‘Doctor Who’ Reveals Ruby’s Mother & Leaves Off With Ominous Warning for the Doctor

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[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Doctor Who Season 1 finale “Empire of Death.”]

Well, the good news is we now know who Ruby’s (Millie Gibson) mother is after the Doctor Who Season 1 finale, “Empire of Death.” The more frustrating than bad news? The mystery of Mrs. Flood (Anita Dobson), Ruby’s neighbor who knows about the Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and has spoken directly to the camera more than once now, continues.

Sutekh and his followers (Susan Twist‘s Susan Triad and Genesis Lynea’s Harriet Arbinger) bring his “dust of death” to pretty much the entire universe.  Yes, Kate (Jemma Redgrave), Rose (Yasmin Finney), Carla (Michelle Greenidge), Cherry (Angelya Wynter), and Mrs. Flood (with her chilling apology to Cherry) are among the dead (for now?). The Doctor and Mel (Bonnie Langford) escape back to UNIT and into the Time Window with Ruby. In that Time Window is a TARDIS—made of memories, feeding off Ruby—with pieces of every TARDIS that ever was. But also in the Time Window is the real TARDIS and Sutekh. And their previous encounter—with Tom Baker‘s Fourth Doctor—plays on the screen from the “remembered” TARDIS. Sutekh was once bound and imprisoned for all eternity but rose again; the Doctor defeated him by casting him into the time vortex … or so he thought. Sutekh reveals that he clung to the TARDIS all this time, healing and evolving and creating the perfect trap in Susan, with all the Twist characters left behind on all the worlds the Doctor visited. Now, all of them are releasing Sutekh’s dust of death.

“I damn you in the name of life itself, and I swear with both the hearts of the last of the Time Lords, I will stop you. I will defeat you and I will turn back death,” the Doctor swears, but wonders, “Why am I still alive? Killing me is your gift. And believe me, Sutekh, I am an extinction event. So what’s stopping you? Why is the god of death not killing me? What am I missing?”

The Doctor, Ruby, and Mel escape in the remembered TARDIS, and here’s where the episode “73 Yards” comes into play: The Doctor explains the perception filter around the TARDIS just so happens to cover an area of 66.7m, which is… yes, you guessed it. Ruby doesn’t know why she knows that. Funny things happen at 73 yards and people say you can see things, the Doctor remarks. He blames himself for the dust of death consuming all the planets. “It is all my fault because I traveled to all those worlds. I thought it was fun,” he says and lets out a scream of grief.

But they’re pretty much the only ones left, bar a woman the Doctor meets and gets a spoon from before she, too, turns to dust. So why? Sutekh wants the secret that Ruby carries in her.

Ncuti Gatwa as the Doctor and Millie Gibson as Ruby in the 'Doctor Who' Season 1 Finale "Empire of Death"

BBC / Disney+

The Doctor breaks that spoon in half and plugs one part into the TARDIS screen, which remains connected to the Time Window. As Ruby wonders why Sutekh has chosen now to appear after remaining hidden for years, the night she was left at the church pops up on the screen—it’s answering her. That night, Sutekh saw the one thing beyond his comprehension: Ruby’s mother. He’s been riding on the TARDIS for years and can’t see one woman? He (like the audience) needs the answer. Ruby can’t help but wonder what that means about who she is if her mother seems to be this big cosmic thing, but the Doctor assures her she’s human (and he’d know, considering he scanned her).

“73 Yards” becomes relevant once again when the broadcast from then of Roger ap Gwilliam (Aneurin Barnard), about DNA testing becoming compulsory for the population in 2046, appears on the TARDIS screen. If Ruby’s mother was still alive in 2046, she would have had to gotten tested, and that could give them her identity. And so they travel to 2046, preserved in death, but little do they know Sutekh has gotten his claws into Mel. The Doctor uses the sonic screwdriver to introduce Ruby’s blood into the system and once again, the snow begins falling and Christmas music starts playing around them. But just as a DNA match is confirmed … it’s revealed that Mel has been taken over by Sutekh. She brings them back to him at UNIT.

