My thoughts on ‘73 Yards’ – episode 4 of Doctor Who

Warning: don’t read this until you’ve seen/listened to the Doctor Who episode called ‘73 Yards’. Spoilers ahead!

My initial response to this episode was ‘yes! That’s more like it’. I enjoyed it but then also my brain began to crank into gear and lots of thoughts started to fire off.

Many questions remain. Even if Ruby branched off into an alternate timeline, why did the Doctor disappear; shouldn’t he have entered the timeline with her as soon as he stepped on the fairy circle? Also, what did the woman say to people that made everyone, including loved ones, turn against Ruby and run away screaming? Will we ever know or is it intended to be left a mystery? On the one hand it feels lazy, like they couldn’t think up something good enough for the woman to have said. On the other hand, it feels like an astute, if frustrating, storytelling choice to make it more chilling.

Unfortunately I guessed who the woman was pretty much right from when she appeared. I don’t know why; that’s just the way my brain works. It may also have been the audio description that made it slightly more obvious than if I had been watching the episode instead of listening to it.

What happened to Ruby in this episode had echoes of what happened to Amy Pond in ‘The Girl Who Waited’, both ageing in alternate timelines, living a whole life waiting. Amy Pond also waited 12 years for the Doctor to reappear in ‘The Eleventh Hour’. This, along with the 15th Doctor referring to the 11th Doctor’s favourite food (fish fingers and custard) last week, makes me wonder if this is building to something alluding to Amy and the 11th Doctor or if it’s just a red herring. The Toymaker and the Maestro both hinted that someone is coming and the Maestro said “the one who waits is almost here”. So it might have nothing to do with Amy and the 11th Doctor but instead be to do with these supernatural beings. The person who set down Ruby as a baby by the church certainly looked similar to a being that featured in the Sarah Jane Adventures (and classic Doctor Who that I haven’t seen) but I won’t mention them by name as I don’t want to spoil it in case I’m correct.

A theme also seems to be emerging of very small things changing events, people and the whole course of time. For example, in previous weeks, Ruby stepping on the butterfly, also the ‘gravity’ to ‘mavity’ word change, and now this episode with the Doctor changing everything with just one step in the wrong direction. I really hope that Russell T Davies is planting all these clues and that this will be a key theme in something big to come.

My joint favourite episode of Doctor Who ever is ‘Turn Left’ (which feels like a precursor to Russell T Davies’ incredibly prescient, masterpiece of a television show ‘Years and Years’) where the course of time is changed by Donna’s decision to turn right instead of left; ‘73 Yards’ nowhere near rivals that episode but it had similar vibes in places – time passing in a dystopian world (side note: the Albion Party – genius but disconcerting/eerie because you just know a similar ideology already is happening in real life in some quarters) without the Doctor.

I’ve been wondering for a while now if Ruby herself is a being (or daughter of a being) similar to the Toymaker or the Maestro. We don’t know anything about her origins, she can make it snow and in this episode, the older, ghostly version of herself was able to break through Kate Lethbridge-Stewart’s psychic shields, like The Toymaker could.

This episode was encouraging and hopefully things will only get better from here. I still have many questions. Why couldn’t the old woman version of Ruby just tell the younger version what she had to do (save the world by stopping nuclear war) instead of making her wait most of her life for one single moment when she had to figure out why the woman had always stayed 73 yards away from her? Why did the old woman version of Ruby turn everyone against Ruby, including her own Mum? Why would she make herself so miserable and alone like that? Was it at the moment of death that she became an apparition and appeared back at the moment in time to stop the Doctor stepping on the string? How was that possible: how did she get from the care home to a cliff in Wales? It doesn’t make sense! I’m not sure that it was meant to though. Ghost stories often don’t make logical sense and that is what this episode is really.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this episode. Leave a comment below to let me know!

5 thoughts on “My thoughts on ‘73 Yards’ – episode 4 of Doctor Who”

  1. Good stuff there Jenny! I too guessed who the old lady was early on…(I think I’ve seen too many sci-fi shows over the years!)

    Ruby must be something ‘other worldly’.

    This episode didn’t have any opening titles. I Googled this and it’s the first time since ‘Sleep No More’ (which I didn’t remember as an episode and had to look up). I can’t see there’s any connection between the stories though.

    Well, no Prime Minister’s from Wales then 😉

    I’m sure in the scene in the TV studio, Ruby’s glasses didn’t have lenses in them! I guess they wanted to see her eyes clearly but very odd.

    I tried scanning the QR code on the table when she was talking to Kate but I think it was a fake ‘not quite right’ one that doesn’t work.

    I now want a UNIT spin off…

    Oh, and I still wish Ruby’s mum was the companion.

    Reply
    • Yes, I’d love a UNIT spin off so that we get to see more of Kate Stewart!

      I hope that the Welsh Prime Minister reappears in the show – a great villain.

      I didn’t notice about there being no opening titles. Very interesting! Something to mull over…

      Reply
    • The only connection with ‘Sleep No More’ that I can think of is that the machines in that episode send signals into the brains of humans. Also, Morpheus hijacks visual receptors.

      So the old woman version of Ruby, with her hand signals and voice, may be sending signals into the brains of the people she speaks to, targeting the fear response, and/or hijacking their visual receptors to make them see something else when they look at Ruby and run away in fear.

      Reply
  2. The old lady was the Doctor. At the end when she says look how young I was she was looking at the Doctor. That’s why he wasn’t in the episode.

    Reply

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