The episode order of season one

Saw this thread by @HandsAndStars on Twitter about how this season might have been better if Rogue and Devils Chord would swap places and I thought that this might be an interesting discussion here.

The twitter thread

Last week, I did a full (as one can do) rewatch of Season One with the order of Rogue and The Devil’s Chord SWAPPED, as an experiment.

The results were great, and I believe other people might find it worthwhile to give this a try too. Here’s why:

1/21: many thoughts!:thread:Collage showing images from (in order): The Church on Ruby Road Space Babies Rogue Boom 73 Yards Dot and Bubble The Devil's Chord The Legend of Ruby Sunday

Firstly, the reason I and many others have bemoaned the series order as-is is due to Ruby’s skipped six months of character development between SB and TDC: She leaves in Christmas, and by episode 2 she’s in June. This revised order fixes that by having the episodes

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Rogue through to Dot and Bubble recontextualised as within those first six months. And it really works. Ever wonder how Ruby can suddenly co-ordinate an improvised piano dance with the Doctor in that episode? Answer: She’s put on her psychic earrings from Rogue.

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Wonder why she’s so confident with her “Everyone knows a Janet” infiltration schtick? Because she’s done similar infiltrations before: see Rogue, Dot and Bubble, and (this shouldn’t count due to timelines but) 73 Yards.

The list goes on.

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Secondly, tonally this order is much more satisfying. In the initial order, you get three consecutive increasingly-fun stories, three tense and upsetting stories, then a fun story that becomes upsetting, then a tense and emotional finale.

It’s a downhill slope without

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much respite, which is at odds with the season’s generally-fun air.

Switch those two episodes, however, and you get three fun stories (the third devolving into a sad one), then your three dark tense stories, then a really fun relieving breather before the finale,

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in which it seems Ruby might be taking him on this fun trip to cheer him up after the hard times he’s had recently. TDC feels a lot more fun and fresh and earnt when it’s later on in the season, I feel. :slight_smile:

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Thirdly, new continuity. There are lots of little parts to this, so I’ll just bullet point some:

• In Rogue, when Ruby is proving she’s not a Chulder, she tells the Doctor her nan’s called Cherry and they met Space Babies. That’s their only two previous adventures.

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• The Doctor recalls promising Carla he’ll keep Ruby safe. In this context, this conversation took place only at the end of the previous story when he visited for Christmas, making it sting more, elaborating more on their relationship before it’s mentioned again

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in 73 Yards, and explaining why he didn’t get the same flashback (previously earlier) when Ruby died in Boom.

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• The Doctor feels terribly responsible for Rogue’s banishment, in which his feet got glued to the ground and may have died. Ignoring this, he promises Ruby new horizons. The next episode, he is narratively punished by this guilt, seeing the “new horizons” are dirty

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and horrid, as he himself is glued to the ground at peril. The day is saved by the eternal power of love being retained post mortem, as he concludes “What survives of us is love.”
Recontextualised, this is a great mini character arc of him facing his guilt over Rogue.

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• In the opening scene of 73 Yards, Ruby reminds the Doctor she’s from 2024, making it the first episode confirmed to have a time jump for her.
• In Dot and Bubble, Ruby sees Susan Twist, saying “I’ve seen her somewhere else.” This could now mean The Portrait.

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• The Devil’s Chord starts with the Doctor acting momentarily quiet, perhaps not in the best of moods. This might not be long after Dot and Bubble.
• He mentions seeing Ruby perform on December 23rd, in which we see he was wearing his outfit from Dot and Bubble, with

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a hat added for the sake of disguise. It’s possible that this happened after that episode for him, as he either just wanted a bit of cheering up, or he might have started privately investigating the Susan Twist mystery after Penny Pepper-Bean.

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• Maestro is the child of the Toymaker, and this is a more satisfying turn of events with a six episode gap between them rather than a two episode gap.
• They declare “The one who waits is almost here!” That’s very true; he’s in the next episode!

