Doctor Who Season 14: ‘The Legend of Ruby Sunday’ review — It’s not looking good for the finale

Jessica Cullen
Millie Gibson as Ruby in Doctor Who

As we headed into the finale, it was difficult to predict what the two-part ending for Season 14 had in store. And what ‘The Legend of Ruby Sunday’ proves is that the show itself didn’t even really know, either. 

Following the wonderful ‘Rogue’, the new episode of Doctor Who Season 14 opens with the Doctor and Ruby flying into UNIT. They’re not there to answer a call for help, however. This time, it’s the Doctor that needs assistance. 

They want answers for the ongoing appearances of a mysterious woman who seems to follow them across time — Susan Twist, obviously.

This unceremonious set-up is an omen of exactly how ‘The Legend of Ruby Sunday’ plays out. There’s no rhyme or reason, no consequence or need — it’s all fodder designed to push us exactly where Russell T Davies wants it to go. (Which is, admittedly, a very explosive final five minutes.)

None of this means anything

It’s a pretentious thing to point to a lack of ‘cause and effect’ when blaming a weak narrative, but that’s just what this is. It’s not something you notice when it’s working well, but when there is no cause and effect — which is exactly what ‘The Legend of Ruby Sunday’ is missing — it’s painfully obvious. It begs the question: “What are we doing this for?”

While speculation has been the name of the game when it comes to this new era, the new episode shoots through the biggest Season 14 theories in a number of minutes, including Susan Twist, Ruby Sunday’s parentage, and the Doctor’s granddaughter. All checked off with meaningless and lazy dialog that assigns a cheapness to the proceedings. 

Yasmin Finney as Rose in Doctor Who
Yasmin Finney returns as Rose Noble in ‘The Legend of Ruby Sunday’

I’m not above red herrings when they’re done right. But this is less of a “Gotcha! We’ve been distracting you this whole time!” and more of a “Nothing matters and an attempt at engagement is futile” kind of situation. 

It’s not insulting to deter viewers with other possible outcomes, but it is insulting to rattle them off in a way that lacks sense, smarts, or even interest. 

A weak set-up for the Doctor and Ruby

Throughout Season 14, the Doctor and Ruby have been pushed and pulled through episodes that either have them doing just enough or nothing at all. ‘The Legend of Ruby Sunday’ falls into the latter category, as neither is given any agency in the first installment of the two-part finale.

And, once again, they hardly spend any time together. Where’s the camaraderie? The attempt at solving the mystery together? Instead, we get the UNIT team pushing them around and telling them what to do, meaning Ruby (the episode’s namesake) simply falls into the background and the Doctor is taken from one place to another without intent or purpose. 

None of the intended emotional beats — the Doctor’s possible reunion with his granddaughter or Ruby’s potential encounter with her birth mother — hit the right mark. And it’s a shame because the question of who they are has formed such a large part of this season’s development. 

But why have the complex and impactful characters we deserve when we can frequently focus on overloading technical equipment and prolonged “What is that?” moments?

A redeeming ending, kind of

‘The Legend of Ruby Sunday’ does succeed by one measure. The final moments are genuinely intense and — thank god — frightening. Sutekh theorists will be punching the air in triumph, and the reveal is done with a bang. (Yes, I jumped, okay?)  

Ncuti Gatwa does a lot of the heavy lifting in these final moments. His look of sheer horror is painful in all the right ways, and even those unfamiliar with the Sutekh lore will find reason to be scared.

The cast of Doctor Who The Legend of Ruby Sunday

But again, this all ties back to the question of why? Why does any of this mean anything? As effective as it might be, it feels more like a rabbit pulled out of a hat than a payoff. 

Not everything needs a payoff, but Doctor Who should have one. We’ve already been on a string of seemingly unconnected and randomly-conceived episodes, so why does this feel like just another one?

Doctor Who Season 14: ‘The Legend of Ruby Sunday’ verdict: 2/5

This episode had so much potential to be loved. It could have taken the messy strings of Season 14 and tied them together to make something worthwhile. But ultimately, it’s a weak start to the finale that doesn’t do much to inspire connection on any level. A legend it is not. 

But if there’s one thing Season 14 has proven to be, it’s inconsistent (for better and for worse). There’s every possibility that ‘Empire of Death’ could pull it out of the bag. If it builds upon the dramatic end of the first half, then we might be onto something here.

‘The Legend of Ruby Sunday’ is available to stream now on Disney Plus and BBC iPlayer.

For more, check out our guide to all the best Doctor Who episodes. You can also take a look at our breakdown of the Doctor Who Season 14 villains, as well as our ‘Rogue’ review.

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