The divisive Ruby Sunday reveal in Doctor Who was actually perfect - and a brilliant response to one of Star Wars' biggest mistakes

Doctor Who
(Image credit: BBC)

Warning - the following contains spoilers for Doctor Who episode 8 'Empire of Death'...

Ever since we first met Doctor Who companion Ruby Sunday (played by the brilliant Millie Gibson) one big question has been left lingering - who is her biological mother? It’s a subject that has come up time and time again throughout this season, growing more critical with every passing episode. Why does it snow around Ruby? Why does her mom seemingly point to the Doctor? Why is the villainous Sutekh so invested in discovering her identity too?

Finally, after months of speculation, all was revealed during the season’s suitably epic finale 'Empire of Death', as the team at UNIT managed to trace Ruby’s DNA. But we weren’t met with images of River Song, Rose Tyler, The Trickster, or even Davros (yes, that really was a fan theory too) - instead a face we had never seen before appeared on screen. It was revealed Ruby’s mother is an ordinary woman named Louise Alison Miller.

It’s a revelation that nobody saw coming and one that has left fans divided, with many criticizing it for being disappointing and anticlimactic. However, for me, it was perfection, bringing Ruby’s story to an emotional conclusion whilst delivering a beautiful message to audiences.

'The chosen one'

Millie Gibson and Ncuti Gatwa in Empire of Death

(Image credit: BBC)

The idea of ‘the chosen one’ is of course nothing new to the world of television, being a long-running trope we have seen countless times before across various mediums. Luke Skywalker, Neo, Frodo, John Connor, Harry Potter - the list really is endless with Ruby Sunday being the latest name to join it. But here showrunner Russell T Davies cleverly turns the usual narrative on its head to remarkable effect.

Ruby isn’t the child of gods. She isn’t the daughter of one of the Doctor’s many enemies. Nor is she the offspring of one of his friends too. She wasn’t created by someone to lure him into a trap. In fact, she has no prior connections to the Doctor’s world. Instead she is simply the daughter of a frightened 15-year-old who didn’t want to raise her baby in an abusive household. And whilst that is indeed very "ordinary" as Ruby herself remarks, it in no way diminishes how extraordinary she is.

Here the show celebrates how the ordinary is extraordinary. It’s not your background, your parentage, or your heritage that defines who you are, but the actions that you take. Ruby may indeed be ordinary but what she does is extraordinary. She’s able to save the world not because she has secret superpowers, but because she’s incredibly brave, bold, and benevolent. 

Her desire to do good in this troubled world and her belief in the role she plays in saving it is so strong it’s become almost magical, hence mysterious things happen such as the falling snow. Ruby’s arc serves as a reminder that normal people are capable of doing astonishing things - you just have to believe.

A galaxy far, far away...

Rey in Star Wars

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

While watching Ruby’s storyline unravel, another beloved sci-fi series came to my mind - Star Wars. For me, this reveal is also the perfect antithesis to one of that franchise’s biggest mistakes. After The Last Jedi set up Daisy Ridley’s Rey as being a Jedi without an exceptional background, sequel The Rise of Skywalker completely backtracked on that revealing that she was the granddaughter of Emperor Palpatine. The decision was rightly met with much dismay from fans - including myself - who were let down by the filmmakers changing Rey’s story from her being an ordinary person with the Force to the descendant of the galaxy’s most dangerous villain. 

Rey simply being Rey (and being incredible because of that) apparently was no longer enough - and so she became part of a long lasting legacy due to her bloodline, reserving the power in the galaxy far, far away for only the few. That final affecting image in The Last Jedi of a stablehand moving a broom with the Force, well, this change of heart dramatically reduced the power that held, with the series now enforcing the idea that you have to be extraordinary to do extraordinary things.

How refreshing then is it to see Doctor Who do the opposite with this wonderful Ruby Sunday reveal? It’s actually no surprise then to see that the infamous Star Wars retcon was also on Davies’ mind when it comes to this story, revealing that it was partly born from his frustration with it. As he explained in the BBC iPlayer commentary for the final episode: “This is kind of my reaction to… the Star Wars films… There was nothing special about her parentage. That she just got the Force… was an ordinary person with the Force. Then they changed it all so that she was this child of the Emperor. I really loved the version where she wasn’t special.” I feel you Russell, I really do.

Connecting the dots

Doctor Who

(Image credit: BBC)

Importantly this reveal also doesn’t diminish the fun fans have had uncovering clues and looking at the show’s history to come up with theories as to who Ruby’s mother was. Whilst the answer itself probably wasn’t what you expected, it doesn’t take away from the validity these theories had at the time - yes, even the most wild ones. 

And there’s nothing stopping fans from coming up with even more bizarre ones in the future. In fact, it’s something the show actively encourages with teases such as Mrs Flood’s direct address to the camera. Like many of you, at the end of that conclusion I was immediately on Reddit trying to connect the dots. Like with Ruby Sunday’s identity, my ideas on that will probably be wrong, but that’s more than fine - it was enjoyable being part of that conversation.

So yes, the reveal of Ruby’s mother’s identity may not be what you theorized or wanted, but it’s the perfect end to her story, a reminder of how extraordinary the ordinary is. Damn RTD, I’m crying again…

For more, check out our guide to 2024’s new TV shows heading your way.

Emily Murray
Entertainment Editor

As Entertainment Editor at GamesRadar, I oversee all the online content for Total Film and SFX magazine. Previously I've worked for the BBC, Zavvi, UNILAD, Yahoo, Digital Spy and more.