Doctor Who – Empire of Death

Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson), the Fifteenth Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Mel Bush (Bonnie Langford) in Empire of Death (Image courtesy BBC / Disney+)
Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson), the Fifteenth Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa), and Mel Bush (Bonnie Langford) in Empire of Death (Image courtesy BBC / Disney+)

“Empire of Death” is an episode of the 14th season of the new “Doctor Who” series, also indicated as season 1, and follows “The Legend of Ruby Sunday“. It’s also the season finale. It’s available in the UK and Ireland on BBC channels and in many other countries on the Disney+ platform.

Beware that in various adverts and marketing materials, this season is promoted as season 1, marking the start of production by Bad Wolf and distribution by Disney+, hence the double notation. On BBC’s website, “Empire of Death” is indicated as episode 8 of 8 while Disney+ indicates it as episode 9.

Note. This article contains some spoilers about “Empire of Death”.

Sutekh the Destroyer seems impossible to stop and starts spreading his dust of death wherever the Tardis unknowingly took him. The Fifteenth Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) must run with Mel Bush (Bonnie Langford) while Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) is still trying to discover her birth mother’s identity.

For many fans of the classic “Doctor Who” series, the serial “Pyramids of Mars” is among the peaks with one of the most iconic villains despite his only appearance. The Fourth Doctor defeated him but now we discovered that Sutekh managed to attach himself to the Tardis and at some point decided it was time to manifest himself again.

Old fans knew that Sutekh would turn the Earth into a wasteland if he broke free. Evidently, his many trips around the universe provided him with the means to greatly expand his evil task.

You can never wonder too much about the details of “Doctor Who” story arcs and Russell T Davies in particular focuses on certain elements. Take it or leave it. In “Empire of Death” in my opinion all in all even contained himself regarding certain over-the-top elements that abounded in the Tenth Doctor’s era and also appeared at the beginning of this season.

“Empire of Death” is in many ways a trip down memory lane, sometimes in a literal sense because it’s linked to Ruby’s birth and the fact that Sutekh killed even memories. Only the snow seems to remain, and it’s not clear why. In fact, it’s better to forget certain questions and let yourself get transported into the vortex together with the Doctor and his companions.

The emotional side is central as always in Russell T Davies’ stories. The Earth progressively covered in the dust of death making it look more like Mars and the Doctor’s reaction stresses that. We see many characters turned to dust and we have to assume that this happened to the Fourteenth Doctor too, since otherwise, it makes no sense for him not to intervene in a crisis that hits his new home too.

The theme of the ordinary person becoming the most important in the universe seems dear to Russell T Davies. I think he at the very least exploited the tendency of some fans to create the most incredible theories to hype the mystery of Ruby’s biological mother except that the truth that is discovered turns out to be trivial despite a dramatic backstory. I hope that Ruby’s personal story with her biological family has further developments because it covers important themes and it would be a shame to waste them like this.

In the end, we don’t have time to ask ourselves questions as the revived Mrs Flood (Anita Dobson) continues to ignore the “fourth wall” to warn us of future misfortunes that will befall the Doctor. What should we expect that will affect the Doctor more than Sutekh?

Knowing Russell T Davies’ style, I didn’t have high expectations for this season finale and consequently, I didn’t suffer any major disappointments. Overall, I thought this season was good and I’m sad that it’s already over.

Sutekh (voiced by Gabriel Woolf) in Empire of Death (Image courtesy BBC / Disney+)
Sutekh (voiced by Gabriel Woolf) in Empire of Death (Image courtesy BBC / Disney+)

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