is very much better here. The character was dreadful back in her original time on the show.

    3. Again, and I can't stress this enough, totally the fault of the scripts, not the performance :) in the decades since Bonnie Langford has proved that she's a genuine treasure. I don't know if you get the Collection Blu-ray sets, but there's a regular special feature called 'Behind the Sofa' in which a few different groups of Doctor Who Alumni gather on a sofa and watch the episode that's on the current disc and give real time feedback. They're cut down, so you don't really get to see the entire episode with them, but their reactions are always enjoyable to watch. Peter Purves and Maureen O'Brien together on the season two boxset were just wonderful together.

      Bonnie Langford is a very frequent guest on the Behind the Sofa segments and she's always so positive, so gracious, and so genuine. Same for Sophie Aldred. And when they pair those two together it just melts my heart, they're so lovely.

      OK, gush over.

    4. I need to catch up on the boxed season sets, I fell behind on those, since I already had all the stories on DVD anyway, I wasn't as worried about them, plus not sure where the animations fit in to them?

      I haven't watched the extras much at all yet. I know very little about Bonny Langford, to be sure, and I'd argue that a large part of why poor Colin ranks low in Doctors is that he too had some horrible scripts. I know he's a good actor.

      I gotta see Peter Purves and Maureen O'Brien together for sure. They were so good together in The Time Meddler!

    5. Colin is also on a lot of the Behind the Sofa episodes and he's also utterly charming and gracious.

      Seriously, I pretty much just buy the Collection box sets for the Behind the Sofa feature


We love comments! We moderate because of spam and trolls, but don't let that stop you! It’s never too late to comment on an old show, but please don’t spoil future episodes for newbies.