My thoughts on ‘The Legend of Ruby Sunday’ – episode 7 of Doctor Who

Warning: do not read this until you have watched or listened to the Doctor Who episode ‘The Legend of Ruby Sunday’. Spoilers ahead!

It’s hard for me to separate my feelings for this episode from the frustration of the poor audio and audio description. For a show that purports to be inclusive, it excludes a whole lot of people who have to rely solely on the audio.

There are lots of reasons why people can only listen to a TV show but not watch it; for some it’s their eyesight, for me it’s my neck (see here), for others it will be something different. Throughout the episode, I had trouble distinguishing the words of at least four characters at certain moments due to their poor diction and enunciation. However, what was meant to be the episode’s dramatic culmination was, to anyone solely listening to the audio, a confusing jumble of many people speaking over each other, lots of people speaking all at once, or switching very quickly from person to person, too fast for the audio description to describe which one was speaking. It was upsetting, especially when I’d been looking forward to this episode so much.

On the positive side, it was a dynamic and exciting episode, clearly building to something. I love it when Kate Stewart features in Doctor Who and one of her exchanges with the Doctor was my favourite moment of the episode, for its humour:

Doctor: Kate, do you have a time window?

Kate: You expressly told us in the 1970s, UNIT was absolutely forbidden to experiment with any form of time technology.

Doctor: Do you have a time window?

Kate: Ten floors down

Once I had listened to the audio again to work out what was happening at the end, with the revelation of the identity of ‘the one who waits’, I was still left with an overwhelming feeling of confusion. Sutekh??! Who??? I was also unsure which of the two creatures that materialised was actually this ‘Sutekh’, god of death: the big weird jackal beast or the corpse person that Susan Triad morphed into? Both? The audio didn’t make it clear if the giant jackal was speaking itself or if it was only speaking through Susan.

Was Susan Triad a normal human being who was chosen randomly by Sutekh to use as his vessel? Was there something special about her? What was the purpose of her repeatedly popping up in every episode? What technology was Susan going to give to the world for free? What does Sutekh have against the Doctor? Also, who is Mrs Flood? I’m guessing that we might get some answers next week in the finale.

I didn’t grow up with Doctor Who on the television. Doctor Who was off air from when I was 3-18 years old so I was completely unaware of it and unfamiliar with it until it returned in 2005, a month or so before my 19th birthday. I’ve seen (or, for the last four and a half years, listened to the audio of) every single episode since then. I’ve never gone back to watch Classic Who though, mainly because the very first episodes aren’t available and I’d want to start from the very beginning. So, although I’ve been a Whovian for 19 years, I don’t have the knowledge from the Classic series.

At the end of this episode, when the reveal of the Big Bad was someone of whom I’d never heard, I was left disappointed. I enjoy figuring out theories from clues dropped throughout the series but this is something that I could never have guessed because I didn’t have that knowledge from Classic Who in the first place. Yet, the show acts like the audience should know all this information. The closest I came was thinking that the Big Bad would be The Trickster, with whom I was familiar because of the Sarah Jane Adventures.

I’ve heard of the Egyptian god Seth (mainly because of Stargate SG-1 from way back when!), of whom I’m guessing that Sutekh, god of death, is a version. Given that Ruby might have been abandoned as a baby by Sutekh at the church, my previous theory that Ruby may well be related (the daughter?) to this sort of otherworldly being, might end up being correct! I’m trying to reach back to my Stargate knowledge of the Ancient Egyptians, but wasn’t Anubis the child of Seth in some versions of the story? Is Ruby a version of Anubis, if they’re following Egyptian mythology? Was this hinted at in ‘73 yards’ – protector of the dead?

Alternatively, although we’ve been led to believe that this Susan was not in fact the Doctor’s granddaughter, if she still is somehow, maybe she’s Ruby’s mother, making Ruby the Doctor’s great-granddaughter! That would make sense of why Susan kept popping up in The Doctor and Ruby’s timeline – she’s drawn to Ruby, even if Susan is in Time Lord hiding mode with a Chameleon Arch and has forgotten who she is.

I enjoyed that Ruby’s (adoptive) mum was more involved in this episode (and I know that someone who reads and comments on this blog will be very pleased about that!), though I’d like to see more of her.

In the end, unfortunately I’m still left with the overriding feeling of bewilderment and anticlimax. Plus exasperation at the audio description. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to the finale.

What did you think of the episode? Was it a much more enjoyable episode to watch visually, without the confusion and frustration of the audio description? Let me know your opinions and thoughts in the comments! (No spoilers for next week’s finale though, please)

4 thoughts on “My thoughts on ‘The Legend of Ruby Sunday’ – episode 7 of Doctor Who”

  1. I’m so sorry you had the issues with the audio descriptions. That’s rubbish and so frustrating!

    For me it was by far the best episode of this series. Proper DW! And now I REALLY want a UNIT spinoff. They’ve got a time room and everything!

    Wikipedia tells me that Sutekh is another name for Seth/Set (and go SG-1, much hurrahness. I often watch the repeats of an afternoon on Sky Mix!). The big old dog was speaking and seperate to Susan. I think she’s like a servant/emisary and she also changed to look rather like the Silence, but I think that was just a general ‘looks a bit a skeleton vibe’. The H-Arbinger’ charater also had a skull kind of look at the end too.

    A DW wiki tells me that Sutekh was in one classic show with the 4th Doctor and Sarah-Jane. I’ve seen a bit of classic DW but not enough to go ‘ohhhh Sutekh’! I hope they’ll expand on this next week…

    I also thought ‘is Ruby the Doctor’s great-granddaughter’! That could actually work quite well.

    And YAY for more screen time for Ruby’s mum 😉 At least she’s seen UNIT now. Another spin off character?!!?!?

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  2. Me again! Just to let you know that ‘Pyramids of Mars’ – the classic story with Sutekh is on iPlayer (It’s under ‘Tales of the Tardis’ rather than ‘Doctor Who’)! I’ve just watched it as on BBC4. It’s 75 minutes long and gives some good info filling in about Sutekh. It also explains the role of Susan (he had a similar person in this one).

    It’s got Audio Description, so I hope you can give it a watch/listen before Saturday!

    Reply
    • Thanks James! Yes, I managed to listen to the audio description of the Pyramids of Mars four parter yesterday (though I found it on iPlayer under the heading of ‘Doctor Who (1963-1996)’ and selecting series 13. It has given me some ideas for what might happen in the finale! But gosh, it was such a different show then! It was my first experience of Tom Baker too!

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  3. I’m glad you got to listen to it! It certainly was a different show back then. Some of the monsters and effects were, erm, interesting… And your first Tom Baker, ooooooooh. I do like him in the ones I’ve seen of him. I’ve also listened to some of the dramatised audio stories he did and they’re good too.

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