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Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor Who Has Problems

hello world!
Iain McParland
| July 10, 2024
hello world!

What’s up folks, it’s Iain from the Doctor Who Watching Now podcast! If you haven’t already watched or listened to Couchsoup’s podcast featuring fellow contributors Ben, Charlotte and Drew, then what are you waiting for?! Get it watched! 

If you have already consumed some of that delicious, delicious soup, then you’ll know we weren’t all sunshine and rainbows for Season 1 of the soft reboot of the show fronted by the new Doctor, Ncuti Gatwa

In short, it was at best meh and at worst plain BAD. 

So, let me take you through some of its ups and downs. 


It’s Not All Bad

Simon says stand on one leg and don’t blow up!

Ok, so before I shower you all with a TARDIS full of salt, there were some good things about this season. Let’s be fair to it now; there were some great individual moments. 

Ncuti Gatwa is a fantastic actor, and he has more charisma in his little finger than Littlefinger / Petyr Baelish. His performances are mostly outstanding, and this is no better depicted by the ending scene in “Dot and Bubble,” expertly portraying the absurdity of the situation. That moment is an all-timer Doctor Who moment. 

Episodes like “Boom” and “Rogue” were also pretty solid. They were more intimate, standalone stories, which are the essence of Doctor Who. I mean, a whole episode dedicated to aliens who want to cosplay the world to death and who love Bridgerton? Sign me up. “Boom” was my favorite episode of the season despite the entirety being set in a crater whilst The Doctor does yoga on a landmine. It was small in scope, allowing the development of Ruby and Doc’s companionship. Top marks.

Hell, even though they were a bit more grandiose than villains usually are, I even enjoyed the Pantheon of the Gods as antagonists. The Maestro was fun, and I really liked that the Doctor is actually afraid to go head-to-head with the Gods. They’re a threat, perhaps the biggest he’s ever faced. 

However, there’s far more to complain about than I can praise.

Bad Episodes


Alright, let’s get to the bad stuff: 

“Space Babies.”

In the first episode of the season, the Doctor and Ruby go up against a monster made of snot to save a bunch of kids with the physical appearance of a one-year-old baby but the mental capacity of three or four-year-olds. Shall we unpack that sentence? First of all, gross. The babies, not the snot monster. Secondly, the babies’ CGI mouth movements were so distracting. It’s probably for the best, though, because “Space Babies” was a childish episode where the plot took a backseat to ridiculous scenes where babies wield flamethrowers. Urgh. 

Then there was “73 Yards,” the episode where literally NOTHING MATTERED. It had a cool premise with what could have been a scary new series recurring enemy. But noooooooooo! Somebody decided to make this standalone, serving only to establish a d*ckhead Prime Minister, and so Ruby can learn metric to imperial measurement conversions. Stop writing “and it was all a dream” endings! They’re dumb and lazy. 

And it was all leading to the finale, “Empire of Death.” Woof. Aside from the massive plot holes riddled within the finale, it only served as a Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, a nostalgia-grab which didn’t say anything new or interesting. You may have been better logging onto YouTube and finding a greatest clips compilation.

Ruby’s Parentage

Finger point of doom. How can they be normal?

One of my biggest gripes with the finale was the culmination of the Ruby Sunday mystery. Who was she, and who were her parents? Why could she make it snow every time she thought about her day of birth, and why did The Maestro get so freaked out by the song in her heart? One thing’s for sure: her mom is suspicious, wearing Gregorian chanting robes like the Harbingers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Right? RIGHT?!?! 

Wrong. Russell T. Davies decided to send a F*ck You to all of the fans of The Rise of Skywalker by making this mysterious girl and her parentage completely normal. Inadvertently, he also gave a F*CK YOU to all of the fans of this season. None of it made sense. Don’t give a girl supernatural powers and a mom whose actions cannot be explained believably if you’re not going to follow through. Ruby’s parentage reveal was this season’s biggest womp womp. I’m annoyed I invested so much interest in this storyline for such a damp squib. 

The Doctor’s New Personality

Doc is doing his rendition of “Earth Song” from Michael Jackson

I like Ncuti Gatwa as an actor, and he oozes charisma. Every time he’s on screen, he owns the scene with style and aplomb. He’s just so damn watchable. That’s why it’s disappointing to see his Doctor being written so freaking badly. 

He sings and dances far too much. There’s a little ditty or a choreographed sequence in most of the episodes he’s in (you can’t really count “73 Yards” or “Dot and Bubble” because he’s barely in them). It’s like we’re in musicals, and for the majority of the time, it’s a distracting aside to what matters. There’s a reason I didn’t join a performing arts club when I was in school. I didn’t want to be around people singing and dancing down the corridors singing “Fame.”

Emotionally, he’s TOO in touch with his feelings. He cries and screams and cries again. It reduces the impact when there’s an actual reason to cry or get angry. By the time we get to “Empire of Death,” when the whole universe Thanos dusts away, he’s sobbed and been devastated four or five times. The weight of his feelings should be felt, and this fell flat. It’s disappointing.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Looks like he’s about to sing an opening lyric to a lament.

It’s not all doom and gloom, but Doctor Who has significant work to do to recover from this mostly mid and sometimes awful season. Here’s what they should do:

  • Tone down Ncuti’s emotional displays and reduce the musical numbers.
  • Bring in a new, non-mysterious companion who can be a fun member of the TARDIS crew and doesn’t have to be saved from certain death in every episode.
  • Concentrate on one or two season-long threads like Mrs. Flood or The Pantheon, forgetting about mind-numbing side quests while partaking in classic one-off adventures.
  • Remember what you’ve set up and provide entertaining and fulfilling payoffs. 
  • Have fun, but not with space babies.

Even if only half of those points are acted upon, it’ll be a better season next year. Please be a better season next year!

I have faith. Maybe it’s blind optimism, but I choose to live in it!

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Michelle Holstine
8 days ago

This is an awesome take, Iain! Fun read and great points!

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