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Doctor Who's First Look At Kate Stewart’s Return Is Awesome, But How Does She Fit Into Season 13?

Jemma Redgrave as Kate Stewart on Doctor Who
(Image credit: BBC)

As of last night’s “Village of the Angels,” Doctor Who: Flux is more than halfway done. There are only two episodes left in Season 13, and there are still plenty of questions that need to be answered. Hopefully next week’s “Survivors of the Flux” will shed enough light on some of these mysteries so the finale, “The Vanquishers,” doesn’t have to do all the heavy lifting, but longtime Doctor Who fans can also look forward to the return of a character who hasn’t graced the series in six years. Jemma Redgrave’s Kate Stewart is back, and while it’ll be good to see her after all this time, how exactly does she fit into the Flux picture?

For any newer Doctor Who fans reading this or even older ones who need a refresher, Kate Stewart originally appeared in the direct-to-video specials Downtime and Dæmos Rising, and Jemma Redgrave debuted as the character in the Eleventh Doctor era episode “The Power of Three,” where she was revealed as the new leader of UNIT (Unified Intelligence Taskforce). She followed in the footsteps of her father, Nicholas Courtney’s Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart, who was one of the most integral recurring characters during the program’s classic years. 

Jemma Redgrave reprised Kate Stewart in the 50th anniversary special (a.k.a, “The Day of the Doctor”) and four episodes during the Twelfth Doctor era, and now she’s back for 13’s era, although going off the below promo, it’s unclear if she and Jodie Whittaker’s version of the Time Lord will cross paths. 

The last time we saw Kate Stewart on Doctor Who was in the 2015 two-parter “The Zygon Invasion”/“The Zygon Inversion,” which saw the Twelfth Doctor clashing with a splinter group of the title shapeshifters. Kate was still in charge of UNIT at the time, but four years later, when the Thirteenth Doctor attempted to call the organization in “Resolution,” she learned that its operations had been suspended. Then a year later in “Spyfall, Part 1,” it was confirmed that not only was UNIT shut down, but so was Torchwood. That alone is bad news for Earth since aside from The Doctor, Earth basically doesn’t have any worthwhile protection against alien invaders, but that’s a subject for another time.

Which brings us to “Survivors of the Flux,” where Kate Stewart will somehow factor into the proceedings. Jemma Redgrave is the second Doctor Who actor from before the Thirteenth Doctor’s era to reprise her role during Jodie Whittaker’s run as the title character, following John Barrowman’s Captain Jack Harkness. No doubt there will be at least a few lines of dialogue to loop newer Doctor Who fans in on Kate’s importance, and hopefully they include sharing what Kate’s been up to since UNIT’s collapse.

Our only clue about Kate Stewart’s specific role in “Survivors of the Flux” is that it looks like she’s speaking with Craig Parkinson’s Grand Serpent, who was introduced in “Once, Upon Time” as the former supervisor to Jacob Anderson’s Vinder. During our look at Vinder’s memories, we learned that Vinder exposing Serpent’s acts of corruption resulted in him being sent to the remote outpost where we found him when Flux began. Evidently Serpent managed to make his way to Earth, one of the few planets left in the universe, and judging by the below sinister-sounding statement, it sounds like he’s still pretty detestable:

How you expect to protect this pitiful race I do not know.

Warning: SPOILERS for “Village of the Angels” are ahead!

Grand Serpent appears to be saying this to Kate Stewart, though even if that’s the case, we’ll have to wait to learn about the circumstances of how they met. If you look closely, you’ll also notice that Serpent appears to be standing in front of the TARDIS, which might initially be enough evidence to indicate that Kate will reunite with The Doctor. However, “Village of the Angels” ended with 13 being turned into a Weeping Angel and being recalled to the Division. If she’s now being kept prisoner, and with Yasmin Khan and Dan Lewis still being stuck in the early 20th century, the TARDIS could simply have been abandoned until it came into either Kate or Serpent’s possession. I imagine it’s the former since Kate is quite familiar with the TARIS and its power, but you never know.

New episodes of Doctor Who air Sundays at 8 pm ET on BBC America. Keep visiting CinemaBlend for more updates on the timey-wimey series, and learn what else is currently airing with our fall 2021 TV premiere guide.

Adam Holmes

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.