This review contains Spoilers.

Doctor Who S1,11-05-2024,1,The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa),BBC STUDIOS AND BAD WOLF, Photo by James Pardon
Doctor Who S1,11-05-2024,1,The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa),BBC STUDIOS AND BAD WOLF, Photo by James Pardon

“Doctor Who,” a show synonymous with cosmic curiosities and time-travelling triumphs, has once again embarked on a mission to enchant and entertain with the launch of its latest episode, “Space Babies.” Under the stewardship of Russell T. Davies, the series drives into a new era with a dynamic new Doctor portrayed by Ncuti Gatwa and a charismatic new companion, Ruby Sunday, brought to life by Millie Gibson. The impact of the bigger budget is self-evident, but the changes are due to more than money. This debut marks a significant shift in style and substance.

Gatwa’s Doctor: A Vibrant Renaissance

Doctor Who S1,11-05-2024,1,The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa),BBC STUDIOS AND BAD WOLF, Photo by James Pardon
Doctor Who S1,11-05-2024,1,The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa),BBC STUDIOS AND BAD WOLF, Photo by James Pardon

Without a doubt, Ncuti Gatwa’s performance as the Doctor stands out. He embraces the role of the Doctor with a vivacity that is both refreshing and reminiscent of the quirks and qualms of his predecessors. His Doctor is a blend of whimsy and wisdom, balancing the comedic with the grave. Gatwa brings sincerity to the role, infusing his character with an immediacy and intimacy that feels grandiose and grounded, a testament to his capability to inhabit the vast emotional landscape that the Doctor demands. He reinvents the role, making it his own.

Millie Gibson’s Ruby Sunday: More Than a Companion

Doctor Who S1,11-05-2024,1, Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) BBC STUDIOS AND BAD WOLF, Photo by James Pardon
Doctor Who S1,11-05-2024,1, Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) BBC STUDIOS AND BAD WOLF, Photo by James Pardon

Millie Gibson’s Ruby Sunday is more of a force of nature than was apparent in “The Church on Ruby Road.”   She drives much of the narrative, leading the Doctor in this new adventure. Gibson infuses Ruby with a spirited independence, compassion and a quick-witted charm that makes her much more than just the Doctor’s companion. Ruby has many of the same characteristics as Davies’ first companion, Rose Tyler. However, unlike Rose Tyler, she is stronger and more self-confident. She’s his challenger and cheerleader, all rolled into one. The dynamics between Ruby and the Doctor are akin to two cosmic detectives unravelling the universe’s mysteries with a bubbling camaraderie that promises more profound development as the series arch unfolds.

All of Time and Space, along with “Space Babies” and Monsters

Doctor Who S1,11-05-2024,1,Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa),BBC STUDIOS AND BAD WOLF Photo by James Pardon
Doctor Who S1,11-05-2024,1,Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa),BBC STUDIOS AND BAD WOLF Photo by James Pardon

The episode picks up from where we left the Doctor and Ruby at the end of the Christmas special, starting with the Doctor’s unpacking his expansive backstory for the benefit of his new companion and the audience. This exposition serves as a primer for new viewers and establishes variation in the lore for returning fans. The Doctor delves into the tragic history of the Time Lords and the destruction of Gallifrey and doubles down on the “Timeless Child” narrative. There is also mention of his granddaughter, Susan, and other Time Lords, teasing a return of old foes.

 

DOCTOR: Right. Where do you want to start?

ROSE: Er, the inside’s bigger than the outside?

DOCTOR: Yes.

ROSE: It’s alien.

DOCTOR: Yeah.

ROSE: Are you alien?

DOCTOR: Yes. Is that all right?

ROSE: Yeah.

 

And yet, while Gatwa and Gibson execute it well, the exposition takes up much of the episode and is long-winded and detailed. The fun of finding things out over time is lost to Ruby and the audience. In comparison, Rose Tyler didn’t find out the name of the Doctor’s planet. Instead, the Doctor spoke to Martha Jones about Gallifrey, its Citadel, the silver leaves, and two suns. Davies’ original slower approach works better in many ways, as it keeps the mystery longer.

Ruby and the Doctor’s first adventure together sees the dynamic duo landing on an abandoned, broken space station manned by talking babies. As much of this episode has been taken up by the exposition and beautiful but throwaway scene about the “butterfly effect”, the episode is short on plot. Essentially, the Doctor and Ruby find a broken space station and drive all the babies, their NannE, and misunderstood monster to a new planet. The scenario is a bit absurd, but Davies scripts it with enough layers and nuances to tap into contemporary discussions around unwanted children, refugees, and responsibility.

The monstrous Bogeyman is visually juxtaposed against the cute talking babies, crafted from children’s fears and literally their snot. This creature, initially the antagonist, evolves into a misunderstood entity that Gatwa’s Doctor chooses to save rather than condemn, highlighting the show’s longstanding theme of empathy over enmity.

Doctor Who S1,11-05-2024,1,Jocelyn (GOLDA ROSHEUVEL),BBC STUDIOS AND BAD WOLF,Photo by James Pardon
Doctor Who S1,11-05-2024,1,Jocelyn (GOLDA ROSHEUVEL),BBC STUDIOS AND BAD WOLF,Photo by James Pardon

What was a delight was Golda Rosheuvel’s (Bridgerton) portrayal of NannE, aka Jocelyn Sancerre. She delivers a nuanced performance, capturing both the dignity and humour of her character.   As the last adult guardian of the space babies, her character arc offers a poignant look into themes of sacrifice, care, and survival. Rosheuvel brings gravity and grace to her role.

Chemistry and Camaraderie: The Doctor and Ruby

Doctor Who S1,11-05-2024,1, Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa),BBC STUDIOS AND BAD WOLF, Photo by James Pardon
Doctor Who S1,11-05-2024,1, Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa),BBC STUDIOS AND BAD WOLF, Photo by James Pardon

The chemistry between Gatwa’s Doctor and Gibson’s Ruby is undeniably one of the episode’s strong suits. Their interactions, filled with quick exchanges and mutual respect, provide a solid foundation for what is likely to be a season-long exploration of friendship and alliance. Gone is the Doctor, an ancient being demonstrating the universe to a much younger companion. These two are partners and feels fundamentally different from previous pairings. They are less mentor-mentee and more two partners-in-crime (or time), which refreshes the show’s dynamic.

Conclusion

Doctor Who S1,11-05-2024,1,he Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson),BBC STUDIOS AND BAD WOLF,Photo by James Pardon
Doctor Who S1,11-05-2024,1,he Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson),BBC STUDIOS AND BAD WOLF,Photo by James Pardon

“Space Babies” might not reinvent the wheel, but it successfully sets the stage for a season of adventures with its unique blend of humour, horror, and heart. It’s a bold, if not entirely seamless, re-entry into the Whoniverse that manages to capture the essence of Doctor Who while pushing its boundaries. As the series continues to unfold under Davies’ creative vision and through performances by Gatwa, Gibson, and Rosheuvel, it remains a beacon for both long-time fans and newcomers alike, promising adventures that are as thoughtful as they are thrilling. The episode won’t be for everyone as it is not without its flaws. Some may find the talking babies a step too far into the absurd —but it is, without doubt, a declaration that Doctor Who is back and more audacious than ever.

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