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Doctor Who (2024) Season 1 Episode 4 Review

The tardis with the two doctors inside it in Season 1 Episode 4 of Doctor Who (2024)

Season 1 Episode 4 of Doctor Who (2024) is the new era’s boldest and most ambitious story so far, but it doesn’t quite stick the landing.

Showrunner: Russell T Davies
Genre: Adventure, Sci-Fi
Number of Episodes: 8
Episode 4 release Date: May 24, 2024
Where to Watch it: on Disney+ where available

After travelling to distant human colonies and war-torn futuristic planets, the Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa, of Sex Education) and Ruby’s (Millie Gibson, of Coronation Street) latest adventure brings them a little closer to home for a quick break in modern-day Wales – but as always, trouble isn’t far behind. Episode 4, mysteriously titled ‘73 Yards’, brings showrunner Russell T. Davies back to the writer’s room for what is undoubtedly the season’s most surprising and fascinating story yet.

Anybody who complained that Davies’ first two episodes were ‘safe’ or ‘boring’ will definitely have something to say about this week’s adventure… for better or for worse.

Undoubtedly the most controversial and interesting part of this week’s episode is that The Doctor, the show’s undisputed main character, barely has any screen time at all. After landing on a scenic clifftop in Wales and investigating a mysterious ritual left in the grass, the Doctor disappears and the episode exclusively follows Ruby as she’s forced to reckon with an enigmatic force that won’t leave her alone.

It’s obviously not the first time that Doctor Who has taken this approach, with famous episodes like ‘Blink’ and ‘Turn Left’ ignoring the show’s protagonist entirely and focusing on a side-character for the entire runtime, but it’s very unusual for it to happen this early in the season before audiences have really been given a chance to connect with the character. However, this massive risk actually pays off as Gibson manages to carry the weight of this story on her shoulders and does a great job of leading the show in Gatwa’s absence.

Another of the main complaints that this new era of Doctor Who has been facing is the lack of tension and sincerity in the episodes, with Davies’ first two stories adopting a much more lighthearted and comedic tone than audiences are used to. ‘73 Yards’ finally returns to the scary foundations of the show with an episode that includes some genuinely frightening moments of folk horror and very few jokes to break the tension. The absence of the Doctor really heightens the stakes and makes everything feel much more real, as it’s unclear whether Ruby is going to be able to save the day on her own. In this regard, episode 4 really takes a bold swing by breaking the formula and trying something new, which is exactly what the show needed at this point.

A sign that reads D Pren Martu in Season 1 Episode 4 of Doctor Who (2024)
A still from Season 1 Episode 4 of Doctor Who (2024) (Disney Plus)

However, while it’s easy to praise ‘73 Yards’ for its fascinating premise and high-stakes storytelling, it does feel like Russell T. Davies got a little caught up in the excitement of breaking the mould and wasn’t quite sure how to pull everything together in the end. This is an episode clearly fueled by mystery, keeping the audience guessing from start to finish – but somehow, you’re still left guessing after the credits have rolled because the ending is so rushed and leaves several aspects completely unexplained. The setup is excellent, and the first half of this episode had the potential to be another all-time classic like last week’s, but Davies simply doesn’t provide the answers to the mysteries that he lays out. It’s possible that he’s going to return to this concept in future episodes, using later stories to explain what happened, but that won’t prevent audiences from feeling confused and unfulfilled after watching episode 4.

Ambiguous endings can be incredibly effective, but only when they’re used properly. When the entire episode is centred around questions, it doesn’t suffice to leave these questions unanswered at the end of the story. The story builds towards a climax that never truly comes, which is such a shame because this could’ve been a genuinely incredible episode of Doctor Who. The idea is fascinating, the execution is brilliant, the mysteries are compelling, but it feels like it ends fifteen minutes too early. As mentioned, it’s possible that ‘73 Yards’ is actually some kind of stealth ‘Part One’ to another episode later in the series, which could potentially undo some of the criticisms that are so obvious here, but even if that’s the case, expecting to get the answers just to find yourself faced with a rushed conclusion that doesn’t explain anything is still disappointing.

Regardless of the problems with episode 4, the fact that Doctor Who is still trying to break the mould and try new things is an overwhelmingly good sign. The first two episodes of this series were somewhat disappointing because of their strict adherence to the formula, and while ‘73 Yards’ doesn’t stick the landing, everything that comes before those final five minutes is excellent. If nothing else, it gives the character of Ruby Sunday plenty of development that helps her feel like a real person rather than the ‘companion’ stereotype that she was in the first two episodes. It’s definitely one of the episodes that she’ll be remembered for when her time on Doctor Who is over, regardless of how her story plays out over the remainder of the season. 

Season 1 Episode 4 of Doctor Who (2024), named “73 Yards,” will be released on Friday, May 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET on Disney+ where available.

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