Doctor Who’s ‘Fugitive Doctor’ Was an Unplanned, Last-Minute Twist

Doctor Who’s ‘Fugitive Doctor’ Was an Unplanned, Last-Minute Twist
Jodie Whittaker and Jo Martin in season 12 of Doctor Who. (Image: BBC)

The introduction of a new Doctor is, like, a pretty big deal on Doctor Who. So when season 12’s “Fugitive of the Judoon” brought us Jo Martin’s Doctor on the lam, it felt like the culmination of something huge. But it turns out her debut was kind of out-of-the-blue — and one the showrunner doesn’t know will come again anytime soon.

In an interview with RadioTimes, showrunner Chris Chibnall shared how Martin’s arrival on Doctor Who came about. It turns out that she wasn’t part of some episodes or seasons-long game plan, which is kind of what we’ve come to expect with modern Doctor Who. Instead, she was a last-minute change to a script already in progress, with Chibnall coming out of left field with a major curveball for episode co-writer Vinay Patel.

“We had a story, and Vinay and I were talking about a story…and then I just called him up one day and said, ‘You know this story…what if that’s the Doctor?’” Chibnall said. “He sort of sat and looked at me like, ‘What?’ So he was the first person to know. And the moment we started talking about it, and we worked really closely together on it in a really great way, it was irresistible.”

It might have come as a shock, including to the episode’s creators, but that’s part of what made it work. All the pieces had to come together just so. According to Chibnall, this includes the inclusion of the Judoon. He shared how the classic Doctor Who villains — who it turns out were working for the Time Lords to bring in the fugitive Doctor — were brought into the episode as a “wonderful misdirect.” This was designed to mask the true twist that we were going to meet a new Doctor, mainly by making sure everybody was too distracted to try and piece it together for themselves. After all, Doctor Who fans are clever folks, and Chibnall felt Martin’s Doctor reveal would only work if it was kept totally secret.

“OK, the thing you’re going to be obsessed with in that episode and everybody’s talking about because we’re doing location shoots is the Judoon,” he said. “Whereas actually, it’s the second half [of the episode] that’s going to make people lose their minds.”

As of now, there’s no word when we’ll see Martin’s Doctor again (though there is so much to explore with her character that we’re stoked to see). We did see her briefly in the season 12 finale, “The Timeless Children,” but that was only through a mental projection. When asked whether she’ll return in season 13, Chibnall said it “hasn’t happened yet” and he hadn’t decided if or when it would later on in the season. He did note how amazing Martin has been throughout the whole experience, calling her “an exceptional person and actress.” And, based on a previous interview she did with RadioTimes, it seems like she’s ready to jump back into her TARDIS anytime. Not just because she’s a fan, but because of how much her Doctor has inspired others.

“A lot of Black geeks who love sci-fi have sent me pictures of them doing cosplay. They thank me and tell me it’s great that they now have someone to dress up as,” she said. “I was a fan of Doctor Who back in the day and not seeing myself on screen as a child was tough. It’s an awful thing to grow up thinking it’s wrong to be Black. So it’s fabulous that there are now characters like this who young kids can look up to.”

Doctor Who returns with its holiday special, “Revolution of the Daleks,” on January 1, 2021. It marks the final episode for Tosin Cole and Bradley Walsh, who’ve played companions Ryan and Graham for the past two seasons. This could mean there’s an opening for a new arrival — perhaps even the return of a Doctor on the run.