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First Transmitted

18 May 2024

Final Ratings








Regular Cast

Ncuti Gatwa (The Doctor), Millie Gibson (Ruby Sunday)

Guest Cast

Joe Anderson (John Francis Vater), Majid Mehdizadeh-Valoujerdy (Carson), Caoilinn Springall (Splice Alison Vater), Bhav Joshi (Canterbury James Olliphant), Susan Twist (Ambulance), Verada Setu (Mundy Flynn)


Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Julie Anne Robinson
Produced by Vicki Delow


Caught in the middle of a devastating war on Kastarion 3, The Doctor is trapped when he steps on a landmine. Can he save himself and Ruby, plus the entire planet… without moving?


In 5087, John Francis Vater of the Anglican Marines wanders through the desolate battlefield on Kastarion 3. Blinded, he relies on the assistance of his orderly, Carson, to lead him to safety. As they walk, he contacts his daughter, Splice, back at the Church’s base on the planet. He assures her he is on his way and implores her to brush her teeth, ending the call. However, the pair halt as they near a ambulance functioning through its artificial intelligence. The orderly warns John they should avoid it, fearing it will deem him unfit for service, but John insists they have no choice. Carrying on, the orderly slips down a pit. John cries out for him but the orderly steps on a smartmine, a 51st century landmine, which vaporises him. The noise alerts the ambulance unit, causing it to approach John. It latches onto him, the AI interface scanning him and remarking his blindness means his life must be terminated. John tries to resist, citing his daughter needs him. The AI insists, smelting him away.

Not far from the area, The Doctor hears John’s cries from within his TARDIS. Opening the doors, The Doctor races out to the field, ordering Ruby to follow. However, The Doctor lands on a landmine himself, the green scanner counting down. The Doctor begins to sing ‘The Skye Boat Song’. Hearing the song, Ruby approaches him, finding The Doctor stood with one leg on the landmine and one leg in the air. The Doctor remarks he used the song to calm himself to prevent the detonation, believing the mine is scanning for signs of life to determine what has stoof on it; by calming himself, he is tricking the mine into thinking he is not there, but one wrong move and – boom!

The Doctor instructs Ruby to go find a rock, or something else heavy, so that he can counterbalance his weight when he moves, and try and put his foot down. Ruby finds a strange heavy object that she assumes to be an urn, however soon finds out it’s the compressed tissue of a soldier. The Doctor sees that Ruby has found the urn-like object and asks her to throw it into her other hand. Ruby does so, the Doctor calculating it is heavy enough for him to use to counterbalance himself. Confident, he orders Ruby toss it to him. Ruby acknowledges the danger of this move, and insists that she hand it to him. The Doctor refuses but eventually gives in, agreeing to Ruby’s request to sing the song again to maintain a rhythm so she passes it to him in at the same time he sets his other foot down. They do so.

The Doctor looks at the remains in his hand and reads the name John Francis Vater. Upon speaking the name, a holographic AI reconstruction of John appears and asks that his remains be returned to his next of kin. The Doctor and Ruby asked what happened to the man, and find out that he was terminated upon discovery of the fatal condition, blindness, considered a mercy killing. The Doctor deduces that Vater’s continued survival would have only harmed the budget and wellbeing of the mission, and so the algorithm dictated that he be terminated.

As the hologram fades out, Splice arrives at the crater, having received a message from her father earlier and tracked it back to the source. The Doctor and Ruby look around nervously and introduce themselves to her, and she does the same, Splice Alison Vater. Upon her name being spoken the hologram whirs back to life, Vater’s AI talking to her and apologising for the loss. She doesn’t understand, she just sees her father and runs towards him, towards The Doctor and the landmine. Ruby tackles her to the ground, showing her the landmine. The situation causes the timer on the mine to countdown further as the Doctor struggles to calm himself.

An Anglican Marine shines a light into the crater from above, stating that if necessary she can kill The Doctor here and now. With her gun still trained on him, the Marine, Mundy Flynn, insists that The Doctor release the casket that he’s holding, the remains of an ordained Anglican. She says there’s no reason for him not to, he’s dead already – even if the landmine doesn’t detect a viable target it will explode after a certain time as a failsafe. The Doctor banters back at her, joking that she and Ruby should marry so her name can be “Mundy Sunday”. Not amused, Mundy shoots his arm, determined to make him drop the casket but the Doctor holds on regardless, enduring the pain. In between shots, he asks Mundy how the mine actually works, since it doesn’t have an explosive component; it triggers a quantum level chain reaction in the subject’s DNA. The Doctor explains that he’s a Time Lord, meaning his biology will create an explosion far bigger than she expects. She scans him and determines that he is right; he could wipe out half the planet.

However, Mundy’s attack has injured The Doctor, prompting an Ambulance to enter the crater and scan The Doctor. Panicked, Ruby takes Mundy’s rifle and fires it into to draw the ambulances away from the Doctor. Mundy reveals that will only work if one of them is injured as well. Revealing the gun is on its weakest setting, she asks Ruby to shoot her arm. on the lowest setting. As Ruby aims the gun the rifle, Canto arrives and, believing Ruby is about to kill Mundy, shoots her.

