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‘Doctor Who’ is Cinematic in its Season Premiere on Disney+

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Doctor Who is once again regenerating for a new generation to discover with the introduction of Ncuti Gatwa’s 15th Doctor. With the series recently finding a new home in the States on Disney+, beginning with David Tennant’s second tenure as the 14th Doctor, the long-time-running sci-fi series has found new life because of the partnership between Disney and the BBC. Having only appeared at the end of the last 60th anniversary special and the subsequent Christmas special, Gatwa’s time as The Doctor is only just beginning. Last weekend, the Doctor Who season premiere dropped with two episodes titled “Space Babies” and “The Devil’s Chord.”

The first two episodes of series 14, also known as season 1 on the streaming service, were penned by the masterful Russell T. Davies. Davies, who’s returned as the creative force behind much of the beloved series. He’s crafted a compelling narrative to keep viewers on the edge of their seats, with “Space Babies,” directed by Julie Anne Robinson (Bridgerton, The Good Place), and “The Devil’s Chord”, directed by Ben Chessell

The new season’s first episode reintroduces audiences, both new and old, to the captivating world of Doctor Who. The mystery surrounding Ruby Rose and a connection to a warning from “The Giggle” takes center stage in the second episode. If you’ve fallen off from the Whoniverse, now is the perfect time to rejoin the cosmic joyride. The series is brimming with cinematic purpose, ready to transport you to thrilling new dimensions.

[Warning: spoilers from the two episode Doctor Who season premiere are below!]

Ruby Sunday, The Doctor, Space Babies, and the Boogeyman

Who, or what, is Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson)? Orphaned at a young age under mysterious circumstances, she appears to be nothing more than your average girl. And yet, the Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) is intrigued by the enigmatic air surrounding her and decides to take her on as his companion. Plus, there’s a vacancy in the TARDIS, and we all know that the Doctor doesn’t like to travel alone. So, off these two go on their first of many adventures together, throwing caution to the wind.

The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby (Millie Gibson) in Space Babies
The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby (Millie Gibson) in “Space Babies”. Doctor Who (Disney/BBC).

But where does the Doctor take his new companion when he’s trying to impress her and also teach her the rules of time and space? A quick trip to the distant past and then a leap into the future brings The Doctor and Ruby to a space station shrouded in mystery. This is no ordinary space station. It’s filled with babies. But not just any babies. Babies who can speak and have advanced cognitive skills. So where are all the adults?

Mistaken by the babies at first as their parents, The Doctor and Ruby are determined to figure out what happened aboard this spaceship and why the babies are seemingly abandoned. Six years is a long time without parental guidance, except for NAN-E, a.k.a. Jocelyn, the last adult crew member left on the ship.

Can The Doctor and Ruby save the babies and Jocelyn from impending doom? The clock is definitely ticking, with oxygen slowly dwindling and the aptly named Boogeyman stalking the floors below. But if anyone can save them all, it’s the Doctor.

A world without music is dim in “The Devil’s Chord”

Since flying off into space, Ruby gained some of The Doctor’s trust, although she’s been given one specific rule: they can never return to the night her mother abandoned her. They can travel anywhere else in all of time and space, but never there. So, where does Ruby wish to go? To see The Beatles record their first album, of course! Who can blame her? That was such an essential moment in the development of music, one that still influences it today.

With a few turning of knobs and flicking of switches, the TARDIS sets course for the 1960s, but pretty much as soon as the two-step out of the ship, they notice something is wrong. Music, well, good music, is gone from the world. The songs coming from The Beatles and other artists are disastrous, to say the least. Why is all the music gone?

Thanks to the evil Maestro (Jinkx Monsoon), summoned in 1925 by a teacher who played the devil’s chord, all hope and happiness has been taken from the world through the lack of music. Ruby learns just how dangerous it can be to mess with time, as the events of the past can easily change her present and future. With the only one left with music in her heart, she and the Doctor must save the world. However, the music also makes her a massive target for The Toymaker’s child. Can these two defeat Masetro and bring music back to the world?

