Doctor Who assessment: a promising period, however a rocky begin

The Doctor and Ruby Sunday stand in the TARDIS together in Doctor Who.
Doctor Who

“The exciting potential of Doctor Who’s latest incarnation is on full display in its new episodes, even as the show itself struggles to find its tonal and narrative footing again.”

  • Ncuti Gatwa’s charismatic tackle the Doctor
  • The Doctor and Ruby’s infectious chemistry collectively
  • A brighter, extra polished look and elegance
  • A stunning variety of clunky exposition dumps
  • Several moments of jarring tonal whiplash
  • A disappointing reliance on big-budget spectacle

No present within the historical past of tv has embraced reinvention extra fearlessly or efficiently than Doctor Who. Ever for the reason that British sci-fi sequence’ first lead, William Hartnell, stepped away from it in 1966, Doctor Who has gotten into the behavior of resetting itself. Every few years, a brand new actor is available in, takes over the titular function of the Doctor, and affords their very own spin on the beloved time traveler for a handful of seasons earlier than finally making method for an additional performer to take a crack at it. Sometimes, one actor’s departure is accompanied by the exit and debut of a brand new showrunner. Sometimes not.

Now, Doctor Who is again with its first full season since 2021, and issues are, in typical Who vogue, each a bit new and a bit outdated. This time, Sex Education star Ncuti Gatwa is main the sequence because the Fifteenth Doctor, and he’s joined by newcomer Millie Gibson as his first companion, Ruby Sunday. And Russell T Davies, who introduced Doctor Who again after a 19-year hiatus and ran it all through its Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant years, has returned because the sequence’ showrunner. With his return, Davies has put collectively some of the promising Who eras in latest reminiscence. If the primary two episodes of its latest season are any indication, although, it could nonetheless take a little bit of time for each Davies and Doctor Who to search out their footing once more.

Ruby stands behind the Doctor in Doctor Who.
BBC Studios

Doctor Who‘s new episodes begin immediately where its 2023 Christmas special, The Church on Ruby Road, left off — with Gibson’s Ruby moving into the TARDIS for the primary time. The first installment supplied early to critics, titled Space Babies, follows Ruby and the Doctor as they embark on an journey collectively to a futuristic “baby factory,” the place they encounter — as longtime followers can be unsurprised to listen to — a terrifying monster and a dizzying variety of eccentric supporting characters. The episode is Davies-run Doctor Who via and thru, which is to say that it’s, above all else, playful and absurd. It’s so knowingly kooky, in actual fact, that it struggles to promote a few of its extra heartfelt moments.

Like so many Who season premieres which have come earlier than it, Space Babies delivers all the required bits of exposition and backstory that first-time viewers might want to know in the event that they wish to sustain with the present. As they make their method up the ramparts of the Doctor’s virtually glowing new TARDIS inside and the corridors of the episode’s central child manufacturing facility, Gatwa’s hero explains to his new companion that he’s a time traveler from the now-destroyed planet of Gallifrey who was raised by a race referred to as the “Time Lords,” and sure, his identify actually is simply the Doctor. Every new Doctor Who period has to cope with delivering these exposition dumps, however Space Babies handles them in such a blunt vogue that the episode’s first act comes throughout as clunky.

While Gatwa repeatedly proves himself able to balancing each the lighthearted, adventurous spirit of the Doctor and the character’s intense loneliness, Davies — who penned all however two installments of the present’s new eight-episode season — struggles to do the identical. That’s significantly true all through the climax of Space Babies, which revolves round a sudden surge of empathy that’s definitely consistent with the Doctor’s nature, however isn’t arrange almost sufficient to land with the load that it ought to. Longtime Doctor Who followers have gotten used to the present’s distinctive mix of earnest sci-fi comedy, however newcomers might discover it troublesome to look far sufficient previous the absurdity of the episode’s plot to just accept how severely the Doctor takes the occasions of its third act.

The Doctor and Ruby stand near a piano in Doctor Who.
BBC Studios

The season’s second episode, titled The Devil’s Chord, is an enchancment on Space Babies in some ways. With all the crucial bits of backstory relating to the Doctor’s origins out of the best way, the episode feels a lot lighter and zippier than its predecessor. Thanks to its villain, Maestro (a scenery-chewing Jinkx Monsoon), The Devil’s Chord can be capable of pack within the type of moments of real horror and spine-chilling hazard which have lengthy made Doctor Who a extra attention-grabbing present to cope with than its kid-friendly sci-fi premise would counsel. From its use of music and sound to a couple of its lighting prospers, there’s a pleasingly experimental streak all through The Devil’s Chord that makes it an entire lot extra than simply an ordinary time journey journey again to the early Sixties music scene.

While higher than Space Babies, the episode isn’t an entire success. At occasions, it looks like the customarily form-breaking installment is throwing each concept that it may possibly on the wall, whether or not or not it’s fourth-wall breaks, choreographed dance numbers, or fights with musical devices. It’s a startlingly loud episode — one which embraces Doctor Who‘s new, higher budget by going so big for so long in its second half that the overall effect it has isn’t thrilling, however exhausting. Had Davies exercised a bit extra restraint all through its runtime, he may need come away with some of the memorable Who episodes in years, however The Devil’s Chord falls frustratingly wanting that mark.

Fortunately, Davies’ new Doctor Who season isn’t the primary to get off to an imperfect begin. Its opening two installments could also be disappointingly flawed, however in addition they boast a go-for-broke power that helps make Doctor Who really feel actually alive and new once more. In Gatwa and Gibson, Davies has additionally discovered an immensely likable, visibly enthusiastic Doctor and companion pairing. Gatwa, specifically, manages to do in an especially quick period of time what all the nice Doctor Who leads in historical past have, which is make his Doctor really feel each inextricably tied to his earlier iterations and completely his personal. One can solely think about the locations that he’ll get to take Who‘s iconic protagonist transferring ahead, particularly as soon as the present surrounding him begins to return into sharper view.

The first two episodes of Doctor Who’s newest season premiere at 7 p.m. ET on Friday, May 10 on Disney+. New episodes debut weekly on Fridays. Digital Trends was given early entry to the season’s first two installments: Space Babies and The Devil’s Chord.

Editors’ Recommendations



About Author

You may also like


Deadpool & Wolverine’s new trailer exhibits extra profanity and MCU motion

The latest Deadpool & Wolverine trailer finally gives us Hugh Jackman's Wolverine in all of his comic book costume glory,

The greatest Netflix authentic films proper now

The best Netflix original movies now include The Beautiful Game, Scoop, Shirley, Irish Wish, Damsel, Spaceman, The Kitchen, Players, and