Doctor Who: 73 Yards & The Tardis Connection Explained


In one of the most experimental episodes of Doctor Who in years, “73 Yards” delivered an intriguing episode wrought with mysteries and elusive connections. Doctor Who has never shied away from stories that challenge the audience and shake up the format. In the more than 60 years that the show has been on the air, it has explored a wide variety of styles, formats, and genres which add to the complex tapestry and rich history of the show. And Russell T Davies continues to carry this tradition into the latest iteration of the show.

In Ncuti Gatwa’s premiere season, the show once again dips its toes into new waters with an episode that essentially boils down to a thought experiment. With the Doctor gone, his companion, Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson), is left to fend for herself, but a mysterious woman appears to constantly follow her, always at a distance of exactly 73 yards. The twist ending cemented the episode’s status as one of the more experimental of the series, as well as providing an important link between Ruby and the TARDIS that would not be revealed until the season finale.

Ruby’s Hidden Memories Lead The Doctor To Trapping Sutekh

The Only Secret Sutekh Could Not Solve

In “73 Yards,” Ruby’s solo adventure leads her to living a full life without the doctor, with the mystery woman close behind. While this is harrowing and terrifying, it did lead to Ruby possessing the necessary information to fight Sutekh and win in the end. At the beginning of the episode, before the Doctor disappears, he mentions Roger ap Gwilliam, a man who would one day become the most controversial prime minister of all time.

With the name ringing in Ruby’s ears as the final conversation she had with the Doctor, Ruby remembers the name when he does eventually rise to power. In the course of the episode, Ruby finds a way to infiltrate Gwilliam’s inner circle, and uses the mystery woman in her favor to get rid of Gwilliam. Considering everyone who speaks to the woman runs away in terror, completely writing off Ruby and trying to get as far away as possible, Gwilliam flees and resigns from his position before making any significant changes.

However, while the episode resolves and Ruby forgets the life that happened in “73 Yards,” there are traces of memory that stuck with her. In “Empire of Death,” Ruby remembers the name Gwilliam, and inspires the Doctor to go to the future where he created a database of all British citizens, which was mandatory. Armed with the knowledge of who her mother is, and wielding the only mystery Sutekh couldn’t solve, Ruby is then able to trap Sutekh, leading to his demise.

“Empire Of Death” Can Explain A Mystery From “73 Yards”

What Does 73 Yards Mean?

Despite this connection, the mysteries of “73 Yards” are not completely resolved. Questions about how the mystery woman first appeared, what it meant that Ruby is that woman, and what she says to cause people to run all remain after the season’s finale. However, “Empire of Death” does conclude one mystery. The woman always stood exactly 73 yards away, never coming closer, and no matter where Ruby was, she only ever came to that point.
In “Empire of Death,” the Doctor explains to Ruby that the TARDIS has a perception filter that extends to 66.7 meters. Ruby instinctively knows that this distance is equivalent to 73 yards, which is the exact distance the mystery woman always kept from her. This strongly suggests there was a link between the old woman and the TARDIS, which meant she could not come within that range of Ruby.

While Ruby may have forgotten the exact details of “73 Yards,” it is clear that the events left an impression on her mind which has not disappeared despite that reality seemingly fading away. Her knowledge of the specific distance, and her memories of Gwilliam allude to Ruby still having a deeper, subconscious awareness of what happened to her, even if that reality no longer exists. While this likely points to a clear connection, the finer details about why, and how remain a secret that may be revealed in season 2, or beyond, depending on where Doctor Who’s story goes next.

Ruby forgets the life that happened in “73 Yards,” there are traces of memory that stuck with her.

Does Ruby Remember The Events Of “73 Yards” Now?

She Lived A Whole Other Life

Time is not a clear and definite linear system, and this becomes even more true for companions of the doctor who jump between realities and points in time and space. Beyond the regular dimensional travels of the Doctor which see him and his companions explore the vast expanse of space and the ends of time, there have also been several times when the Doctor crosses into other dimensions and realities. Ruby is definitively on Earth, in the present day, but that does not mean she wasn’t in the past, future and even alternate realities too.

Ruby likely has no conscious understanding or memory about the events of “73 Yards.” But, just like the Doctor under the influence of the chameleon arch, those memories, and that identity exist somewhere. There are events that can cause these opposing realities to clash, which may lead to Ruby having some hint of a memory, like she did with the name Robert ap Gwilliam, and the distance of 73 yards. However, it is almost certain that this is only subconscious at present. Russell T Davies has included a lot more fantasy and exploration of the supernatural and godly in the latest reboot.

As a result of this, Ruby’s memories and her existence in other realities may come into play later in the show. If RTD continues to include storylines where myth and legend become real, and the imaginary invades reality, there is every reason to believe that future episodes will continue to explore the mythical nature of Ruby Sunday, despite her average lineage. Just because Ruby doesn’t remember now, it doesn’t mean her memories can’t be altered and changed, as seen with Donna, and RTD could still be building to some even bigger reveals in Doctor Who.