Doctor Who Episode 4 Recap/Review: “73 Yards



Director: Dylan Holmes Williams

Writer: Steven Moffat

Cast: Ncuti Gatwa, Millie Gibson

Streaming Service: Disney+


Dramatic tension is the name of the game in the fourth episode of the new season of Doctor Who, and it’s especially delicious here. When The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) breaks a fairy circle and vanishes, companion Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) notices a woman constantly watching her… and following her. She can’t make out any details of the woman’s face, and her follower is always precisely 73 yards away. Even worse, anyone Ruby asks to speak with the stranger winds up running away in fear and wanting nothing to do with her ever again. When this happens with Ruby’s adopted mother, Carla Sunday (Michelle Greenidge) it’s beyond heartbreaking.

Michelle Greenridge as Carla Sunday, a black woman who looks tense in the backseat of a car. She's wearing a multi-colored headscarf, maroon jacket, and green top, and is buckled in.
Michelle Greenridge as Carla Sunday; Courtesy of BBC One/Disney+

The Doctor’s absence in most of this episode is notable, but it’s not distracting. Ncuti’s Doctor was established very solidly in the first three episodes, and Gibson proves a strong enough actress to carry a very Doctor Who-feeling story. Her fear and her emotional swings between hopelessness and hope with the way she tackles suddenly being alone except for her stalker make for an especially gripping episode.

Millie Gibson as Ruby Sunday, a white woman with shoulder-length blonde hair kneeling in the street and looking distraught. She's wearing an orange long-sleeve shirt, jean skirt, black tights, and olive-green jacket.
Millie Gibson as Ruby Sunday; Courtesy of BBC One/Disney+

It says a lot about a character when they find themselves without anyone watching or judging them, without anyone caring what they do and they make a concerted effort to help the world anyway. This episode of Doctor Who really helps us see what drives Ruby and it’s a need to hope. She sees the jogger run and hopes the man in the pub can still help. She trusts her mother to be able to do something, she brings in a familiar face, Kathryn Lethbridge-Stewart (Jemma Redgrave), and when everyone else fails she’s still ready to believe she can do something. She’s still ready to believe that there’s something to do, which is a great follow up to the last episode’s (“Boom) talk of faith. 

Ruby doesn’t lose faith. 

Millie Gibson as Ruby Sunday, a white woman with shoulder-length blonde hair and dark-rimmed glasses, wearing a long-sleeved red, formfitting top and holding up a wine glass with white wine.
Millie Gibson as Ruby Sunday; Courtesy of BBC One/Disney+

Even when averting nuclear disaster doesn’t drive away her stalker and at the end when the mysterious woman comes for her, Ruby somehow keeps going. It’s a powerful, important trait for a companion to have. Between what we’ve seen of Ncuti’s passionate, excitable, and competent Doctor and Ruby’s determination and hope, Doctor Who is set to have another great and memorable team.

Ncuti Gatwa as the Doctor and Millie Gibson as Ruby Sunday. Ncuti is a black man in a red cap, bright orange jacket, white black-striped top, and blue jeans. He looks excited, as does Millie, a white woman with shoulder-length blonde hair, wearing an orange shirt, olive jacket, and blue-checkered kilt.
Millie Gibson as Ruby Sunday and Ncuti Gatwa as the Fifteenth Doctor; Courtesy of BBC One/Disney+

While 73 Yards was a bit thin on obvious messages as far as Doctor Who episodes go, it does progress the underlying season’s theme of the power of myth and belief. The Doctor breaking a fairy circle is what caused him to vanish and gave Ruby her stalker, and despite the Welsh pub-goers messing with Ruby, there’s obviously a thread of truth to it. One doesn’t mess with the Fae, and you don’t cross the otherworldly even when you’re otherworldly yourself, because there absolutely will be consequences.

Three white women are in a dimly lit brick pub; they look concerned.
Millie Gibson and two co-stars; Courtesy of BBC One/Disney+

Within the episode, there’s also the frequent focus on family and adoption. It’s not as front and center as it was in “Space Babies” and “Boom”, but Ruby’s temporary alienation from her adopted family is a devastating blow to the viewer. It will be interesting to see if these two recurring threads ever tie together, or if they simply run through the tapestry of the season together. Does Mrs. Flood (Anita Dobson) have a role to play in either, or is she a distant non-factor? And what’s the twist with Susan Twist being in every episode?


Anita Dobson as Mrs. Flood, an older white woman with a white-haired bob, cream long-sleeve shirt, and green puffer vest. She's looking past the camera with her head tilted.
Anita Dobson as Mrs. Flood; Courtesy of BBC One/Disney+

While those questions will help keep people tuning in, this episode proved something far more important in the context of the season – that Ruby Sunday can stand on her own. She complements Ncuti’s Doctor, and thanks to the both of them, this season of Doctor Who looks like a fantastic time.


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