Doctor Who – Series 1, Episode 1: Space Babies/Episode 2: The Devil’s Chord

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Doctor Who returns, now with Nkuti Gatwa in the titular role. Err, wait though! ‘Series 1?? Surely some sort of mistake? Shouldn’t it be either ‘Series 14’ (based on the rebooted series in 2005) or even ‘Series 40′, (if you’re a real purist and start from the very first series aired in 1963)???? A confusing start! ๐Ÿค”

With the programme now a global production (with the help of mighty Disney) rather than the quaint English series it always used to be, it’s official, the whole thing begins again. Confused? You will be!

At least the full list of episodes is already known, with a total of eight episodes for this fortieth fourteenth first series season series!

Thanks Wiki!

Just as things couldn’t get even more complex, there are TWO episodes being shown consecutively tonight (that’s a first!). Meanwhile, for those who can’t wait, the same two episodes are also being screened at midnight – 18 hours before – on iPlayer. Making them available on online EARLY is another first for the BBC – and this extra convenience has divided opinion. There has been a lot of online chatter suggesting this is NOT a smart move, as it’ll ruin the suspense for those who prefer to watch it in its ‘traditional’ time of teatime on a Saturday night. I suspect that might be the influence of the House of Mouse attempting to maximise the viewing numbers.

Here we go then, the long-anticipated return of Doctor Who. We have a new Doctor, a new companion, a new Tardis, a new(ish) theme tune, a new showrunner and a returning composer for each episode’s adventure. With everything new and with the show now a global brand (even though the BBC retain the rights), I wonder how this will turn out? I’m rather nervous that we’re going to lose some of the ‘Englishness’ of it all? Advanced reviews by the ‘official’ critics have been at best, mixed. ๐Ÿ˜ฌ… but what do they know?

No, Radio Times, it’s NOT series 14! Try and keep up!

OK, It’s 6.20, on Saturday, 11th May, and I watched both, live.

Before we get into the specifics of each episode, let’s look at things overall from tonight’s two episodes. There’s no doubt about it, Nkuti Gatwa has settled into this role like he’s been doing it all his life. He’s a bit camp for my tastes, and couldn’t be further from Ecclestone’s portrayal when the series first rebooted almost 10 years ago. Likewise, Millie Gibson makes a very natural companion and there’s clearly plenty of chemistry between the two leads and that bodes well for future outings.

The episodes both have a very different feel about them compared with any that went before them! Perhaps that’s not surprising, given the expanded budget and a wider, global audience as its target. The ‘quaint’ feel of a Saturday teatime serial has been completely replaced by a cinematic style with special effects and filming techniques worthy of the best films you’ve seen in recent years! I think we’ve said goodbye to the wobbly sets and sometimes wooden acting.

All in all then, I’d say that Who is now a VERY different beast in 2024! Thankfully, all the traditional staples such as ‘scary monsters’, ‘plenty of running about’, ‘a lonely traveller in search of a companion’ and ‘the Doctor saves the day’ are all still very much present and correct. Lovers of the famous Sonic Screwdriver be warned though – this has had more of a makeover than anything else in this new (new) Who! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Episode 1

Synopsis

Ruby learns the Doctor’s amazing secrets when he takes her to the far future.
There, they find a baby farm run by babies. But can they be saved from the terrifying bogeyman?

Any Good?

In my view, this wasn’t perhaps the best episode to showcase the series. It was all a bit lightweight, a bit silly and those lip-synced talking babies bordered on creepy! It didn’t feel typical Who to me, but I suppose it presented a fairly safe jumping-on-point for those watching for the first time. It was all a bit lightweight and frothy and where the Doctor’s campness was dialled up to a level where even Mr Humphries would probably have cringed. Maybe it was just ‘crying baby overload’ but for me, an instantly forgettable episode. Nope, not my cup of tea at all!


Episode 2

Synopsis

Ruby The Doctor and Ruby meet The Beatles but discover that the all-powerful Maestro is changing history.
London becomes a battleground with the future of humanity at stake.

Any Good?

This one instantly felt better than the lamentable ‘Space Babies’ – so that was surely a good start! It began much more serious in tone… more Who-like – and with the ‘Brucie Bonus’ that at least, there were no babies! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ˜.

Even at this early stage in this series, it would be difficult to upstage Nkuti Gatwa and his natural enthusiasm in the role as your titular hero. However, this week’s ‘big bad’ aka ‘Maestro’ played by Jinkx Monsoon (yes, really!) was on another level! OTT doesn’t even begin to describe their/his/her performance! ๐Ÿคฉ. Apparently, Jinkx is a well-known drag-act – and that part was certainly very convincing. I felt it was a good story supported once more, by plenty of outstanding special effects. The result? A piece that elevated this from the Whos of my youth to something quite extraordinary. Being set in the 60s, I loved the fashions and anything featuring the Beatles has to be a good thing, right? Well, maybe not tonight! They didn’t look like them and they didn’t sound like them either! But maybe that was the point?!

Beatlemania aside, there was plenty of tension and some genuinely creepy moments, so no need to put your settee on eBay just yet. Unfortunately, the story sort of ‘fizzled out’ for me towards the end, and what is this trend for having musical numbers in Who episodes? ๐Ÿ˜ก๐Ÿ˜ก. That just didn’t work at all in the context of the overall Who narrative.

On a positive note (see what I did there) at least the Doctor wasn’t anywhere near as camp as in Episode 1 and consequently, I think we got a slightly different feel for his evolving character. I began watching this episode with a rating of 3/3.5 in mind, but the lack-lustre final act, together with the musical piece just ruined it for me.

and so…

I think if William Hartnell was looking down on tonight’s openers, he wouldn’t recognise himself! The production is clearly now aimed at a different market – and I’ve felt for a few series now, that’s NOT me! It would be interesting to learn what younger audiences thought about it all? ๐Ÿค”. At this early stage, I’m reserving my judgment as there are some experienced writers lined up for future storylines, and perhaps we’ll begin to see some traces of the Who we already know and love?

Next week…

There’s not much information about Episode 3 – entitled ‘Boom’ – but after these two openers, the only way is UP (hopefully!)

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