The chemistry between Ncuti Gatwa and Millie Gibson is electrifying

From the moment I saw Ncuti Gatwa and Millie Gibson together in promo shots, I was sold. I hadn’t seen either of them in anything at the time, and my only knowledge of either of them outside of Doctor Who is Gatwa’s role in Barbie. They were both complete wildcards in that I didn’t know what to expect, which was exciting and downright nerve-wracking. I had faith in RTD, knowing he worked magic in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper.

Ruby (Millie Gibson) and The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) from "The Devil's Chord"
Ruby (Millie Gibson) and The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) from “The Devil’s Chord”. Doctor Who (BBC/Disney).

If anyone knows what they’re doing with Doctor Who, it’s RTD, and he’s done it again, as both Gatwa and Gibson are incredible as the leads of this new generation of Doctor Who. Their energy is comparable to that of Eccleston and Piper, or even Piper and David Tennant. Gibson and Gatwa feed off of each other’s energy in both the hilarious bit and the serious moments. I felt at such ease with both of them, who just captured the essence of what makes Doctor Who great and ran with it. You can tell that both actors are having the time of their lives in this series, but they approach Doctor Who with such love and care. Together, this duo has skyrocketed to one of my favorites of all time, which I never thought would happen so quickly into their tenure.

I am slightly worried about Gibson’s character of Ruby, specifically if she will just become a plot device for the series. This problem has plagued the female companions in Doctor Who since its triumphant return in 2005 (“The Girl Who Waited,” “The Impossible Girl,” “Bad Wolf,” and River Song). So many of the female companions become plot instead of just being a person, and the mystery that surrounds Ruby Sunday seems to be heading in that direction. Who she is, and why there appears to be magical powers surrounding her, is definitely the intrigue of the season.

I think that the balance we’ve had so far in the first two episodes shows that RTD and those behind this season of Doctor Who can find the equilibrium, especially with Gatwa and Gibson pulling the reins of these already iconic characters.

Doctor Who Season Premiere (Cosmic Circle Podcast Ep. 55)

Cosmic Circle Doctor Who Podcast Banner

Impressive CGI and even better villains bring this sci-fi series back to life

The VFX in Doctor Who has always been slightly laughable. From its inception, the monsters and effects scream B-Flick at best, which only adds to the charm of the long-running sci-fi series. Fans have easily laughed away the costumes, knowing that the budget of Doctor Who was nothing more than bubble gum, a paper clip, and a dream, but now that is a thing of the past.

I noted back in my coverage of the 60th-anniversary specials that everything looked more refined and updated, thanks to the deal with Disney. No longer did it look like the monsters were puppets or men in suits, but real(ish) creatures from outer space. This continues in “Space Babies” and “The Devil’s Chord,” with impressive effects, at least by Doctor Who standards. There wasn’t a single time in either episode that I was taken out of the story because something looked so laughable. There’s still the use of practical effects along with the CGI, such as The Boogeyman, but it felt realistic enough in the environment that I bought into it.

Meastro (Jinkx Monsoon)
Maestro (Jinkx Monsoon) in “The Devil’s Chord”. Doctor Who (Disney/BBC).

Speaking of the Boogeyman, the villains from the first two episodes brought the terror in ways I haven’t felt since early in the revival era. The Boogeyman was, by design, a true monster. The way it stalked around the halls of the space station reminded me of the original Alien film, creating terror through the anticipation of when you’d see it next.

That being said, Jinkx Monsoon is phenomenal as Maestro. The chills I had in almost every scene she was in were incredible and didn’t dissipate with a second watch through. I hope beyond hope that this isn’t the only time we’re going to see Maestro because she could be a villain even more fantastic than The Toymaker or The Master/Mistress.  There better be some award somewhere for her, as she deserves all the recognition for this new villain in the Whoniverse.

Doctor Who thrives in its new home on Disney+

Having been a fan of the series for years now, it doesn’t take much to impress me, but boy was I impressed with the incredible work put into the first two episodes of this new season of Doctor Who. After a dark period with the 13th Doctor that many fans struggled to get through, the series is proving that it’s still at the top of its game and ready to take audiences on another adventure through time and space. 

Doctor Who airs on Fridays on Disney+ . Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord your thoughts about these first two episodes.

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Brian Kitson

Working hard to bring you the latest news and thoughtful analysis of all things nerdy!

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