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73 Yards Talk
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73 Yards is the fourth episode of Series 14 of Doctor Who.

This episode marks the first "Doctor-lite" story since Turn Left [+]Russell T Davies, Doctor Who series 4 (BBC One, 2008)., seeing Ruby Sunday spend a lifetime with the Doctor banished from existence. Taking place in an alternate timeline, the story explores the theme of abandonment. It focused on Ruby's abandonment since birth from her mother and the impact it has upon Ruby when taken to the extreme of everyone close to her abandoning her.

The episode is also the first time that Susan Twist's appearances as different characters that look alike in the previous episodes is acknowledged in universe, after Ruby recognises her when she encounters a hiker. This acknowledgment of what seemed to be minor reoccurring appearances from Twist would become an important story arc, alongside the mystery surrounding Ruby's birth, focusing on the multiple faces Twist portrays in Series 14.

Different to previous "Doctor-lite" episodes, the format was utilised this time to take advantage of Ncuti Gatwa being unavailable for filming in the production's early months as he was still filming his final series of Sex Education.

The episode was released on May 24 2024 on Disney+ and May 25 2024 on BBC One.

Synopsis[]

Landing on the Welsh coast, the Doctor and Ruby embark on the strangest journey of their lives. In a rain-lashed pub, the locals sit in fear of ancient legends coming to life.

Plot[]

The Doctor and Ruby land in Wales on a clifftop. Exiting the TARDIS, Ruby states she has been to Wales twice before, and the Doctor celebrates the location's beauty. As a caveat, however, he cites Roger ap Gwilliam as "a bad example of the Welsh"; he describes ap Gwilliam as the most dangerous Prime Minister in history, and states he came to power in 2046 and brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. He stops himself, however, upon remembering that Ruby is from a previous time to ap Gwilliam. The Doctor accidentally steps on some strings of cotton and sticks arranged in an unfamiliar pattern. While he attempts to identify it, Ruby reads some of the notes left beside it, finding the messages 'I miss you' and 'Rest in peace, Mad Jack'. When she looks up, she finds the Doctor has vanished. Unable to see him anywhere nearby, she attempts to re-enter the TARDIS but finds it has sealed itself, the lights from within extinguished.

Ruby then sees an old-looking woman in the distance. The woman appears to be gesturing conversationally to Ruby and saying something inaudible. After asking the distant woman if she has seen the Doctor, Ruby attempts to move closer and close the distance between them, but the woman remains away from Ruby without seeming to move. Continuing her search for the Doctor, Ruby makes her way along the cliffs, noticing the Woman consistently observing her from afar.

Upon nearing the town of Glyngatwg, Ruby encounters a hiker. She expresses concern for Ruby being out in the cold, and Ruby initially asks if the two have met previously, then dismisses this and instead asks if the hiker can also see the Woman. When she confirms she can, Ruby asks if the hiker can speak to the Woman on Ruby's behalf; she would like to ask the Woman why she is following Ruby and whether she has seen the Doctor. The hiker readily does as Ruby requests, and Ruby watches from a distance as the lady approaches the Woman. After seeming to talk briefly, the hiker turns to stare at Ruby for a few seconds, then runs away screaming.

Ruby eventually arrives at a pub called Y Pren Marw, where she arranges to get a bed for the night. The locals are unwelcoming and dismissive, but Ruby asks if they can also see the Woman, now standing in the road outside. They confirm they can, then mock Ruby for not yet asking the Woman what she wants. One of the locals, Josh, offers to ask on Ruby's behalf and leaves. As he approaches the Woman does, an older patron coins the term "semperdistant" from the Latin semper distans- always distant - to describe the Woman. The pub watches as Josh approaches the Woman, then turns to stare back at Ruby before fleeing in the same manner the hiker had before. The older patron jokes that Josh is now also semperdistant, and the locals press Ruby on why Josh would react that way. She attempts to explain events, after which the locals claim the Doctor disturbed a fairy circle, while Ruby's reading of the messages unleashed the spirit of 'Mad Jack'. They grow frenzied, claiming the Woman is Mad Jack's herald and that the ancient magic of the countryside is responsible for events - before dropping the pretense and revealing they are mocking Ruby for believing in such fanciful and stereotypical things.

Ruby stays at the pub for a few days, spending most of the time waiting at the TARDIS for the Doctor to return. When he does not, she decides to head back to London. Before she can leave, however, the pub's landlady confronts her with news that Josh is refusing to return to the pub, with his only explanation being "ask her". Ruby claims he is referring to the Woman, who remains outside, but Ruby is nonetheless kicked out. As she heads home on the train, Ruby is horrified to find she can see the Woman from the window, constantly appearing along Ruby's route despite the high-speed.

