Subject: NuNuWho
Posted on: 2024-05-15 08:15:36 UTC

So Doctor Who has been revived again, without... actually being cancelled first. Series 13 of "Doctor Who (2005-2022)" was the last; now we're back on Series 1 of "Doctor Who (No Years For You)".

At the same time - and as far as I can tell, the reason for it - the show has switched from airing first on BBC1 to releasing on Disney+ and (for the UK) BBC iPlayer at some godsforsaken hour, and then airing on BBC1 many hours later. That means the US actually gets to watch it first, while we in the UK either wake up to it or catch it on the TV most of a day later.

I've been saying that Doctor Who sold out to America/Disney, but that's not... really true. Certainly, they're intending this to be an entry point for a huge new American viewer-base - the first episode of "Series 1" (aka Series 14, aka Season 40) starts with a heavy-handed infodump of What The Heck Is This Show - but the first two episodes make it clear that "sold out" is not accurate.

My spoiler-free review of the first two episodes: if you're an American who's been waiting years to have easy access to the quirky British "wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey" sci-fi show you've seen all the memes about, you are likely to come out of these episodes going "that is not what I thought I was getting". And same, my friends, same.

Now it's time to bring River back, because... spoilers!

Yeah, so I have Thoughts.

Overall Impressions

Starting with this because the rest is coming out quite negative... Kaitlyn and I agree that Ncuti and Millie are fantastic actors. They bring a huge energy to the screen and work well together (even if I can't shake the idea that Ruby Sunday is actually Clara Oswald attempting to cosplay as Rose Tyler). When they get a script by someone other than Uncle Rusty I think they'll be fantastic.

Space Babies

How many times do you want to hear Ncuti Gatwa say "Babies... space babies!"? Because I guarantee he does it more than that. Which is weirdly racist/othering, because they're a) not actually babies (they're about seven years old) and b) not especially 'space' other than being currently in space. They want to be on a planet. They just can't be.

They're also deeply lost in the Uncanny Valley, because they used CGI to make them talk. So their lips move in time with the words, but don't often manage to look much like lips when they do. It's creepy and very distracting.

I was also very, very offended by the science of "the airlock door is partly open, the Doctor jumps into the airlock... and is sucked against the closed part of the door". I just... what?

We also-also start with a really overdone & badly-scripted infodump on the Doctor and the TARDIS. I get that it's for a new audience, but... the 2005 series didn't even use the name "Time Lord" until the second episode, why did we need to just dump everything on Ruby in tell-don't-show mode? Then there's a weird excursion where Ruby steps on a butterfly and Back-to-the-Futures herself into a Silurian, then the Doctor revives the butterfly and shifts her back. Which a) probably ate a load of SFX budget, and b) since when does Doctor Who care about the butterfly effect?! But whatever.

In terms of plot, it was fine. Weirdly, after making sure to slap down the Timeless Child stuff from 13's era in the Specials, they've now made it a core part of 15's character and how he connects to his companion. Um... 'kay? But yeah: were it not for "space babies!" and the uncanny lips, this would be a standard middling-to-bad episode. As it is, it's a really rubbish intro to the new series.

The Devil's Chord

This was better, but still makes a load of baffling decisions. Like, why would you make and advertise an episode about the Beatles, and then barely have the Beatles in it? Why would you have a Beatle tell the Doctor a chord, and then have the Doctor need a chord from a genius, and not connect these? Why are we resolving this situation in the 60s when it was established as starting in the 20s, and there's no timey-wimey reason the resolution would echo back? Why did the Doctor feel the need to take Ruby and show her her own destroyed future? (Answer: so that the TARDIS would be locked to only go back to the 60s, because they realised the above question had no good answer.) Why does the Doctor now know, on no basis other than "my legions are coming", that the Maestro is part of "the Pantheon" - or has he just made up that name to sound smart? (I mean... checks out.)

The plot was definitely better. I mean, it made no sense, but in a Doctory sort of way, and had far fewer logic leaps than the previous episode. The CGI on the music tentacles was... Kaitlyn called it 'very 90s', and I can't argue, which is weird when there's now Disney money in play. And while the musical number had me going "what" the entire time, it wasn't actually bad.

Though Kaitlyn is extremely offended that the mysterious lost chord which takes a genius to rediscover is just a tritone.

Overall Impressions, Redux

Kaitlyn says that these episodes feel more like The Sarah Jane Adventures than Doctor Who, which I agree with. It makes me wonder whether Uncle Rusty is planning to use the "Whoniverse" banner to also run a more adult show, along the lines of Torchwood... aaaand yep, looks like he did indeed confirm they were planning a UNIT show. We'll have to see whether the younger tone of the main series continues, or whether it's just Rusty Gonna Rusty. The next episode is by Stephen Moffat, so... we'll see.


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