"Hoo-ray, it's Saturday, School's out so watch out."


TV  As ever this isn't a review but gosh darn let's talk about tonight's Doctor Who which was one for the ages and may end up in the small list of episodes which define an era even though the title character is hardly in it.  But unlike other "double banking" episodes in which the leads were off making more Doctor Who elsewhere, judging by when 73 Yards was filmed, first in the production order, it seems to have been because Tcuti was still working on Sex Education and this is what was referred to in earlier interviews when Millie talking about starting work before her co-star joined her.  If this was her first episode, the actress was phenomenal and like previous actresses in the main role will have a huge future once she's finished with us.

The pre-publicity suggested this was going to be an old fashioned piece of Welsh folk horror and certainly began like that but in a very meta manner was also The Second Coming's way of showing us the budget they now have available.  Whereas even during the Chibnall era, the whole thing would have been filmed in the White Cross Inn, what with hiring only Dame Jane Elizabeth Ailw√™n (Sian) Phillips DBE as the supposed Miss Hawthorne figure, it quickly expanded to become a Turn Left style alt-history in which we saw a possible future for our newest heroine battling some Saxonite megalomaniac whilst offering one of the most detailed explorations of a companion's potential dating history outside of the Virgin New Adventures.

But why am I here tonight?  Because some fans have been reacting very strangely even negatively to this episode and the show in general and it seems to stem from how many things are a being kept a mystery.  With RTD2 having decided that the Whoniverse contains magic and that there's some flexibility when it comes to Clarke's 3rd Law, some viewers seem to be taking the transition very badly.  The writer understands that like fairy stories you don't have to explain everything and it leaning into that.  Cinderella doesn't go into great length to describe the origins of the fairy god mother so we don't really need to know why there are suddenly goblins and a realm where the likes of Maestro are chilling waiting to manifest.

But we can't help ourselves.  Why 73 yards?  Assuming Ruby's still twenty at the start of the shenanigans, perhaps the 73 yards represent the 73 years older this future echo of Ruby is when she dies.  Although she appears older after the first 40 year time jump, we're not told her age when she dies and there could still have been a significant gap between seeing the TARDIS for the last time and what looks like the palliative care ward.  Why do the people who talk to the older version of her react the way they do?  Perhaps they're hexed in such a way as they can't then return to Ruby and tell her the truth, the twist at the end, if you will.  They're not entirely sure why they find her so repugnant, but like me and Mark Rylance, they simply just do.

There's also the interesting stuff is in the meeting between Ruby and Kate (which has now presumably been wiped away so it looks like they'll be meeting for the first time again by season's end).  The head of UNIT makes the distinction between the extra-terrestrial and supernatural.  But then she says "I think this timeline might be suspended along your event" which suggests that she's fully aware that the current reality isn't the "correct" one.  Notice Ruby's puzzlement.  But is the event she's discussing the one from that episode or her whole existence from the moment of her birth?  Will that future episode have Kate describing the events of this episode as part of some elaborate multi-dimensional shenanigans?  What is it with all the snow?

A couple of the professional reviews have also noticed that it's the second week in a row that the inciting incident is the Doctor standing on something which makes him look immensely clumsy but given that this sort of thing has happened throughout the history of the programme as a trigger for a storyline from Skaro to Androzani Major to Lakertya.  But with Ruby's butterfly crushing too, the chances of the production team not noticing this are slim and for all we know it's all part of a grander plan.  At this point you could say that about anything which is happening in most of these episodes.  Why is Rosie Banks from Brookside in every episode?  Is she the Rani?  Susan?  Even if she's either or neither, what about Molly Hennings from Christmas at the Holly Day Inn?  We've only a few more weeks before it starts to unravel.

As you can see, and as Kate says in her meeting with Ruby, "That's what we do, all of us, we see something inexplicable and invent the rules to make it work."  Or as Eighth says in the TV Movie with the Pertwee logo, "I love humans. Always seeing patterns in things that aren't there."  We're desperate to fill in these gaps, in many ways the show has often taught us that everything will be explained later.  But that's, so far, antithetical to what the show is now.  It's taking River's reaction to the Doctor when he scoffed at the existence of the Pandorica, that it's just a fairy tale, "Aren't we all" and running with it.  The magic storybook elements of early Moffat without the need to produce some technological, xeno-anthropolical handwaving to justify things how a Weeping Angel moves or a space whale exists.

I suppose what I'm trying to suggest is that there has be a happy medium between thing excellent and thing rubbish because nothing is explained or I don't understand it.  Perhaps viewers who like the obtuse cinema of the likes of Renais, Godard and Garland will more readily accept ambiguous endings like we saw tonight.  But Doctor Who's a Broadchurch, sorry, broad church of stories, Forrest Gump's proverbial chocolate box and that's why we love it and next week looks like a fun romp through the babblesphere.  Anyway, I'm hooked.  This is as connected as I've been to the television iteration of the series since probably the Matt Smith era and I'm very pleased I've decided to not review it and just sit back and watch.