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• “I have loved. And I have lost,” says the Doctor, now recalling his mini Rogue arc.
• The Tea Lady scene in The Devil’s Chord where they don’t notice her is far, far funnier when you know he’s investigating her at this point.
• Ruby bringing up Susan foreman

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at the start of the finale feels a lot more justified, now that she found out about her only in the previous story.
• “A Twist at the End” features references to Rogue, 73 Yards, Boom, and Dot and Bubble. This is more satisfying as recollection, not foreshadowing!

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Aaaand that is, about, everything that comes to mind that’s good about this order! Though there are a couple of negatives:

  1. Ruby glares the portrait vaguely racognising the Heckler, then doesn’t bring this up when she sees the Ambulances.
  2. The guest writer episodes

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are consecutive, giving a longer chunk without any.

But I’d say the positives outweigh them. And it makes sense, it does seem the series was meant to be in the order it went out in, but I really liked this! :)))

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(Other orders are available :slightly_smiling_face:)
(Maybe I’ll do something like this again sometime!)

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10 Likes

Ooh - I really like the logic and reasoning here. There’s a lot of sense written there.

7 Likes

Oh this does feel like a good idea! Even not swapping anything, Devil’s Chord coming later in the series does seem to make more sense, it did feel a little out of place as episode 2

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I think the more straightforward Rogue coming straight after the slightly bizarre (and fan-baitey) Space Babies would have been better than following talking babies in space with sychronised dance numbers and scenery-chewing drag queens! I think it was a bit of a misjudgement to air both those episodes on the same evening. I know it affected my enjoyment of them and my eldest wasn’t particularly impressed with either episode - but has loved every one since.

10 Likes

I’ve wondered the same. Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely adore “The Devil’s Chord” but I can see why it’s controversial. “Rogue” however is a much more straightforward and traditional feeling DW story. I can see this as the second episode, except… there’s more emotional weight to the Doctor by episode 6 and, specifically, to the idea of Ruby having been killed and replaced by a Chuldur. Also, to have that episode right next door to Boom (which might fit the second episode slot even better - except for the fact that it would have meant two futuristic sci fi stories in succession) would have two stories where Ruby appears to die. That would be… odd… and bring back a sense of Rory-ness. Finally, there’s a sharp about face in tone from episode 6 to “The Legend of Ruby Sunday”. I think that’s very deliberate and heightens the oppressive darkness of the finale.

9 Likes

I really like this. Beyond the points above, this order also establishes more of a baseline for what Doctor Who normally is before it starts getting more experimental. Also, if we’re keeping the double-bill season opener, then the premier night now ends with the shalka scene (now more directly evoking the hologram scene from The Eleventh Hour) and the gay kiss, which is a much stronger opening statement than a musical number that doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the episode/season

I’ve heard people suggest that this was actually the intended episode order, and that the Devil’s Chord was moved up because of eurovision, but that’s not backed up by any behind the scenes stuff. I believe the Unleashed for The Devil’s Chord actually has them call it episode 2, multiple times, while it was being filmed

8 Likes

I mean yeah, I see the point of this and the logic is solid, but these kinds of things always give me headaches. I find this to be overthinking. Why does it matter that there’s a six-month time jump between SB and TDC, or that Ruby suddenly knows all those dance moves at the end of TDC (which can be explained in other ways as well)? There’s surely a reason they wanted to broadcast the episodes in this specific order, it’s not like they just put them out randomly :sweat_smile:

Then again, the beauty of this show is that in most cases, you can watch the episodes in any order you wish.

6 Likes

Yeah, but overthinking’s the best kind of thinking!

(I may or may not also have an alternate episode order for series 9)

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I think it’s certainly an interesting method and some of the time progression this season did feel wonky, but I’d put that down to the very small amount of episodes, it does feel like there needed to be more episodes in between 1 and 2 but I don’t think a different order would really solve this. I do enjoy the break in tone with rogue where it is, and I feel like devil’s chord would be much more hit-or-miss in regards to tone, given how differently it was received from what I’ve seen, so I don’t really think it’d fit there

9 Likes

To me, this is just a fun little thought exercise.

6 Likes