ruby and the doctor standing at each other

Breaking Down That ‘Doctor Who’ Season Finale

Doctor Who excels at season finales, but sometimes they can be a little bit convoluted. And alas, the season 14 finale was one of these.

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This season’s finale had a lot to tackle: the return of an old enemy, the mystery of Ruby Sunday’s parentage, and appearances from some of the Doctor’s old friends. Did it manage to get a good story out of all of that? Well, that’s for you to decide. In the meantime, here’s an explainer for what exactly happened.

The penultimate episode returned to the season’s mysteries

Ever since the first episode of Season 14, the Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby (Millie Gibson) had been followed through space and time by a mysterious woman. She was played by an actress named Susan Twist, and many fans guessed that this was a clever act of trolling by showrunner Russell T. Davies: there would be a twist involving someone called Susan. As classic Doctor Who fans know, Susan was the name of the Doctor’s granddaughter, so was it her?

No, it wasn’t her. We met the mysterious woman for real in “The Legend of Ruby Sunday.” Susan Twist was playing a Susan… but this was Susan Triad, a famous businesswoman and inventor of Triad Technology. The Doctor and UNIT noticed straight away that “S. Triad” is an anagram of “TARDIS” but that led them in the wrong direction about Triad’s identity. Susan was often called “Sue” and she ran a technology company… put those two things together and you get “Sue Tech” pronounced “Sutekh” a.k.a. one of the Doctor’s oldest enemies. (I promise, the “Sue Tech” reveal works much better in the show than it does on paper.)

Sutekh was thought defeated long ago, but survived by latching onto the TARDIS and he’s been there all this time. (Since the TARDIS was split in two back in “The Giggle” maybe it’s best not to think about that one too much.)

While all this was going on, Ruby was trying to find the identity of her birth mother via a “Time Window” that UNIT had lying around. She can see an image of her mother wearing the cloak she wore when abandoning Ruby, and pointing at something, but she can’t see her mother’s face.

The season finale answered the big mystery

In the following episode, “Empire of Death” Sutekh kills the entire world, everyone on every planet and time period the Doctor’s ever been. Characters we know and like, such as Kate Stewart and Rose Noble, turn to dust before our eyes. Only the Doctor, Ruby, and the Doctor’s old companion Mel (Bonnie Langford), survive, taking refuge in a “memory TARDIS” created by the Time Window.

But they’re not killed. You see, Sutekh is very interested in the true identity of Ruby’s mysterious mother, so interested that he’s kept Ruby and the Doctor alive just so he can find out. (Wait, is Sutekh the audience?!)

Ruby finds out that Roger ap Gwilliam—the evil politician from 74 Yards—established a database in 2046 to store the DNA of everyone in Britain (yikes) so Ruby, the Doctor, and Mel go there. Mel is unfortunately corrupted and killed by Sutekh along the way, but Ruby is able to locate a screen containing information about her mother. Sutekh yanks the Doctor and Ruby back to his location, and an emotional Ruby offers to show Sutekh the answer he seeks … but that’s just a way for her to get close enough to defeat him.

Ruby smashes the screen and in that same instant, she and the Doctor tie Sutekh up with “intelligent rope” found in the Memory TARDIS. At the same time, the Doctor uses a whistle to open the real TARDIS and ensure Sutekh will be dragged wherever it goes.

Yes, the Doctor defeated a god with … some rope. Ya gotta turn your sense of childlike wonder on for that one, okay?

The Doctor drags Sutekh through the Time Vortex with the TARDIS, and doing this not only kills him but restores life to the universe. Kate, Rose, Mel, the entire world, and even some folks who died prior to Sutekh wiping out all life are all none the worse for wear. There’s only one thing left to go …

Ruby found her birth mother

Millie Gibson as Ruby Sunday in the Doctor Who season 14 finale

After all that, Ruby gets to finally see the woman who gave birth to her. All along, she was a perfectly ordinary woman. She wasn’t “important” in and of herself, but the mystery Ruby and the Doctor attached to her was a force so powerful it captivated Sutekh.

It turns out Ruby’s long-lost mother was an ordinary woman named Louise Miller. She was fifteen years old when she gave birth to Ruby, and needed to hide her from an abusive stepfather, so she abandoned her outside the church on Ruby Road. Her mysterious pointing was her pointing at the “Ruby Road” sign to indicate that was what she wanted the baby to be called.

Ruby connects with her mother in a coffee shop and they have a tearful reunion. Louise becomes part of Ruby’s family, which includes her adoptive mom and grandmother Carla and Cherry, and Ruby starts tracking down her biological father as well. The Doctor sees how Ruby is happy with her family on Earth and decides to leave her behind for a bit. Ruby tells the Doctor she loves him, but he doesn’t answer. He never does.

The season ends with another mystery, though. Mrs. Flood (Anita Dobson) was an intriguing presence throughout season 14. Although she also got turned into dust by Sutekh along with the entire planet, everything about her points to her being no ordinary woman. And the final scene of the episode is Mrs. Flood telling us, speaking directly to the camera, that the Doctor can expect absolute terror in his future. Onto the next adventure.

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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.