Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) in Doctor Who "73 Yards"

The Real Monster in ‘Doctor Who’s Latest Episode Is Ruby’s Trauma

The most recent Doctor Who episode, “73 Yards,” was a tour de force for Millie Gibson’s Ruby Sunday.

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Suddenly left to fend for herself in a world with no Doctor, Ruby must call on all her strength to save the world from an evil, predatory, nuke-loving Prime Minister. And all the while, a mysterious woman stands exactly 73 yards away from her at all times, as if trying to warn or perhaps condemn her.

While the reaction to “73 Yards” has been largely positive, there have been some complaints among fans that the episode doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. At the end of the episode, the mysterious woman is revealed to have been Ruby herself, an older Ruby who’s somehow gone back in time, and that puzzled a lot of viewers. But if some elements of the episode are loosely drawn, one thing is very clear: The woman is a representation of Ruby’s abandonment trauma.

Ruby’s past

Ruby appears to be a happy young woman, and that seems to mostly be due to her foster mother Carla (Michelle Greenidge). Carla took her in, adopted her, and loved her, so Ruby always had one stabilizing force in her life. And yet, nothing can change the fact that Ruby was abandoned as a baby. That’s the sort of thing that can haunt you your entire life.

In “73 Yards” the haunting is very literal because what the mysterious woman does is make people abandon Ruby. Whenever Ruby asks anyone to approach the woman, they speak to her for mere seconds and then run away screaming in fear. And it’s Ruby (the young Ruby, “our” Ruby) they’re afraid of.

The woman amplifies Ruby’s lifelong feelings of self-doubt and her fear of abandonment, making her feel unlovable in the worst and most painful way. She even makes Carla, Ruby’s mother in every way that matters, turn against her. One brief moment with the woman, and Carla is locking Ruby out of the house. Later on, during a phone conversation, she tells Ruby that she’s not her real mother; her real mother didn’t even want her. Everything Ruby feared has come true.

Learning to accept

But Ruby’s fear of abandonment is part of her—she is the woman—and she must learn to live with that. As time goes on, she realizes that she can make the mysterious figure work for her. She weaponizes the woman’s ability to strike fear into people by unleashing her on a terrible politician, Roger ap Gwilliam (Aneurin Barnard) before he gets the chance to start a nuclear war.

Ruby saves the world, doing what she was sure she was always meant to do, but the woman still won’t go away. Ruby has come to accept her by this point, though. She speaks to her almost with fondness. It’s been a long road, but she no longer fears the figure that always lurks nearby.

In other words, Ruby has accepted that her trauma is part of her, something she can even use for the better. Hence why she and the woman turn out to be the same person—how could it be any other way? “73 Yards” is all about how you need to accept your worst fear, make it part of yourself, and only then can you move forward.

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Sarah Barrett
Sarah Barrett (she/her) is a freelance writer with The Mary Sue who has been working in journalism since 2014. She loves to write about movies, even the bad ones. (Especially the bad ones.) The Raimi Spider-Man trilogy and the Star Wars prequels changed her life in many interesting ways. She lives in one of the very, very few good parts of England.