Returning home, Ruby tells Carla what happened. Carla offers to go up to the Woman while she has Ruby on the phone so Ruby can hear what she says. As Carla gets near, Ruby asks what she looks like; Carla claims she "looks like what she looks like", after which Ruby cannot hear anything else over the phone. Suddenly, just like the two before, Carla turns to look at Ruby before fleeing. Ruby desperately gives chase, and finds Carla getting into a taxi and staring contemptuously at her. When Carla returns home sometime later, she changes the locks while Ruby is out and refuses to let her back inside. Eventually talking to Ruby on the phone, Carla completely disowns her, claiming neither she nor Ruby's birth mother want her. Eventually, Carla takes out an injunction against Ruby, and cuts off all contact.

A year later, in 2025 Ruby is approached by Kate Stewart, and the two discuss everything that's happened. The Woman is still present, and Ruby has learned some limited information about her, such as the fact that she demonstrates an effect similar to a perception filter and that she maintains a constant distance of 73 yards from Ruby. Kate confirms the Doctor has completely disappeared, and that UNIT is barely able to combat the extraterrestrial - and, increasingly, supernatural - threats occurring in his absence. She also suggests Ruby fly or sail somewhere to determine if that would cut the Woman off, but Ruby responds that she had considered it but feared one or both of the two would die if she attempted it.

Kate assures Ruby that her team should be able to approach the Woman safely, citing their psychic conditioning as well as a combination of technological and magical defences. She orders her team to approach the Woman, but refrain from making contact of any kind. Despite this, the agents dispatched to detain the Woman fall under the same effect as those before, as does Kate who experiences the Woman through her earpiece. After regarding Ruby with disgust for a long moment, Kate calls her team off and abruptly leaves. Angered, Ruby smashes her drink on the ground.

Years pass, with Ruby trying and failing to sustain long term relationships with various people, with the Woman's constant presence serving as a constant distraction. Across her twenty-fifth, thirtieth, and fortieth birthdays, Ruby becomes increasingly isolated, though always raising a glass to the Woman, who remains on the street outside. By 2046, Ruby is now 40 and in the process of breaking up with another partner. She notices Roger Ap Gwilliam being interviewed on the bar's TV, and learns he is running for Prime Minister and leading the Albion Party. He claims a deep familiarity with the working-class due to the many trades he has had over the years, describing himself as a 'jack-of-all-trades' and that his nickname while young was 'Mad Jack'. Ruby remembers the Doctor telling her about him almost destroying the world just before he disappeared. Seeing this, Ruby casually agrees that she and her partner should part ways, and leaves the bar. As she does, she looks back at the Woman, remarking they have work to do.

Ruby immediately heads to the Albion Party headquarters and offers to help out, pledging all the time and money she has. Some time later, she is present for ap Gwilliam's interview on the show Hot Line with Amol Rajan for the upcoming 2046 general election. Ap Gwilliam's desire for power is evident, specifically his apparent eagerness to use nuclear weapons. After the interview, ap Gwilliam approaches Ruby and asks if she knows a woman stood on the other side of the room. Ruby confirms it is Marti Bridges, a member of Danny's team. Ruby watches as ap Gwilliam approaches Marti and introduces himself.

On the day of the election, the Albion Party win by a landslide. During the celebrations, Ruby speaks to Marti about how ap Gwilliam sometimes makes her nervous. Marti, far more withdrawn since ap Gwilliam first approached, calls him 'a monster'.

Later, the team heads to Cardiff City Stadium to prepare for an upcoming political rally. Ruby listens as the aides discuss how they no longer can be close to ap Gwilliam now that he is Prime Minister, with the exception of Marti who has been invited to ap Gwilliam's celebration party. When told she was asked for personally, Marti flinches. In the stands, one of ap Gwilliam's aides mentions a rumour that Britain has purchased Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and is poised to itself independent of NATO. With this, Ruby confirms her suspicions and resolves to set her plan in motion, apologising to Marti for taking so long before heading down to the pitch. Despite repeated instructions to stay off the grass and threats from ap Gwilliam's armed security, Ruby positions herself exactly 73 yards away from Gwilliam so that the Woman is standing next to him. At such close proximity, Ap Gwilliam is aware of her presence, and reacts with the same terror and disgust as the others. As he flees, Ruby and Marti both laugh.

That night, Ruby watches the news as it is announced that ap Gwilliam immediately resigned as Prime Minister, with his only explanation being 'ask her' and his replacement promising a more lenient and respectful government. Ruby smiles, approaching her window and looking down to the Woman, who still remains there. Ruby asks if this was what the Woman wanted, and if she will now leave Ruby alone.

