Spoilers

Doctor Who’s Shocking New Twist Has Roots All the Way Back to 1975

Grab your extra-long scarf.

BBC
Doctor Who

There are a lot of strange, strange creatures in the universe of Doctor Who. But the finale of the newly rebooted Season 1 will find the 15th Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) battling an enemy that he previously faced back when he was rocking a head full of curls and an infinitely long scarf.

At the end of Doctor Who Season 1, Episode 7, “The Legend of Ruby Sunday,” the shocking new villain might leave more contemporary fans scratching their heads. Turns out the much-teased “One Who Waits” is an ancient god that the Doctor has vanquished before. Here’s why the Big Bad of this episode requires a bit of time travel back to 1975, and the epic 4th Doctor adventure, “The Pyramids of Mars.”

Spoilers ahead for Doctor Who’s “The Legend of Ruby Sunday.”

Who is Sutekh?

Sutekh tries to emerge from a time tunnel in "The Pyramids of Mars."

BBC

While trying to solve the identity of Ruby’s birth mother and the enigma of tech mogul Susan Triad, the Doctor is shocked to learn that both mysteries are connected to one horrific truth: Sutekh is back. Sometimes known as “Set” in the mythology of ancient Egypt, Sutekh is essentially the God of Death. The Doctor last tangoed with Sutekh in the 1975 four-part serial “The Pyramids of Mars,” in which titular Time Lord and then-companion Sarah-Jane Smith encountered a vision of Sutekh while traveling through space in the TARDIS. At the time, the Doctor was complaining about how he was a little sick of being the scientific advisor to UNIT and was bored of chasing around with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney). But, after the encounter with Sutekh, the TARDIS tries to head back to present-day Earth, only to find themselves in 1911, at the same spot where UNIT headquarters will be in the 1970s.

This is all because Sutekh and his followers (a creature called Servant and some mummy robots) are manipulating the flow of time in an attempt to enter into the present and wreak havoc. Sutekh wants to use the TARDIS to help free him from a prison on Mars. This is similar to what happens in “The Legend of Ruby Sunday,” when Sutekh uses the image of the TARDIS in the Time Window to seemingly reconstitute himself in the present. In 1911, the Doctor and Sarah-Jane were only able to defeat Sutekh by shifting a time-space tunnel to the distant future and trapping Sutekh in it. All of this action causes the 1911 house to be burned down, which fulfills a pre-destination paradox in which the future site of UNIT’s HQ had been destroyed in a fire.

How the return of an old villain changes Doctor Who canon

The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) tries to solve the mystery of Susan Triad, but it was just Sutekh all along.

BBC/Disney+

When Sutekh returns at the end of “The Legend of Ruby Sunday,” he basically claims that he exists in the same pantheon of ancient gods as The Toymaker, Maestro, and The Trickster. (The latter was last referenced in “Turn Left” in 2008.) So, retroactively, Doctor Who canon is now saying that many of these very old god-like beings are all connected to each other, seemingly by ancient magic from before the dawn of time.

In “73 Yards,” an alternate version of Kate Stewart told Ruby that UNIT had shifted from just investigating aliens to “more and more the supernatural.” At the end of “Wild Blue Yonder” (2023), the 14th Doctor worried that by invoking ancient magic with a line of salt at the end of the universe, he’d accidentally unlocked older forces. This proved to be true in “The Giggle,” when the Toymaker was released from his realm and nearly destroyed everything. From that point on, the 15th Doctor has been dealing with fantastical forces, which now have culminated in the reemergence of Sutekh.

The 4th Doctor (Tom Baker) versus Sutekh.

BBC

Creepy Mrs. Flood, who lives next door to the Sundays seems to be aware of all this, taking up a similar role as Servant did back in “The Pyramids of Mars.” When the 4th Doctor and Sarah-Jane faced Sutekh in 1911, they actually prevented Sutekh from coming to Earth outright. So, if you’re wondering why the 15th Doctor is so terrified that Sutekh has seemingly arrived on Earth, there’s a good reason. Sutekh was only barely redirected away from Earth and stranded in “The Pyramids of Mars.” Now that he’s actually manifested on Earth, it appears to be a kind of endgame for the Doctor.

The return of Sutekh proves the showrunner Russell T Davies has been playing a long game. If the Doctor hadn’t accidentally unlocked ancient magic last year in “Wild Blue Yonder,” then it’s possible Sutekh would have remained in exile forever. And, while this is a very deep-cut villain for the Whoniverse — or at least as obscure as The Meep and The Toymaker — if you go back and watch “The Pyramids of Mars,” you’ll see why Sutekh is so terrifying. The Doctor barely stopped him before, which means this time will be nearly impossible.

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