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‘Doctor Who’ has a callback to its original form in “Fugitive of the Judoon.” (Photo provided via @bbcdoctorwho on Twitter) 

TV Review: Sunday’s episode of ‘Doctor Who’ signifies a return to form while redefining its history

Series 11 of Doctor Who was missing something. Whether it was because of the insistence on ignoring its own history or a lack of any narrative thread, Doctor Who was still going — with some excellent individual episodes — but seemed to be stuck in time. Recent episodes have showed a promising trend, but with “Fugitive of the Judoon,” it’s finally safe to say that Doctor Who — as fans have known it — is back.

Co-written by lead writer Chris Chibnall and returning writer Vinay Patel, the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her companions return to present-day U.K., where they find the Judoon, an alien race of anthropomorphic rhinoceroses pursuing justice with an iron fist, on the hunt for an unidentified fugitive.

The Judoon are a deep callback to Doctor Who’s past, not having made a significant appearance on the show in over a decade, but they’re just one of many returning elements and characters. Series 12 has already had some exciting reveals, but some twists in “Fugitive of the Judoon” create truly jaw-dropping moments and only thicken the series’ increasingly puzzling mystery.

Key to the episode’s core plot are the suspected fugitive, his wife, Lee (Neil Stuke), and Ruth Clayton (Jo Martin). Stuke and Martin both bring expert performances, and their actions and mannerisms are also important to figuring out what exactly is going on. Longtime fans of the show may be able to see where the reveal is going yet again, thanks to the return of some of the show’s most fascinating elements. However, the final twist at the end will likely catch everyone off-guard.

With the main focus lying with the Doctor and Claytons, her usual companions aren’t given the usual amount of screentime, literally being zapped out of the main plot, where they become acquainted with another one of the Doctor’s old friends. The reunion is a welcome one, however, and team TARDIS’ reduced presence helps keep the pace in a story that has a lot of ground to cover.

“Fugitive of the Judoon” packs more callbacks and surprises in 50 minutes than the entirety of the previous series, in a way that goes beyond mere fan service by giving old elements, friends and foes new purpose in driving the plot forward. It’s both a return to form and a shocking episode that has major ramifications for the series’ future. The second half of the series has a lot of questions to address, but if it’s as good as the first half, we’re in for something special.

Doctor Who airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on BBC America.


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