Doctor Who episode 7 review: "Real potential here to make it an epic, Gatwa-worthy finale"

Doctor Who: Legend of Ruby Sunday
(Image: © BBC)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Structural wobbles aside, "The Legend of Ruby Sunday" balances two mysteries at once with a gripping first part that teases an epic end to Ncuti Gatwa's first season.

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Ahead of Doctor Who's grand finale next week, “The Legend of Ruby Sunday” contends with not just one but two overarching season-long mysteries that may or may not be connected. And no, I'm not referring to why The Doctor flew his TARDIS dramatically into UNIT HQ when he could have just materialized inside, as per usual. That was just the Doctor's flair, and the flair of Russell T. Davies as well who's always leaned into bigger, is better in these epic two-part season finales.

Beyond that, the two biggest mysteries in question revolve around two mystery figures, a woman the Doctor keeps seeing and a woman he's never seen; namely Susan Twist's recurring character - whose face has popped up everywhere from 60s London to Planet Sloog - as well as the identity of Ruby's mother who left her as a baby on Christmas Eve, 2004.

The idea these two women could be the same is quickly dismissed by the Doctor and everyone else in the room, including UNIT leader Kate Stewart, former companion Mel Bush, and Yasmin Finney's Rose Noble (whose appearance here is brief and a tad unnecessary, but still very welcome). Yet the episode goes on to tackle both mysteries at once anyway, which makes sense given we're only one more week away from the season's end, but doesn't quite work in the context of the episode itself.  

Because yes, Ruby deserves answers and with all that snow endlessly swirling around her, there's more going on with the Mancunian companion than anyone fully realizes just yet. But Susan Twist's latest incarnation, Susan Triad, poses a far more pressing concern. This is the day her company S Triad Technology is gearing up to unleash something new on the world, something that could turn out to be deadly in more ways than one… 

Mystery women

Doctor Who: Legend of Ruby Sunday

(Image credit: BBC)

Even so, the Doctor chooses to use Time Window technology (that UNIT has amusingly stashed away) to look back through the past with a little help from CCTV footage that Ruby usually watches with Carla every Christmas Eve. 

The result is an eerie, stunning sequence that speaks to this season's enhanced Disney budget and also Jamie Donoughue's direction whose work here builds tension throughout that's complemented by Murray Gold's foreboding score. The moment when the VHS world flickers on for the first time with monochromatic snow that wraps around our heroes is just as moving as it is technically impressive, as is Kate's reaction when she realizes the Doctor has sent one of her men to his death. 

A disembodied Colonel Winston Chidozie tells us "It's been waiting for so long," and so have we when it comes to the third big mystery this line raises. Namely, who is the entity that even Maestro and the Toymaker were so afraid of a few episodes prior? It looks like this Big Bad is about to reveal himself shortly, which isn't great timing for our good Doctor who's torn between his groaning TARDIS and Susan Triad, who may or may not be his granddaughter.

What ensues is yet another reminder of why Ncuti Gatwa is one of the best Doctors ever cast by TV's longest-running sci-fi show. With the same nuance he brought to an earlier moment where Kate and he discussed his granddaughter, the Doctor feels enraged and hopeless after Chidozie's death, punching the wall with a raw intensity that speaks to his humanity. Bonnie Langford shines here too, reminding us why companions are so important to the Time Lord and the show alike, grounding all the timey-wimey stuff with pathos and grit.

Doctor Who: Legend of Ruby Sunday

(Image credit: BBC)

Our current companion doesn't quite make that same impact though - not yet at least - which is rather puzzling given the episode's title. That's through no fault of Millie Gibson though whose yearning for Ruby's mother and the loss she feels when the mission fails is particularly heartfelt. Instead, this speaks more to the problems that arise with a shorter episode run. There hasn't been a whole lot of progression when it comes to Susan Triad or Ruby's mystery either, and with so little time left, this sudden rush now means some of the emotional heft doesn't quite feel earned.

It also doesn't help that this is the first of a two-parter. By their very nature, these segmented finales are hard to judge on their own merits because it's all about the setup still at this point. The payoff won't arrive for another week, but boy, what a payoff we're in store for if the end of this episode is anything to go by. 

Puns and mysteries

Doctor Who: Legend of Ruby Sunday

(Image credit: BBC)

Because it turns out Susan Triad is neither the Doctor's granddaughter nor The One Who Waits either. She's but a vessel for this ancient entity who's revealed to be none other than Sutekh, a classic villain who hasn't been seen on screen since 1975’s 'The Pyramids of Mars'

It's a deep cut for sure, one that a few Whovians still inexplicably guessed beforehand. But it doesn't matter if you knew who Sutekh was beforehand or that Gabriel Woolf has returned to voice the character again, almost fifty years later. 

That awkward pun aside - Sutekh, Sue-tech - the build-up to this reveal is genuinely chilling thanks to the list of deities Harbinger reels off with Lovecraftian fervour, including Reprobate, the God of Spite and other gods "of skin and shame and secrets", each of whom are towered over by Sutekh, the God of Death. If you thought Maestro and the Toymaker were formidable, it looks like they've got nothing on the God of all Gods.

Doctor Who: Legend of Ruby Sunday

(Image credit: BBC)

How Sutekh inevitably connects to Ruby's origins isn't yet clear, just as we don't really know how or why Susan Triad is involved with the God of Death exactly either. Then there's also Mrs Flood to consider, who may or may not be a Time Lord if one throwaway line about "hiding away" is anything to go by. But that's the point, right? We're not supposed to know everything yet. 

Let's hope Davies can stick the landing, just like the TARDIS did in Unit HQ. A few structural wobbles aside, there's real potential here to make this the kind of epic finale that's worthy of such a phenomenal first run for Ncuti Gatwa. But with no trailer beyond that dramatic "TO BE CONTINUED" intertitle, we're completely in the dark for now, and suddenly, I kind of get why The One Who Waits got so mad with waiting. 

David Opie

With ten years of online journalism experience, David has written about TV, film, and music for a wide range of publications including Indiewire, Paste, Empire, Digital Spy, Radio Times, Teen Vogue and more. He's spoken on numerous LGBTQ+ panels to discuss queer representation and in 2020, he created Digital Spy's Rainbow Crew interview series, which celebrates queer talent on both sides of the camera via video content and longform reads. Passions include animation, horror, comics, and LGBTQ+ storytelling, which is why David longs to see a Buffy-themed Rusical on RuPaul's Drag Race.