The Fugitive Doctor made her first appearance in the 2020 episode ‘Fugitive of the Judoon’ – but how exactly does she fit into the Doctor’s timeline?
When we first meet the Fugitive Doctor, she is an ordinary human woman living an ordinary human life and going by the name of Ruth Clayton. She’s living in Gloucester with a man called Lee, and working as a tour guide.
But with this being Doctor Who, things aren’t as simple as that. Events start to escalate when the Judoon come to Earth in search of a fugitive – the Judoon being a sort of intergalactic police force that the Doctor first encountered (on screen, at least) in the 2007 episode ‘Smith and Jones.’ They are an uncompromising and relentless species, and in ‘Fugitive of the Judoon’ they seem particularly interested in Ruth and Lee, both of whom appear to be completely human. Indeed, the pair are puzzled as to why the Judoon should be hunting them.
And even though the Doctor is able to confirm their human DNA with a bio-scan, it still seems as if something is amiss. And Lee certainly knows more than he is saying, alerting the audience to his potentially alien origins by despairingly referring to the people around him as “humans,” before leaving Ruth a cryptic text message telling her to “follow the light” and “break the glass.”
Ruth believes that “follow the light” is a reference to her childhood home – a lighthouse – and she takes the Doctor there with the Judoon (and a mysterious woman called Gat) still hot on her heels.
And it is here that events take another strange turn. The Doctor – curious about the grave of Ruth’s parents – starts to dig, and to her shock she uncovers a buried police box. Or more accurately, another TARDIS.
Ruth, too, discovers something strange. She feels drawn to a fire alarm inside the lighthouse and smashes the glass, releasing a wave of energy that engulfs her. Visibly changed, Ruth picks up a nearby weapon and goes to re-join the Doctor outside. “I broke the glass,” she announces. “It’s all come back to me… Let me take it from the top. Hello, I’m the Doctor. I’m a traveller in space and time. And that thing buried down there is called a TARDIS…”
The Ruth Doctor – or now more accurately, the Fugitive Doctor – then beams the Thirteenth Doctor inside the police box, with a design that echoes the one piloted by the First Doctor, William Hartnell. And whilst this revelation undoubtedly raises more questions than it answers, it does at least explain why the Judoon are so keen to track down Ruth. She’s the Fugitive Doctor, a traveller with a sketchy and mysterious past that is catching up with her – a past that is, apparently, more complicated than anyone realised.
It transpires that the Fugitive Doctor used to work for a rogue Gallifreyan sect called the Division, who defied the Time Lords’ strict policy of non-interference in the events and affairs of other planets. The Division sought to guide and shape the universe as they saw fit with the Fugitive Doctor as one of its operatives, along with the mysterious Gat.
But after the Doctor fled the Division, Gat and the Judoon resolved to track her down. The Fugitive Doctor then managed to hide herself on Earth (for a while, at least) by turning herself into a human called Ruth using a Gallifreyan chameleon arch, with all of her Time Lord identity hidden within the fire alarm that was stowed inside the lighthouse.
Of course, all of this is news to the Thirteenth Doctor. She has no memory of being the Fugitive Doctor, and has never heard of the Division – and there is a reason for this. It transpires that the Division ultimately wiped the Doctor’s memories of their previous incarnations and their time at the Division, and also wiped the Matrix (the Gallifreyan data store) leaving no trace of the Fugitive Doctor or the events that surrounded her.
But why would they do this? Well, in the 2020 episode ‘The Timeless Children‘ it transpired that the Fugitive Doctor wasn’t the only “forgotten” incarnation of the famous Time Lord. There had in fact been hundreds – if not thousands – of incarnations that had been lost to time, all of them stemming from a mysterious person known as the Timeless Child (or the Doctor) who had actually been the one to give the Time Lords their regenerative ability and helped to form Gallifreyan society. Presumably, this was a secret that the Time Lords wanted to keep well hidden from the populous of Gallifrey, not least the Doctor.
And it was a woman called Tecteun who had been responsible for making all this happen, finding the Doctor as a little girl standing at the gateway to another dimension on an unnamed planed, and experimenting on her to learn the secret of her ability to regenerate.
If all this is true, it changes everything about the Doctor’s personal history. And it could well be true, as the Doctor was reunited with Tecteun in Doctor Who: Flux who confirmed the reality of the story originally relayed by the Master. But there is still a possibility that one (or both of them) are lying; after all, neither Tecteun or the Master are the most trustworthy of individuals.
But at the time of writing, the Fugitive Doctor is just one of a vast array of forgotten Doctors who are currently wandering in time and space. It remains to be seen if more details will be revealed; the Doctor’s missing memories do exist, and they’re kept in a phial deep within the TARDIS – although it’s unclear if the Doctor ever plans to retrieve them.
From a real world point of view, the showrunner Chris Chibnall (who created the Fugitive Doctor and the idea of the Timeless Child) recently said in an interview that he expects the incoming showrunner Russell T Davies to ignore these new concepts. But with Chibnall’s final episode (the BBC’s centenary special) on its way in autumn 2022, there may be more information yet to come.
Plus, of course, the audio production company Big Finish recently announced a brand new series of adventures for the Fugitive Doctor starring Jo Martin, which will be spread across two box sets.
In the meantime, do you think the Fugitive Doctor is a real incarnation of the Doctor? And would you like to see the Timeless Child idea developed in the future? Let me know in the comments below.
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