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73 Yards is more than just an all-time great Doctor Who episode, it’s one of the best bits of TV in years - Review

Doctor Who is always at its best when it’s weird. This week, it drops one of its weirdest episodes yet - and it may well be one of the best.

Ncuti Gatwa and Millie Gibson in Doctor Who.
Image credit: BBC

Some may have taken a critical eye to the light-hearted, breezy opening episodes to this new reboot of Doctor Who, streaming now on Disney+ around the world and on BBC iPlayer in the show’s native UK - but weeks 3 and 4 are aiming to remind that the beauty of Doctor Who is that it can be anything. Better still, it’s a reminder that sometimes, when Doctor Who takes a big swing at an unexpected idea, it’s often when the show is at its best.

73 Yards may very well be the new poster child for that concept. Last week’s episode toyed with a single concept that was still very Doctor Who - ratcheting up the tension as the powerful hero is stuck in a single spot. This week’s episode is a similar twist - stripping many of the show’s core ideas and themes away but with purpose - unnecessary trappings excised in order to place what remains under a microscope.

Most keenly examined is companion Ruby Sunday, with Millie Gibson putting in a masterful performance that should prove as absolute proof of her ability to duke it out with the best of Doctor Who’s companions - which is pretty heady company to keep.

73 Yards trades heavily in a lot of the themes that writer Russell T Davies highlighted more aggressively in his 2005 reboot of the show, with political parallels to the present day and the like - but it’s also a potent demonstration of how the role of the companion is so much more than that word suggests. It might in fact be one of the most trying roles on TV. One week you’re cradling Space Babies, and then you have…this.

The Tiktok set will likely zero in on the creepy mystery at the center of the episode - that Ruby is creepily followed everywhere she goes by a mysterious old woman. She doesn’t chase, she doesn’t move: she’s just there. She just watches. Sometimes the creepiest thing of all is something that doesn’t even chase you. It just is.

Naturally there’s more to events than that - but this is the sort of episode that you don’t want spoiled. I’d strongly suggest staying off social media until you can watch it - as some of the core concepts of the episode can be spoiled in a sentence, easily. As the 73 Yards winds on, creepiness gives way to intrigue, to brilliant guest stars, and to swelling character-driven emotion of the type that Russell T Davies does so very, very well.

The bravery of the episode isn’t just in what it does, but what it doesn’t do. It’s in the things it omits as much as what it includes. It’s broadly brilliant - refreshing, scary, moving. It’s got it all. As only the fifth episode of this new era, too, it’s a hell of a statement as to what Doctor Who can be. New audiences can consider 73 Yards an initiation to yet another flavor of the Doctor’s adventures.

Doctor Who is now streaming globally on Disney+, and in the UK on BBC iPlayer. 73 Yards lands at midnight Saturday in the UK, and the equivalent time in your local territory on Disney+.

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