SNEAK PEEK – Doctor Who “Empire of Death”

    Doctor Who “Empire of Death”, the season finale, is nearly here. Last week’s episode certainly left us waiting. The god of all gods, the god of death, Sutekh (Gabriel Woolf) has revealed himself. The mysterious Susan Triad (Susan Twist) turned out to be a servant of his, a trap for the Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa). Meanwhile, Ruby (Millie Gibson) has been trapped in the Time Window, and who knows what will happen there? As with all the episodes, I’ll cover all the released promotional materials and then toss some theories and ideas around.

    Being the final episode, there’s much ground to cover this week. More material and big ideas are here than most of the season’s episodes. So there’s not much time to waste. Let’s delve into Sutekh’s gift of death for all humanity!

    WARNING—Below are very real photos and clips of “Doctor Who “Empire of Death” and some potential real theories. A spoiler alert is now in effect.

    Millie Gibson as Ruby Sunday in Doctor Who: Empire of Death (via BBC Press Office)

    Preview Pictures

    There are a lot of interesting and varied pictures for the episode. We get some solid glimpses of the UNIT crew fighting off against Sutekh, who appeared over the TARDIS. Kate (Jemma Redgrave) is there, she’s not holding a gun either. Staring down the god of death without a weapon, astounding. Colonel Ibrahim (Alexander Devrient) has the right idea, as do the soldiers surrounding him. Rose (Yasmin Finney) is also just standing there, can she please get something meaningful to do? Also why is she essential staff to be in the room when this is happening?

    On safer notes, there are some shots of Ruby trapped in the Time Window. Except things look slightly more real this time, far less holographic. We can see it’s going to snow in there again, so something’s triggered a reaction from Ruby. There’s another shot of her in there being joined by the Doctor and Mel (Bonnie Langford). Here it becomes very obvious, that TARDIS, and even the lamp post behind it, is very real. While that TARDIS could be the Memory TARDIS, why the lamp post?

    We also get a look at the Doctor and Mel on the moped we saw way back in the series trailer, clearly making a fast escape from Triad Technology. Also the Doctor and Ruby wearing more breathable clothes, running around a mysterious building with no other people or notable decor anywhere. What brings them here is interesting, as is why the Doctor has a whistle. Finally, Mrs Flood (Anita Dobson) and Cherry (Angela Wynter). Except instead of being threatening, she seems to be protecting her. Hopefully we learn what her deal is this weekend.

    Preview Clips

    There are two main clips released of this episode. Starting with the obvious, the “Next Time” trailer which was released shortly after the episode aired. It opens with a shot of Harbinger (Genesis Lynea) piloting the TARDIS, now under the control of Sutekh. We then see people running away from sand. Then there’s a shot of the Doctor sat, dangling his legs out of the TARDIS, floating in space. Interestingly, there’s a figure wearing an orange vest behind him, which doesn’t match anyone else’s outfits in the episode. Could this be a big top secret Susan (Carole Ann Ford) cameo? I can dream.

    After that we see a planet, let’s assume for dramatic effect that it’s Earth, covered in sand. Lots of sand here. We also see Mel in the Memory TARDIS, but how did she get there, and what’s going on there? After that, it’s just more snow and sand. A couple of nice shots in Time Window, the Doctor talking to some unseen entity, swearing to destroy it. We also get a glimpse of what I assume is a new outfit for the Doctor, as a robed figure approaches the TARDIS on a devastated, barren world.

    Moving onto the other preview, the clip released on the Official Doctor Who Podcast is another glimpse from what seems to be very early into the episode. It’s the Doctor and Mel on the moped, trying to outrun an ever expanding wall of sand. There looks to be a decent amount of extras as members of the public, all screaming and running scared. This looks like a really awesome chase sequence that’s hopefully just the start of the non-stop action of the finale.

    YouTube player

    “Empire of Death” Theory Time

    The synopsis teases “one woman” being able to stop Sutekh. I see five real candidates. First, Susan Triad. While she was overtaken by Sutekh, we still don’t know who or what she is. Could be in for a shot at redemption. Second, Ruby’s mother. I assume her identity will be revealed. I see it shaking up the story, a big moment in the same vein as “A Good Man Goes To War”. Although is this cloaked figure even her mother? Could it be Ruby dropping her younger self off to save the future? A Trickster waiting to reveal themselves?

    Third, Mrs Flood. There is that photo of her protecting of Cherry. While she seemed a little ominous last week, she could be a Guardian looking over Ruby. Or an Osiran in hiding, opposing Sutekh’s plan to destroy the world. Fourth, actual Susan (Carole Ann Ford). With the return to the Memory TARDIS, and all her mentions this season, I’d be surprised if she wasn’t in it. Lastly, it could just be Ruby, which would be a little disappointing.

    I also wonder when and how Sutekh climbed aboard the TARDIS. The groaning noise that’s been confirmed as a sign of his presence started before the current season. Way back in “Wild Blue Yonder”, the TARDIS makes that noise before disappearing. This was the story when the Doctor invoked superstitions at the edge of the universe, unleashing the Pantheon of Discord. Although Susan Twist’s presence in the opening and the earlier groaning would suggest Sutekh’s been out for longer. Could he be responsible for the new interior in “The Star Beast”? How far back does this go?

    Ncuti Gatwa as The Doctor and Bonnie Langford as Mel in Doctor Who: Empire of Death (via BBC Press Office)


    That’s everything we know about the Doctor Who “Empire of Death”. With the long-awaited return of an actual god, the show’s stakes have seldom been higher. This is the most excited I think I’ve ever been about an episode of Doctor Who since I started watching the show in 2014. It looks absolutely epic, I only wish the season could have been longer. Feels like yesterday that the season premiered, let’s just hope it sticks the landing. Not only that, but that it sets the stage for an equally epic second season.

    This is also the last Doctor Who preview we’ll have until just before Christmas. Solid six months worth of waiting, even if there will be plenty of novels and comics to tide us over. Still a shame, and I think I’ll find myself missing doing this. Nothing beats sifting through random material from an upcoming episode. The most fun is trying to piece it together and somehow form a coherent thought that’s correct sometimes. Let’s hope this finale is explosive and still has some surprises up its sleeve. Bring it on!

    Doctor Who started its new era on Christmas Day 2023 with “The Church on Ruby Road.” The episode saw Ncuti Gatwa and Millie Gibson debut as the 15th Doctor and Ruby Sunday. Doctor Who premiered at midnight on Saturday, May 11th, on BBC iPlayer with a double-episode bill. The episodes will stream internationally on Disney+, Doctor Who‘s exclusive home outside the UK and Ireland, giving audiences a simultaneous global launch. Episodes will also air on BBC One each week in a primetime slot on Saturday evening.

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