Doctor Who Season 1 Finale Review

Doctor Who Season 1 Finale Review

Doctor Who Season 1 Finale Review

This review contains full spoilers for Doctor Who Season 1, Episode 9, “Empire of Death.”

“Empire of Death” is both a fantastic follow-up to “The Legend of Ruby Sunday” and a spiritual sequel to the 1975 Doctor Who serial “The Pyramids of Mars.” It offers high-stakes sci-fi thrills, captures the exhilaration of an apocalyptic finale, and answers every burning question set up by the prior episode (and Season 1 as a whole). This episode retains the cataclysmic tone that raptured through “The Legend of Ruby Sunday” and maintains its intensity until it ties everything together. It even includes its own Infinity War “Snap” moment, as all life in the universe is dusted into oblivion by Sutekh.

Gabriel Woolf’s return as the voice of Sutekh is magnificent. Although I still dislike his new CGI appearance, he’s incredibly menacing throughout “Empire of Death.” Woolf’s performance perfectly captures the terror of a presence pursuing you at every turn, and I love the concept of Sutekh’s consciousness following The Doctor, Mel, and Ruby across time and space. There was a brief moment when I thought they might permanently kill off Katherine Lethbridge-Stewart (Jemma Redgrave), who’s been a part of Doctor Who for over 10 years. They didn’t, but the mere thought impressed me, considering the family-friendly nature of the show. The stakes have never been higher, and the emotional weight of “Empire of Death” is palpable in every scene.

Ncuti Gatwa showcases his brilliant talents in his first finale as The Doctor,. and there’s a wonderful mix of humanity and alienness to Gatwa’s performance throughout “Empire of Death.” At times, he can seem a little too emotional or human, which feels like a defining characteristic of the 15th Doctor, who wears his heart on his sleeve. However, there are moments where he embodies the ageless Time Lord persona, shielding his emotional side for the benefit of others.

At the end of the episode, there’s a beautiful moment where The Doctor leaves Ruby behind to live her life away from the TARDIS. It feels straight out of classic Who, as the wise and mighty Time Lord rises above human motivations. It’s blunt, unwavering, and incredibly alien. But when Ruby leaves after an emotional farewell, we glimpse The Doctor’s fragile emotional state. It’s like he’s releasing a bird back into the wild after nursing it back to health. Despite trying to move on from the burdens of his past, they’re still following him, and it almost broke the universe (again). Gatwa shows tremendous range throughout “Empire of Death,” and the final scenes are another defining moment for his run as The Doctor.

What we said about Doctor Who Season 1, Epiosde 8 – “The Legend of Ruby Sunday”

“The Legend of Ruby Sunday” is an action-packed penultimate episode that successfully builds up anticipation for the finale with the return of the classic villain, Sutekh. Mel’s strong presence and dynamic with The Doctor stand out, reminding us of the show’s rich history. The episode leans into high-octane tension and mystery, though it often prioritizes setup over core character development. While the mystery bait leaves this episode feeling cramped, it still manages to set high stakes for an eagerly awaited conclusion. – Robert Anderson

Read the complete Doctor Who Season 1, Epiosde 8 – “The Legend of Ruby Sunday” review.

The episode is filled with nods to both new and old Doctor Who, my favorites being the Remembered TARDIS, which draws its power from memory, and the Time Window. It’s a treasure trove of references, jam-packed with nicknacks, and Easter eggs from every era. The set for the Remembered TARDIS feels like a time machine held together by a shoestring, a direct and delightful contrast to the clinically clean TARDIS we’ve seen throughout Season 1. What I didn’t enjoy were the repeated attempts to reference “Pyramids of Mars.” While the unfamiliar may be interested in the villain’s history, the execution of these nods was too on the nose for my liking.

In the end, “Empire of Death” is an emotional send-off for Ruby.

“Empire of Death” benefits from being 10 minutes longer than the average Season 1 installment. This additional time gives the episode plenty of breathing room, enough for Sutekh’s defeat to feel satisfying and earned. Although resetting the universe feels like contrived, typical sci-fi fantasy nonsense, it doesn’t spoil the ending and worked just fine for me. This extra runtime also allows us to finally meet Ruby’s mother. I loved the grandeur given to what amounts to an ordinary woman. While I initially raised an eyebrow at this unremarkable reveal, it settled well with me. I much prefer Ruby coming from an extraordinary human background rather than being a mystical long-lost Time Lord or similar. Doctor Who has done the damp squib “Impossible Girl” arc before, so it’s good that Ruby’s mystery went in a different direction.

There are still a few questions left unanswered, such as the identity of the strange neighbor Mrs. Flood, and the approach for Season 2’s TARDIS team. The finale signals that Ruby will return for more adventures, possibly part-time alongside Varada Sethu, who’s set to join The Doctor soon. In the end, it’s an emotional send-off for Ruby. While we could’ve used more time to get to know her, her enigmatic origins are now satisfyingly tied up, along with the rest of Season 1.

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