Doctor Who’s Millie Gibson on Why Ruby “Has to Be Her Own Hero” in “73 Yards”

“73 Yards” is a very special episode for Ruby, Millie Gibson tells Den of Geek

Millie Gibson as Ruby Sunday standing outside a locked TARDIS in Doctor Who episode "73 Yards"
Photo: James Pardon/Bad Wolf/BBC Studios

In episode four of Doctor Who series 14, the 15th Doctor and Ruby land on the coastal cliffs of modern-day Wales. The views are amazing and they can’t see another person for miles. However, a fluke results in the Doctor disappearing and Ruby must figure out on her own how to get him back. 

Episodes like “73 Yards” where the Doctor’s screen time is considerably shortened, are referred to as Doctor-lite episodes. They’re either made because of a scheduling conflict (Ncuti Gatwa was finishing his final season of Sex Education while “73 Yards” was being filmed) or due to a budgetary need to film two episodes simultaneously, as happened with series three’s Blink

Den of Geek interviewed Millie Gibson and Ncuti Gatwa on why “73 Yards” is Ruby’s most memorable episode this series. 

“The first script I read from Russell T. Davies was “73 Yards”, and as soon as I read it, I was like, ‘Okay. Close. Let’s read that again,’ because it was just so good,” Gibson says. “It’s almost like reading a book where you can just imagine everything and the words lift off the page and everything is alight.”

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The Doctor disappearing is only the beginning of Ruby’s troubles during the episode. The TARDIS is locked, so she’s forced to find the nearest inn for shelter. The locals are hostile to her as something inexplicable appears to be following her. Wales is only a ride on the train from her London home but the unexplained supernatural or alien phenomenon makes that distance feel like she may as well be stranded in outer space. This adds to her existing fears of being separated from her family.

““73 Yards” is very special in Ruby’s development,” Gatwa tells us. “She goes off on an adventure on her own, and learns things about the world, separately from The Doctor.”

Along with the weird events, Ruby also has to contend with a character played by guest star Aneurin Barnard (Peaky Blinders1899). As nationalist politician Roger Ap Gwilliam, Barnard presents Ruby with a different kind of challenge to those she faced with the space babies, Maestro, or on Kastarion 3.

Ruby’s adventurous spirit is tested as she can’t ask the Doctor for an explanation. She only has their conversation before the disappearance to go on for hints. 

“I have such a special place in my heart for “73 Yards” because it’s the first episode I filmed,” Gibson tells Den of Geek. “It marks my own growth as this is my first big job moving away from home and my involvement in the show. I got to know Ruby on her flip side, and Russell’s given me a gift to act with the script.” 

At the end of the episode, Ruby has a clear idea of who she is and how far she’s come from the beginning of her adventures with the Doctor. As Gibson sums it up, “She has to be her own hero.” 

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“73 Yards” streams on Disney + on May 24 at 7 PM EST and BBC iPlayer at midnight on May 25 BST