Forty years later, in 2086, an elderly Ruby is taken back to Wales by her carer to the site where the TARDIS landed. It is still there, standing derelict and covered in moss. Even now, the Woman still remains by Ruby, 73 yards away. Setting Ruby on a chair in front of the TARDIS doors, the carer lays flowers by it. Other flowers are scattered around it, as well as various messages, with one reading 'Love you Josh'. The carer asks why people lay flowers here, and the elderly Ruby doubts they know why they do it. Ruby soliloquises to the still-absent Doctor, telling him how she never reconciled with Carla or found her birth mother, and that it never snowed again. She does, however, claim to know why the Woman has remained with her, having had her entire life to think about it. She claims to still have hope, even at the end, and that such a sentiment is very much what the Doctor would do.

In 2089, Ruby lies in hospital, with her nurse assuring her that she won't be alone at night. Ruby responds that she has been abandoned by everyone in her entire life, but that she hasn't been alone for 65 years. During the night, Ruby is woken by whispers from the darkness. Turning on the light, she sees the Woman - far closer than ever before, and facing away from her. The lights flicker as the Woman appears closer and closer to Ruby, who holds out her arms in welcome. Ruby's heart monitor flatlines, and her life flashes before her eyes.

Suddenly, Ruby finds herself standing in Wales back in 2024. She finds herself seeing out through the eyes of the Woman, and Ruby apologises for how long it took for them to reach this point. Her vision turns to the TARDIS, and she sees her younger self and the Doctor emerge. The younger Ruby states she has been to Wales three times before, then notices the Woman in the distances, doing so earlier now than she had the previous time these events transpired. When the Doctor mentions Roger ap Gwilliam, Ruby interrupts him by asking if he can see the Woman in the distance.

At that point, the Woman vanishes, with Ruby being left with a warning: "Don't step." Although confused, Ruby successfully prevents the Doctor from disturbing the string. Unlike the previous iteration of these events, the Doctor identifies the pattern as a fairy circle, and stops Ruby from reading the letters beside it. The two decide to continue on, leaving the circle undisturbed. As they walk, the Doctor asks Ruby about the third time she had been to Wales. Ruby is initially unsure, then concludes that "it must have been... now".

Cast[]

Crew[]

General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics

Movement

Casting

General post-production staff

Special and visual effects

Sound



Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.
          

This episode was produced with the support of incentives for the Irish film industry provided by the Government of Ireland.


Worldbuilding[]

Individuals[]

Locations[]

  • Ruby has visited Wales twice before: to see Shygirl in Cardiff and when she was 16 years old on a date with a boy in the Mumbles.
  • Y Pren Marw is located in Glyngatwg.
  • According to Glyngatwg residents, picturesque little castles were built in Wales as torture centres set up by the English to rule with fear.
  • Ruby takes a train of Great Western Railway Service to London Paddington
  • Ruby had to take a job at Kleinermann's.
  • Frank Hinchey proposed Ruby to go to New York.
  • Roger ap Gwiliam worked on a fruit stall in Swansea Market.
  • Roger ap Gwiliam planned to give his speech at Cardiff City Stadium.

Technology[]

  • Ruby uses online banking to pay with her phone.
  • Carla escapes Ruby on a cab with LL12 EEH plate.
  • UNIT staff has telepathic dampeners, mesmeric shielding and necklaces of silver and salt in case of witchcraft.
  • The UK is purchasing the nuclear arsenal from Pakistan.

Culture and history[]

  • The Doctor disturbes a fairy circle.
  • Glyngatwg residents joke that they are not in Dark Ages and that they are getting Christianity next week.
  • Enid Meadows coined a term semper distans to describe the behaviour of the woman.
  • While joking at Ruby, Enid Meadows sais that The Spiteful One can walk through a fairy circle.
  • There is a stereotype about the Welsh people, that "[they] are all witches and druids"
  • The Sundays family watched Saturday Kitchen on TV.
  • Kate Stewart suggests that mankind created the concept of God after seeing the sunrise or the arrival of a Sontaran.
  • The Great Russian War took place in 2031. NATO didn't fire a single rocket during the war.

UNIT[]

Story notes[]

Comparison between BBC and Disney+ versions[]

To be added...

Myths[]

  • The episode would be about Susan Twist's recurring roles, and she would be the woman Ruby was referring to in the teaser. (Though this was ultimately proven false, Twist's recurrence in the series is referenced when Ruby seems to recognize her character.)

Filming Locations[]

Ratings[]

  • BBC UK overnight ratings: 2.62 million[1]
  • BBC UK consolidated ratings: 3.70 million[1]
  • BBC UK final ratings: 4.06 million[1]
If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.

Production errors[]

To be added...

Continuity[]

Footnotes[]

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