WARNING: Major spoilers for “The Fugitive of the Judoon,” this week’s episode of ‘Doctor Who,’ lie ahead. If you don’t wish to have this episode spoiled for you, then the time to stop reading is NOW!
Okay, time to dive deep into ‘Doctor Who’ lore – so deep, in fact, we’ll be covering some things from novels, audiobooks, and things that were simply ideas that the TV show creative team had but never were able to bring to the screen. So, let’s call this a “probable theory,” but as always with things that haven’t been officially revealed as of yet, take this with a grain or two of salt.
So, in “The Fugitive of the Judoon” episode, we are introduced to Ruth (Jo Martin), a seemingly normal human living her life as a tour guide operator in Gloucester, England. When a squad of alien Judoon “galactic enforcers” suddenly arrive, however, Ruth’s life is turned upside down when she discovers that the man she’s been living with has been harboring strange alien secrets – and when he says certain “code words” to her, Ruth travels to her “family home” only to have parts of her subconscious activated and discover that she is actually a Time Lord named… the Doctor. BOOM!
The key question, of course, is: how the heck is this possible? Our current Doctor, aka the Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), doesn’t recognize Ruth Doctor (should we use Doctor Ruth? Nah, that’s already been taken in pop culture), and she thinks that this indicates Ruth is from her future – a regeneration that she hasn’t experienced yet. Except that Ruth Doctor doesn’t recognize the Thirteenth Doctor as being from her past, either… and Ruth Doctor is flying around in a TARDIS that looks suspiciously like an incarnation we’ve seen before – an early version of the TARDIS, to be sure, but one that exists after the ship’s chameleon circuits became stuck on the blue police box exterior. Since the chameleon circuit became broken in the time of the First Doctor in the very first aired episode of ‘Doctor Who,’ the aptly-titled “An Unearthly Child” (later revealed in questionably-canonical ‘Doctor Who’ comic books to be the intentional sabotage of the Eleventh Doctor back-tracking into his own personal past, but that’s a story for another article), this must mean that Ruth Doctor comes somewhere in the Doctor’s personal timeline after the First Doctor. Still with us so far?
Throughout the history of ‘Doctor Who,’ audiences have seen every regeneration from First to Thirteen happen on-screen, meaning that Ruth Doctor can’t be wedged in the middle of them somewhere… or can she?
The regeneration of the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) into the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) was particularly… vague. In the Second Doctor’s final episode, 1969’s “The War Games,” the Time Lords have chosen to exile the Doctor to Earth and tell him that they are forcing a regeneration upon him so that no one on Earth will recognize him. The forced regeneration happens on an alien world with the Time Lords – ostensibly, Gallifrey – but all audiences are shown is Troughton swirling around (in video effects that were undoubtedly cool for the time), and then the TARDIS crashing to Earth and Pertwee falling out. It’s the only time that the Doctor has had a regeneration forced upon him, and it’s the only time that audiences don’t directly see the regeneration go from one face right into the next. Check it out in the video below.
The Second Doctor does return to ‘Doctor Who’ continuity, and the instance that this happens in which we focus on now is “The Two Doctors,” when Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor meets the Second Doctor. In this tale, it seems that the Second Doctor and his companion, Jamie, are actually working for the Time Lords, which is odd on two fronts: one, the Second Doctor was on the run from the Time Lords and had his regeneration forced on him by those same Lords of Time; and two, the Time Lords wiped Jamie’s memory of the only time they met, immediately prior to the forced regeneration. Also quite telling: both the Second Doctor and Jamie physically appear years older in “The Two Doctors” than they did during their original time on ‘Doctor Who,’ with no apparent attempt to hide this, change this, or explain this made by the show’s creative team. So how do the two know of their current mission to assist the Time Lords, and when exactly in the Doctor’s timeline does this happen?
Fans in the 1980s asked this same question, and the “Theory of Season 6B” was born. It goes, rather succinctly, that before the Time Lords fully regenerated and exiled the Doctor to Earth, they used he and Jamie as sort of a “temporal hit squad,” making the duo do the Gallifreyan dirty work that needed to be done “off the record.” The theory took on such a life of its own that creative minds behind other ‘Doctor Who’ projects started to incorporate it into their stories in a semi-canonical way, thus creating an “alternate” sixth season of the show, “6B.” Two novels and an audiobook (“Players,” “The World Game,” and “Helicon Prime,” for the record) feature a version of the Second Doctor working directly for the Time Lords, and the TV Comic comic-book magazine used the Second Doctor in several of their stories, culminating in “The Night Walkers” which ended with a regeneration for the Second Doctor that was wildly different of what was shown to TV audiences. Could the Time Lords have delayed the Doctor’s forced regeneration, used the Second Doctor as their personal one-man “goon squad,” and found a reason to regenerate him one or more other faces (including Ruth Doctor) before truly exiling him to Earth in the regenerated form of Pertwee?
This matches up surprisingly well with what little info we were given in “The Fugitive of the Judoon,” especially noting the “old-school interior appearance of Ruth Doctor’s TARDIS (placing it in the First-to-Second Doctor era) and the Gallifreyan agent that attempted to kill Ruth Doctor not being aware of Gallifrey burning, which places her somewhere pre-Time War in the existence of the Time Lords.
Also, Ruth Doctor said, in no uncertain terms, that she was on the run from the Time Lords because she “quit my job.” The job of Black Ops Time Enforcer, perhaps? A job that the Time Lords forced her to do once they regenerated her from the Second Doctor and before they recapture her and force her to regenerate into the Third Doctor?
It’s just a theory at this point, of course – but it seems like a pretty well-put together theory that makes sense within what we currently know of ‘Doctor Who’ canon. As with everything related to the Doctor, however – and pun fully intended here – time will tell!