Doctor Who, Series 14

Doctor Who Review: Ncuti Gatwa Is Off to a Very Fun, Very Silly Start

Timey-wimey antics return as Russell T. Davies rehelms the long-standing British sci-fi series.

Doctor Who is a long-standing and beloved character. Originally running from 1963 to 1989 and presently since 2005, The Doctor has been played by fourteen different actors; his alien species’ convenient physiological trait of being able to regenerate after a fatal wound allows each new actor to step into the role and soft-reboot the series as they do so. Every incarnation has its fans but each one also faces scrutiny, especially as their run begins.

This time, Scottish actor Ncuti Gatwa (last seen at the Oscars as a Ken in Barbie) is playing The Doctor and is the first openly queer actor and the first actor of colour to take it on. Russell T. Davies, who spearheaded the original reboot of the series back in 2005, is also rejoining the series, which is exciting for those of us who remember his tenure. That said, it’s fair to say that there is even more scrutiny on the series this time around, especially with the preceding version of the show introducing some divisive ideas to the series’ ongoing lore.

So then, how does this new series hold up? Pretty good, actually. The first new episode picks up right where the previous episode –the 2023 Christmas specials that introduced Gatwa as the new Doctor and Millie Gibson as his new companion Ruby Sunday– ended, with The Doctor and Ruby in the TARDIS and the doctor finally explaining to her who he is.

They immediately set off on an adventure. Ruby gives him a random year to explore, landing them in a far-flung future on a space station populated by babies. Yes, actual babies in self-propelled strollers with digital effects used to make their lips move as they talk. There’s also a boogeyman on the station, and The Doctor and Ruby must figure out how to stop it. In the second episode, they travel to the 1960s and face an existential threat to the universe as all music is gone — yes, all the music in the entire world, gone.


What stands out about these episodes is something this critic, at least, had been missing: they are very silly. Sure, there are scary monsters, but Davies remembers that Doctor Who is ultimately a show for kids, so Gatwa and Gibson run around yelling science fiction nonsense with nothing but big smiles plastered on their faces. Each of them is entirely into the show, conveying a real sense of wonder and delight at what they’re seeing and doing.

It feels like this series could have been an immediate follow-up to Davies’s prior run on the series. The tone and style feel in line with Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant’s runs on the series, with a mad alien and a bright-eyed human travelling space and time in a blue box and fixing problems that they happen to stumble across. There are serialized elements, but it also feels a little more episodic than Doctor Who has in recent years, at least so far, which is a welcome change.

Of course, the new variables here are Gatwa and Gibson, both of whom seem very up to the task. Gibson has a fun, young energy, and it’s lovely to follow a wide-eyed innocent again as she follows this ancient madman on his adventures. However, it’s Gatwa’s show, really, and he owns every second of it. He has an infectious energy about him and really dives headfirst into the doctor’s curiosity, always wanting to see, meet, and investigate whatever they come across. If his charisma could be bottled and sold, he’d be a rich man.

Gatwa and Gibson have great chemistry that feels natural as they bounce off each other trying to figure out the mysteries of the week. We also see the beginnings of an over-arching story to the season following Ruby’s mysterious past as an orphan and foundling (previously explained in the Christmas specials) and antagonists that –without spoilers – are on the same level as the Toymaker (played by Neil Patrick Harris in another of said Christmas specials).


If there’s any reason to be worried within these two episodes (the only ones supplied for review), it might be that, with only eight episodes total, it’s unclear if the series will have an appropriate amount of time to bring its arcs to a satisfying close. However, it’s too early to tell. There is plenty here in these first two episodes to give the audience hope, however, and if the whole series can maintain the same energy, we should end up with a very silly, fun season of television, and that’s exactly what Doctor Who is at its best.

The first two episodes of Doctor Who premiere on May 10 exclusively on Disney+.