A New Chapter in Time-Traveling Tales

The traditions of legend-spinning have been a feature of the genre of science fiction from the start, but probably none more storied than those surrounding the complex universe of ‘Doctor Who’. The Legend of Ruby Sunday is undoubtedly one of the most intriguing, mysterious and charismatically suspenseful, pledging a whole new chapter for the lore of the series.

The Legend Begins: A Mysterious Journey Unfolds

‘The Legend of Ruby Sunday’ is the first part of two that form a sort of dreamy, extended denouement, and it’s like we’re dropped into the middle of the story, a world where the titular character’s legend is more a tell-you-in-a-minute-but-for-now-here-are-some-pretty-Dalrobian-battles sort of promise than anything else. It’s a brilliant piece of taut storytelling; it toys with unspooling the meaning of Ruby Sunday as part of the ‘Doctor Who’ universe up to the very last minute.

A Tangled Web of Time and Secrets

Running through the centre of this legend is a thread connecting Ruby Sunday to a story of familial and cosmic mystery. The quest to find out who Ruby is and the strange woman Susan Twist is, and where she comes from, travels her across the universe. The Doctor and his companions follow these threads of the legend, with each resolution only deepening the sense of exploration in an episode loaded with narrative strands and lingering questions. Running alongside the legend are the intrigues of the Doctor and his ever-changing companions. This includes the joy of watching them explore this strange universe that has been spun for them. But it also means dealing with the familiar tropes and understandings that have come along for the ride with them, as the show has expanded and adapted over the last decade.

The Depth of Legend: Uncovering Ruby's Past

The legend digs in specifically to the question of who Ruby’s father is, the various bits of references and callback to earlier episodes enriching and deepening the texture of the story, heightening our anticipation that the full legend will be revealed. The concrete tale of Ruby’s life, combined with the high-level cosmic politics at play, is a sign of the skilled storytelling that the show is capable of at its best.

The Dark Prophecy: A Villain Re-emerges

The Legend of Ruby Sunday is, in some ways, one of the best episodes of the show because I didn’t quite expect the evil to come back the way it did. There’s something really compelling about this whole turn for the legend, not just at the end of the story but throughout the episode. It reminds me why I was so into the series to begin with, because it is so able to take something from the 1960s and ’70s, something old and vintage, and use it as part of a bigger story. That way of folding the past and present of Doctor Who into a single legend becomes a way of giving the evil new substance too. This episode returns an old villain not just as a villain, but as part of something bigger, and a cosmic battle.

Cinematic Ambitions and Nostalgic Callbacks

Indeed, the ambition of the episode and its locales expands beyond the small screen; this is a filmic endeavour, dense with information and storytelling. The verve of the drama, tension and nostalgia – and this is particularly the case for fans of the series’ dense mythos – is like fertile literary soil from which ‘Ruby Sunday’ can emerge.

The Legend's Legacy: Anticipation for the Finale

It bookends the series with ‘The Legend of Ruby Sunday’, which is explicitly set up as the story of the hero’s climactic triumph, using its own narrative and thematic elements to tease and titillate. As if the announcement that the conclusion was to be broadcasted on television screens in cinemas throughout the country did not uniquely emphasise the scale and seriousness of the legend the Doctor’s companion series sought to tell.

Exploring the Essence of Legend

But all the same, at the heart of the article is the question: what makes a legend of Doctor Who? There is much about The Legend of Ruby Sunday that still remains mysterious and mysterious. This is as it should be. That sense of the unknown, of our sympathies and our expectations being continually stretched, can and should be part of the legend of Doctor Who itself. From the plotting and the surprise return of a classic villain, to the seamless Monty Python pastiche, to the season finale itself, and even to the way in which the adventures of the Doctor play out on the environment and the landscape, the season as a whole demonstrates the value of storytelling in the study and development of legend, especially when grounded in the sort of place that the series itself has always claimed as its home.

Minding the gap between the episode’s story and the world beyond its mirror are the tropes of the legend itself: as long as Doctor Who pushes against the limits of time, space and human imagination, Ruby Sunday’s story will feel fittingly necessary – a trope about tropes, a legend about the true function of legend-making.

Jun 16, 2024
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