'Doctor Who' Mid-Season Theory Roundup and '73 Yards' Explainer


[This story contains spoilers from the Doctor Who season up to and including “73 Yards.”]

There aren’t many television shows that could, in the matter of only a few episodes, feature a monster made of boogers that terrorizes babies, a killer drag queen defeated by the power of music (with a little help from The Beatles) and a pointless religious war catalyzed by a capitalist algorithm.

But, not all shows are Doctor Who.

And since Disney+ acquired the long-running BBC science-fiction show, the Time Lord — now played by Ncuti Gatwa — in the quintessentially British show remains as quirky as ever.

The latest episode, penned by showrunner Russell T Davies, continues its unpredictable streak by donning the guise of folk-horror in an eerie decade-spanning epic that will have Whovians tapping their keyboards in forums for years to come.

Below, THR breaks down some questions viewers may have about “73 Yards” and the Disney+ season so far.

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Ncuti Gatwa as the Doctor with Millie Gibson as companion Ruby in Doctor Who episode “73 Yards.”

Disney+

Is this the first time the opening title sequence has been omitted?

No. 2015’s “found footage” episode “Sleep No More” was the first. Written by Mark Gatiss (BBC’s Sherlock), it starred Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor during the Steven Moffat era.

What was the significance of “73 Yards”?

Seventy-three yards, 219 feet or 66.7 meters — take your pick. We’re as baffled as you are. No reason was discovered or given as to why The Woman stayed that distance away. If you add them all up, you get 358.7 — but, that’s all we’ve got.

Who was The Woman following companion Ruby (Millie Gibson), and what did she do to make people run away in terror?

In case you missed it, the closing moments revealed that The Woman following Ruby from 73 yards away was Ruby all along. But the young Ruby manages to avoid an endless cycle by not breaking the fairy circle. What does this mean for the future, though? Will Roger ap Gwilliam (played by Welsh actor, Aneurin Barnard) still come on the scene in 2046, given that the Doctor was aware of him both pre-breaking circle and also pre-circle not breaking?

And we’re sorry to report that we’re none the wiser when it comes to what The Woman did/said to the various people who approached, including her own mother and the trained UNIT employees. They all turned to Ruby, violently screamed and ran as fast as they could. (Maybe she said that Ruby was a Star Trek fan.)

A local pub for local people and an expensive Coke.

Fans of the Doctor Who spinoff series Torchwood may have recognized the interior of the pub Ruby visited, as it appeared in season one episode, “Countrycide.” In “73 Yards,” it goes by the catchy moniker, “Y Pren Mawr” (coincidentally — or probably not — this approximately translates as “the dead wood” in Welsh).

According to the signage, Y Pren Mawr was established in 1863 — the same year Welsh politician and future U.K. prime minister David Lloyd George was born. It’s a neat nod from writer Davies, given the episode features a future Welsh politician who becomes PM (Roger ap Gwilliam). U.S. historians will also note that this was the same year Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address — a moment that was watched by the First Doctor and his companions on the TARDIS’ Time-Space Visualizer during the 1965 adventure, “The Chase.”

Eagle-eyed Whovians (and ones with several degrees in Whoology) will have enjoyed the fact that one of the beers on sale in the pub was called, “Llanfer Ceiriog.” As those learned fans will remember, Llanfair Ceiriog was another fictional Welsh village, this time visited by the Seventh Doctor and companion Ace in the Doctor Who novel, Cat’s Cradle: Witch Mark published in 1992. Talk about a deep cut.

Lastly, Ruby pays five British pounds for a Coke (around $6.34 USD). For those outside the U.K., this is most definitely not normal and she’s been swizzed here. (However, Londoners might be thinking, “Gosh, she got that cheap!”)

The return of Kate Stewart!

After her first appearance in 2012’s Eleventh Doctor outing, “The Power of Three” (written by Chris Chibnall, who would become the next showrunner), Kate made numerous, not to mention memorable, appearances; including the 50th anniversary special, “The Day of the Doctor,” and the 60th anniversary special, “The Giggle.” She is played by Jemma Redgrave, part of the Redgrave acting dynasty.

As the Chief Scientific Officer to UNIT, an organization which first appeared in Doctor Who in 1968, Kate is also the daughter of one of the Doctor’s oldest chums, The Brigadier (or Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, to give him his full name), who appeared in many episodes from the 1960s up until the classic run’s final season in 1989 (the Doctor was told of his death in 2011’s “The Wedding of River Song”).

The Perception Filter is back!

This phenomenon was actually first mentioned in the debut episode of Torchwood in 2006 and was utilized in Doctor Who the following year. A perception filter enabled an item or person to be unnoticed by others around them: “People sort of notice but sort of don’t,” as Ruby says of The Woman.

“Mankind saw the sunrise and created God. Or we saw the arrival of a Sontaran.”

Warlike race the Sontarans debuted in the 1974 serial “The Time Warrior” and have made regular returns ever since being last seen during 2021’s “Flux” season with Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor.

Who is Roger ap Gwilliam meant to be?

