Doctor Who Breaks Out on Disney +

Two decades ago Russell T. Davis rebooted Doctor Who for a whole new generation.

His 9th incarnation of The Doctor, played by Christopher
Eccleston, burst into being with Billie Piper’s brilliant companion Rose
Tyler. This was a Doctor for the modern era; clad in a black leather
jacket, running for his life, both irreverent and suave.

RTD and Doctor
Who was a “fantastic” and successfull coupling that lasted for four series,
ending with David Tennant’s 10th Doctor’s regeneration into Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor, handing over the reigns to Stephen Moffet. And now, over a decade after he left, Davis is back to reinvent the Doctor all over again with Ncuti Gatwa’s 15th incarnation, accompanied by Millie Gibson’s Ruby Sunday.

Before starting anew, Russell T. Davis first helmed a trio of 60th
Anniversary specials which brought him back together with David Tennant, now the 14th Doctor (it’s all very timey whimey), and Catherine Tate (Donna Noble), debuting on Doctor Who’s new home outside of Britain, Disney+. “The Star Beast”, “Wild Blue Yonder”, and “The Giggle” were all incredibly well received, culminating in a happy ending that would keep Tennant’s Doctor in play when he split into two instead of regenerating, brilliantly introducing Ncuti Gatwa’s 15th Doctor. Number 15 emerged on screen with Gatwa’s smile and charisma at full tilt and he wasted no time helping to not only save the day but bring a degree of peace to Tennant’s tortured Doctor, showcasing the heart and empathy to come.

This trio of perfectly pitched tributes to Doctor Who past and Doctor Who
to come, out in the world, Russell T. Davis now sets his sights on
reinventing Who once again as it releases arguably wider than ever before.

On Christmas Day 2023 we received Gatwa’s first full outing as The Doctor
in “The Church on Ruby Road”. A brilliant, joyful, and captivating
Christmas adventure, “Church”, was a showcase for Ncuti Gatwa’s boundless charm. His energy as The Doctor is so pure and natural it’s as if he’d been playing the role for ages. The first time Millie Gibson’s Ruby
Sunday lays eyes on him he is the palpable incarnation of joy and freedom, dancing and twirling in a kilt under a dozen disco balls. It’s impossible not to fall madly in love with the pair.

Fast forward to now and we are on the precipice of the release of the new series’ first two episodes – “Space Babies” and “The Devil’s
Chord”(Friday, May 10 on Disney+). If these two are Davis’ thesis for
what’s to come, we are in for an incredible ride. “Space Babies” is an
audacious opening to the series, so silly it should not work. But the
earnestness rings true, the goofiness hits just the right notes. The
Doctor and Ruby find themselves on a space station run by babies. Yes,
babies. A baby farm has been abandoned by its adult crew leaving the little ones to bravely fend for themselves while a monster looms on the floor below.

The episode is exuberant with an underlying dread; a Doctor
Who emotional sweet spot. Gatwa and Gibson are so genuine and likable you will absolutely follow them anywhere after. As the babies say upon the pair’s arrival, “mommy and daddy are here”; and surely we are in safe hands as we barrel forward into the season.

“The Devil’s Chord” doubles down and ascends to even higher heights. The Doctor and Ruby travel back to EMI Studios (now better known as Abbey Road Studios) to witness The Beatles record their first album. While the production and costume design is tremendous, what really makes the episode
sing – pardon the pun – is the way Davis is able to tell a story about The
Beatles without using their music. It’s clever, funny, tragic, and just a
little bit haunting the way he creates a world where music is lifeless,
discordant, and looked down upon. But he’s not done there. The casting of Jinkx Monsoon (she/her) as Maestro (they/them) is a master stroke.

Her performance is so exquisitely, indelibly over the top it is NOT to be
missed. She is formidable, funny, and threatening. She’s far from one
note using everything in her arsenal to create an instantly memorable
Doctor Who foe. “I’m them”, Maestro corrects as they emerge. It’s one of
many simple grace notes that stitch together, showcasing how Russell T.
Davis sees the world as it is.

The key to this newest incarnation of Doctor Who is its empathy, its
sincerity without being saccharine, and its joy; its joy in the face of
inescapable danger, sadness, and loss. There is resilience in joy. There
is resistance in joy. There is freedom in preserving joy despite the
darkness. “Doctor Who can be a contrast. It can be full of hope”, Davis
remarked when we spoke to him recently. “I believe in happy endings.

You have to work very hard to create that on screen”. While Davis believes, quite rightly as he is a bit of an expert of course, that The Doctor’s
empathy has always been there, he said, “it’s my job to make a Doctor Who for 2024 and I was very much aware that the younger generation are getting much better at talking about emotions. I wanted a hero and heroine that would be open, honest, and even raw.”

This isn’t “woke” Doctor Who. It’s just Doctor Who that reflects the world
we live in and you can get on board with that or not. As David Tennant
said recently in regard to trans rights “it’s just about people being
themselves, you don’t need to be bothered about it. F. off and let
people be”. Gatwa’s number 15 may put that more eloquently within the
confines of his Who-iteration. Regardless, when something isn’t right he’s going to make it known. He makes “everyone in the universe feel
valued and loved” Gatwa says on TikTok in ads for the new season. Doctor Who is back, better than ever, and on a mission to make sure everyone in the universe knows they deserve love, respect, and a place within it.

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