Sutekh demands to see Ruby’s mother’s name; the Doctor tries to promise to worship him instead. But there’s a plan in place, and Ruby steps up to Sutekh, with the screen… and drops it, breaking it. She then attaches the intelligent rope from the TARDIS, the Doctor uses a whistle to get the real TARDIS to blast Harriet out, and they secure the rope to the console—then fly Sutekh into the time vortex once again. What happens if Sutekh brings death to death? He’d bring life! And with that, everyone who turned to dust is once again alive.

But “we fought a monster, and now, I must become a monster,” the Doctor knows, as he must bring death to Sutekh. He closes the TARDIS doors, cutting the rope holding Sutekh, who falls back and burns into nothing.

Now, Susan’s just a normal person, with a great mind UNIT could use (but she can’t make a good cup of tea). As for Ruby’s mother … UNIT is able to ID her: Louise Allison Miller (Faye McKeever). She’s 35 now and had Ruby when she was 15. Her stepfather was “trouble,” so Louise wanted to get Ruby out of the house. Ruby’s father is William Benjamin Garnett, and he was also 15 at the time. Her mother was important because they think she’s important. It’s how everything happens—every war, religion, love story, the Doctor explains. In the end, the most important person in the universe was the most ordinary, a scared little girl making her baby safe. She wasn’t pointing at the Doctor that night either but rather to the sign post, with the name of the road. She did name Ruby.

But she did give her up and hasn’t looked for her all this time, so maybe they should leave her alone, the Doctor suggests as he and Ruby watch Louise outside a coffee shop. Ruby instead goes in and orders a drink and sits near her mother. And when her name is called for her drink, Louise looks up. Ruby tells her she was named after a road and she left her by a church 19 years ago, where she was safe, and she wanted to say thank you. Louise tells her she’s so sorry, and the two hug, crying.

Ruby then brings Louise home with her and joins the Doctor in the TARDIS … but her phone beeps. Her father has been found; he never knew she existed. The Doctor knows her life is no longer on the TARDIS with him, that her adventure is just beginning, and she knows that while she wants him to come with her to see her dad, he doesn’t do that. He assures her he’ll see her again, even though she points out he never went back to his granddaughter. That was his mistake, he admits, and maybe he’ll find her again one day. The Doctor tells Ruby that she’s changed him, made his life bigger and better, and with that, it’s goodbye, and Ruby watches with Carla, Cherry, and Louise as the TARDIS disappears.

BUT … the episode ends with a voiceover from Mrs. Flood. “And that’s how the story of the church on Ruby Road comes to an end. With a very happy ending for little Ruby Sunday. But life goes on doesn’t it?” she says, standing on the roof, with a suitcase, wearing a white fur coat, and holding a parasol. “And what happens, you might wonder, oh what happens to that mysterious traveler in time and space known as the Doctor? I’m sorry to say his story ends in absolute terror. Night night.”

So now we know why, in Season 2, the Doctor is going to have a new companion, played by Varada Sethu (who was introduced this season in “Boom,” though it’s unclear if she’s playing the same character). But we also know, thanks to photos from a table read, that Gibson will be back, so she hasn’t left behind a life of adventures with the Doctor for good. As for the identity of Ruby’s mother, given the build-up of past seasons-long mysteries on Doctor Who, was it anticlimactic? Yes, especially with everything from the season. But it did result in a nice emotional pay-off for Ruby, with Louise as well as Carla. As for the mystery of Mrs. Flood, since the series just brought back a villain from the classic run, we can’t help but hope that she’s connected to something from his past as well. There’s just something more satisfying about an answer when that’s the case with a long-running series like this one.

But what did you think of the reveal of Ruby’s mother and Mrs. Flood’s warning? What’s your theory about her? Let us know in the comments section, below.

Doctor Who, Returns, TBA, Disney+

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