Like Yaz, Ryan and Graham, fans last saw the Doctor 10 months ago in The Timeless Children, which first aired on 1st March 2020. With many other productions halted or delayed because of the pandemic, luckily the New Year's special had already been filmed, giving us a real treat to begin what we hope will be a more positive year. The feature-length special was a welcome piece of old-school escapism. Not one mention of COVID-19 or the current crisis facing our world, but plenty of pertinent comments about many of the other issues of the day, all centred on the shady dealings of politicians, businessmen, and scientists.
Thankfully, Doctor Who is still relevant, still entertaining, and still one of the best shows on television. Unusually, this was a part two special, picking up where Resolution ended. Charlotte Richie has since been busy being playing the lead role in Ghosts, but the cast for this one are just as good, including a marvellous second appearance by Chris North as sleazy businessman and would-be president Jack Robertson (Arachnids in the UK).
After the shocking revelations of The Timeless Children and that cliffhanger ending of the Doctor being arrested by the Judoon and separated from her fam, there were plenty of outstanding questions to address. As always, we also got a whole lot of other ones to keep the fans speculating about what might be coming next for the Doctor.
10. Why Was The Doctor In Prison For So Long?
For Yaz, Ryan, and Graham, the Doctor’s 10 month absence seemed like a long time, but the Doctor's imprisonment in fact lasted several decades. It’s nothing compared to the four and a half billion years the Twelfth Doctor spent trapped inside his Confession Dial (Heaven Sent), but it is odd to see the Doctor looking so resigned to her fate and not actively working to break herself out. She does tell the Pting that she had tried eating the walls, but even if she is being serious, it doesn’t seem to have been part of an escape plan. She just doesn’t like the food.
The Doctor is still shaken from discovering that she wasn’t born on Gallifrey, but she is not in a state of complete withdrawal, unlike the Eleventh Doctor following the departure of Amy and Rory. She tells herself to stay strong because people are waiting for her. She is willing to serve the entire sentence, knowing she can then return to the very point in time she left Graham, Ryan, and Yaz.
The idea that the Doctor needs the help of a man (albeit the pansexual Captain Jack) to get her out of the prison is surely not what Chibnall intended to convey. We have to assume, therefore, that either the Doctor knew she needed thinking time, and lots of it, or felt she deserved to be alone. She tells Ryan she is still angry about the deception of the Time Lords, suggesting that Jack broke her out too soon.