Ruby falls down into the crater, badly wounded, and the Ambulance switches focus from the Doctor to her. It identifies her, her age, but cannot locate her next of kin, stumbling again and again as it tries, snow beginning to fall. The snow stops, freezing in mid-air. The Ambulance determines that Ruby has approximately 432 seconds to live, but as she’s not ordained, withholds treatment. Mundy and the new Marine try to save Ruby, to keep her alive, but the Ambulance is programmed to not heal unbelievers. The Doctor suggests that they just surrender and this will turn off the landmine as it is theirs. When they came here six months ago, advertising their presence and setting up their defensive perimeters, they launched the Ambulances’ acceptable casualty algorithm. They set in motion a cycle of attrition and war against their own hardware, grinding themselves down just enough to keep themselves engaged, keep the combat ongoing, and keep the money flowing to Villengard.

Mundy is sceptical and demands proof, and so The Doctor calls for Vater’s AI, ordering him to into the Ambulance’s computer to find proof that the planet is uninhabited and the deaths are entirely self-inflicted. Vater insists that this goes against his protocols, but the Doctor insists he is still Splice’s father and has a duty to help her. Vater relents, reminds Splice to brush her teeth, and disappears into the Ambulance.

In response, the Ambulance’s defences activate, killing Canterbury. Other Ambulances arrive and surround the crater, the Algorithm having sent them to prevent a data breach, claiming it had destroyed Vater’s AI. The mine beneath The Doctor’s feet begins the failsafe detonation process, meaning the planet will explode. However, the ambulance’s begin to glitch as it is revealec Vater’s AI has managed to override their protocols, leading the lead ambulance to heal Ruby. The mine also turns green, meaning The Doctor can safely step off. He celebrates, explaining that Vater’s love for Splice defeated the ambulances. A time later, the group admire the sky as the marines prepare to leave the planet, the false conflict now over. However, The Doctor soon gets bored and insists he and Ruby depart, stating her lifespan “sucks” so they have no time to waste. As they leave, The Doctor and Ruby look on at Splice, Mundy and Vater’s AI, the latter of which waves them goodbye.


The Doctor mentions that he once attempted to disarm an inactive Villengard smartmine while underwater for a bet at a lesbian gymkhana. He failed to disarm the mine, losing the bet.
Villengard has supplied weapons to the Anglican Marines of the Church.
The Doctor confirms that “The Doctor” is not his real name and that he isn’t even a real doctor.
The Fifteenth Doctor does not seem to wear a regular outfit like their predecessors. The only constant so far in The Doctor’s clothing are the rings on his fingers.
The Skye Boat Song sang by The Doctor dates back to an adaptation of the Gaelic song from 1782.
The poem about the President’s wife does not exist in real life.
It references a quote from Missy in The Magician’s Apprentice where she tells Clara that she cared about him “since the night he stole the moon and the President’s wife.”
The “sad little man” who told The Doctor “What survives of us, is love” is English poet Phillip Larkin.
Writer Steven Moffat confirmed in an interview that the October 5th date mentioned in this episode was randomly chosen.
The Doctor uses the beat of Carioca funk.
The Doctor breaks “the fourth wall” again when he says “we all melt away in the end”. The First Doctor has broken the fourth wall before. (The Feast of Steven) as did The Doctor’s successors several times after.
Steven Moffat was inspired to write this story from a scene in the Fourth Doctor serial Genesis of the Daleks in which The Doctor steps on a landmine while traversing the battlefield on Skaro. Moffat felt that The Doctor escaped from that predicament a little too easily and wanted to expand on it further.
The Doctor went to Villengard before in his war incarnation as seen in The Whole Thing’s Bananas and an event he mentioned to Jack Harkness in his ninth incarnation during The Empty Child He later found the planet in ruins, as depicted in Twice Upon a Time.
The Doctor sings “The Skye Boat Song”. The Second Doctor could play the song on his recorder, as seen in The Web of Fear, as could The Master in The Power of the Doctor.
The Fourth Doctor has previously stepped on a landmine and had Harry Sullivan place a rock beneath the mine in Genesis of the Daleks.
The Doctor says he has “met sentient mud”, which he describes as being grumpy, as seen in The Witchfinders.
Splice’s searching for her father, John, is a call back to Moffat’s first penned episode under Davies, The Empty Child and The Doctor Danced when he has Jamie looking for his mother, Nancy.
The Doctor also recounted “stealing and losing the moon” during Hell Bent.
The Doctor confirms having been a father, something his tenth incarnation has told to Rose Tyler in Fear Her and Donna Noble in The Doctor’s Daughter.
Snow falls around Ruby when she is in peril. This has happened to her several times, as shown in Space Babies and The Devil’s Chord with The Doctor once more noting the significance of her birth that happened in The Church on Ruby Road.
The Doctor encounters Anglican marines, members of The Church, and later says that he will be “popping in” on them occasionally. The Eleventh Doctor had many encounters with their members, such as during the events of The Time of Angels, Flesh and Stone, A Good Man Goes to War and The Time of the Doctor.
The Doctor mentions that fish fingers and custard is his favourite dish. This dish was the favourite of the Eleventh Doctor, as shown in The Eleventh Hour and Let’s Kill Hitler.
Varada Sethu was omitted from the cast list released prior to the episode’s premiere.


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