The Doctor (Gawta) revealed spoilers to Ruby (Gibson) at the start of the episode when he said that a bad example of the Welsh people was a man called, Roger ap Gwilliam — a dangerous Prime Minister who would literally go nuclear in the year 2046. We meet Gwilliam later in the episode when he is the leader of the political party, Albion, a group who share the colors of the Conservative party in the U.K. and veer towards the right of the political spectrum. Pledging to defend borders, promising to make the U.K. the “greatest nation” and demanding independence from NATO, Roger ap Gwilliam (who also has a penchant for the ladies) is not a million miles away from U.S. presidential candidate and former president Donald Trump.

Now that we’re at the mid-season point, there are a few themes and characters proving to be pivotal.

Jinkx Monsoon as Maestro in “The Devil’s Chord.”

Disney+

Sometimes it snows in…  every episode.

As you’d expect, the 2023 Christmas Day special, “The Church On Ruby Road,” saw quite a bit of snow and its follow-up, the season-opener “Space Babies,” even had snow in a space station and, unbeknownst to the Doctor and Ruby, in the TARDIS. The Time Lord claimed this was a warning, not to return to the time when his companion was found as a baby. Keeping the festive theme, in episode two “The Devil’s Chord,” snow falls to the sounds of “Carol of the Bells,” which impressed the pan-dimensional being Maestro to no end and leaving them to marvel at Ruby’s power.

And, in third instalment of Gatwa’s first season, snow falls on Kastarion 3, something that was “not possible” as we’re told because it “never snows” on that planet. The snow begins after Ruby is shot and while it falls, the Doctor comments that this is “good.” However, when her vitals begin to deteriorate, the snow curiously stops in mid-air.

In “73 Yards,” snow begins to fall not long after Ruby is left alone after the Doctor disappeared. Though, it is Wales, so that could have been your normal, everyday, real snow. Ruby tells us that after she despatched Roger ap Gwilliam, it never snowed again.

Is Ruby controlling the snow through her subconscious? Or is there an external force causing this meteorological anomaly to connect with her? Keep your eyes peeled on Snow Watch for the rest of the season, as Davies has promised there’s a “definite answer” to this.

Fairy tales.

Baby-eating trolls and a literal Bogeyman front-ended this season’s nod to children’s stories. The most recent instalment, “73 Yards”, saw the Doctor and Ruby break a fairy circle — full of charms and spells, and hopes and dreams. The element of the fantastical and unreal is certainly strong in 2024. Is it possible that this season could be one long fairy tale told through the lens of a mischievous force, akin to the Toymaker?

A return for Maestro?

As Davies exclusively revealed to THR earlier this month, the character (as played by Jinkx Monsoon in “The Devil’s Chord”) is “ripe” for return. Could they be back to wreak havoc once more? Maybe. Or is their son, Henry Arbinger, a possible returnee, given his mysterious reappearance during the song and dance denouement of said episode? A harbinger of doom, perhaps?

Who are The Pantheon and The One Who Waits?

Since being named-checked a couple times early on in the run, we’ve had no further references. As we previously speculated, the Pantheon (a vast power beyond the universe) could be a reference to the Pantheon of Discord, whom the Doctor is very familiar with and slightly fearful of. Undoubtedly, all will be explained in the finale.

Here comes the (Mrs.) flood.

Played by Anita Dobson, famous in the U.K. for playing Angie Watts in long-running soap EastEnders (she’s also married to Queen guitarist Brian May), Mrs. Flood first appeared in the 2023 Christmas Day special, where she would give quite the fourth wall-breaking wink to the camera after revealing she knew what a TARDIS was. Ruby’s neighbor also makes an appearance in “73 Yards,” but fails to ignite any further theories about the character.

Other big winkers in the Whoniverse include The Toymaker (played by Neil Patrick Harris in the 2023 special, “The Giggle”) and the aforementioned Maestro. Is Mrs. Flood part of this race, so feared by Time Lords? If she is, she’s certainly keeping it on the lowdown.

UNIT will be back.

Created to investigate the extra-terrestrial, the Unified Intelligence Taskforce will return for the season finale — we’re glad that the huge set built for “The Giggle” didn’t go to waste! However, in “73 Yards,” Kate Stewart comments that UNIT are increasingly investigating the “supernatural” these days. What that means isn’t yet clear, but let’s hope for a Ghostbusters or X-Files crossover.

“There’s always a (Susan) Twist at the end…”

So far, actor Susan Twist has appeared in every episode of the new season (as well as popping up in 2023 specials). And we fully expect her to feature in each episode to come. This year, we’ve seen her in the far future (as a crew member aboard the “Space Babies” space station and as the “face” of the unhelpful ambulance on Kastarion 3), in the past (a tea lady in London, 1963) and in the present — a helpful hiker whom Ruby meets and speaks to. The most recent meeting was curious, as the Doctor’s companion seems to recognize her but then dismisses the notion.

But, how could someone with the same face (named differently each time we should note) travel through space and time? And, why do they seem to be following Ruby? Like Maestro or the Toymaker, is she a being who is simply having fun, or is there something more sinister at play?

And ,is the actor’s name a red-herring? Whovians will know that the Doctor’s granddaughter is called Susan. In “The Devil’s Chord,” the Time Lord reminisces to Ruby about their time together in London. Too obvious? Perhaps.

Doctor Who, “73 Yards” is currently available to stream on Disney+ (excluding U.K. and Ireland). New episodes debut weekly on Fridays. Read THR’s take on the two-episode premiere.



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