The Doctor and Ruby standing on a cliff in Doctor Who
(BBC/Disney+)

‘Doctor Who’ Brought Us a Confusing Episode With ’73 Yards’

The new season of Doctor Who has kept us on our toes each week. With “73 Yards,” fans have a lot of questions about what things mean, like who was the old lady following Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) around and where was the Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) the entire time?

Recommended Videos

The episode wrapped everything up with a nice little bow, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have questions about what happened to Ruby throughout “73 Yards,” so here’s what you need to know.

Who was the old woman?

ruby in the street crying on doctor who
(BBC/Disney+)

Throughout the episode, Ruby sees an older woman, and when the Doctor accidentally breaks a “fairy circle,” that woman ends up being Ruby’s shadow. Always keeping a distance of 73 yards from her, the figure following Ruby ensures she is never really “alone” again, as we watch her grow into old age throughout the episode. Ruby takes note that anyone who speaks to this woman runs away screaming, and she uses this phenomenon to stop Roger ap Gwilliam (Aneurin Barnard) from winning his election as the U.K.’s prime minister.

But what we see through the episode’s end is that the older woman is Ruby. She lives a whole life over the course of the episode, and when she’s very old, she returns to the place in Wales where she last saw the Doctor. It seems to be a time loop, because we’re then back at the start of the episode with a new perspective. The older Ruby warns her about the fairy circle, saving that Ruby from a life of solitude.

Who was “Mad Jack”?

(BBC/Disney+)

Showrunner Russell T. Davies really used the name “Jack” and had me on edge, but “Mad Jack” ended up being Gwilliam. At the start of the episode, Ruby reads letters left on the fairy circle, and she finds one that says that they miss Mad Jack. Later, we learn that it’s a nickname given to Gwilliam, who the Doctor warned Ruby about.

Roger ap Gwilliam nearly destroys the world with his political moves and will become the worst prime minister in history. The Doctor accidentally tells Ruby this, forgetting what year she’s from, and the episode shows us what Ruby would do about it, given the chance to take him on. But “Mad Jack” is simply a nickname for Gwilliam.

Where was the Doctor?

Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) in Doctor Who "73 Yards"
(BBC/Disney+)

For the most part, we only see Gatwa in the very beginning of the episode. Once the Doctor steps on the fairy circle and breaks it, Ruby ends up being on her own, as the Doctor just goes and locks himself away in the TARDIS without giving Ruby any answers.

We get to see the Doctor again at the end of the episode, when older Ruby goes to see the TARDIS and watches as Ruby and the Doctor emerge, but other than that, this is an episode without him because of what the fairy circle told him to do.

Was this all because of the fairy circle?

Millie Gibson and Ncuti Gatwa in "73 Yards"
(BBC/Disney+)

This is where things get complicated. It started because of the fairy circle, but we also don’t know how many time loops Ruby had to go through before she broke free. All we know is that what we see in the episode is one of those times, and at the end of her lifespan, she ensured the next version of herself wouldn’t go through it.

Could this have been a time loop that just kept going on until Ruby succeeded in stopping Gwilliam? Was this the only time this happened? I have some questions, Russell T. Davies!


The Mary Sue is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy
Author
Image of Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.