Doctor Who Episode 1 Recap/Review: “Space Babies”

Director: Julie Anne Robinson
Writer: Russell T Davies
Voice Cast: Ncuti Gatwa, Millie Gibson
Streaming Service: Disney+

It’s been a long time since Doctor Who, the stalwart of British tv science fiction, has felt energized. While the show has had its bright spots and stellar episodes, darkness overtook the show over the last decade. “Space Babies”, the first episode in this new era of Doctor Who, is the first proper Doctor Who episode in a very long time. The show once again has leads that crackle with energy, and more importantly optimism. The episode isn’t an instant classic but it’s a return to form for the series. This is a show reinvigorated for a variety of reasons. 

Fifteenth Doctor and Ruby Sunday
Ncuti Gatwa as the Fifteenth Doctor and Mille Gibson as Ruby Sunday/Courtesy of BBC One/Disney+

Much like his first run on the show, writer and show runner Russell T Davies starts the season off with a high energy, campy episode. The Doctor, in his fifteenth incarnation portrayed by Ncuti Gatwa, and his new companion Ruby Sunday, played by Millie Gibson, arrive on that favorite Doctor Who locations; an abandoned satellite. There’s a creature in the stations underbelly that terrifies the two time travelers. When they make their way up to the upper levels, they meet the infant inhabitants of this futuristic locale. Whatever is in the basement terrorizes these children and as always, it’s up to the Doctor and Ruby to unravel what’s going on. 

Doctor Who has always been a bit camp. This is a science fiction series where its hero counts militaristic potato-looking people and living mannequins as repeat villains. An episode centered around protecting super intelligent, talking babies from a monster is not out of the norm for the series. There was no way an episode titled “Space Babies” wasn’t going to be very silly. After a certain point, Gatwa says the phrase “Space Babies” so many times you could start a drinking game.  

Picture Shows: Episode 1 The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson)
Courtesy of BBC One/Disney+

Still the episode has a positively infectious energy that makes it hard to hate. The joy of watching Doctor Who is that the show can be anything. Any given episode could be hard sci-fi, comedic, terrifying, or all of those things in the same episode. The cast needs to be up for that. Gatwa and Millie Gibson bring a youth and vigor this show has lacked for ages. Their chemistry as friends is absolutely bubbling. They’re great together but more importantly, the two are game for the truly absurd premises this show may throw at them.

Adding to this sense of anything goes, the show’s production designers clearly have a blast designing a space station run by toddlers. The walls are graffitied with crayon drawings. There’s fun mechanisms for how the babies operate and maintain the space station. And while the Boogeyman isn’t an all time great Doctor Who monster, it sure is a fun looking one.  

The Boogeyman from Doctor Who
The Boogeyman/Courtesy of BBC One/Disney+

Russell T Davies being back at the helm brings the show back to familiar territory. Saying it’s a return to form assumes this series has one shape it’s supposed to fit into. Yes,  Davies defined what Doctor Who was for a generation, for better and worse. And there’s shades of “The End of the World”, the second episode of the Doctor Who revival, in “Space Babies”. The Doctor is once again last of the Time Lords, the time traveling people they comes from, and once again they’re traveling with a blonde companion who is very of her time. 

So Davies hasn’t totally changed how he writes a Doctor Who episode but that’s okay. He has very clear ideas on what Doctor Who as a show is. Just like in 2005, he wants this show to be fresh for a contemporary audience. This episode doesn’t feel held back by the past or a complete repeat of past glories. This is a Doctor, and show runner, looking at the universe with new perspectives.  Davies wants to push the show forward and set a tone for a Doctor different than their predecessors. 

Ncuti Gatwa as the Fifteenth Doctor in "Space Babies"
Ncuti Gatwa as the Fifthteenth Doctor/Courtesy of BBC One/Disney+

And this is a very different Doctor that audiences see in this episode. Yes, Gatwa’s Doctor is openly queer, and gender nonconforming. However, this is a Doctor that’s kind and believes in the best of people. They have an infectious joie de vivre and sense of adventure. Gatwa for now holds no simmering rage or madman in a box. They speak with compassion rather than veiled threats. They’re willing to be vulnerable not just with others but themselves. This is a Doctor here to heal others. Do no harm might as well be their motto.  

And it’s utterly refreshing to have that new perspective in this timeless character. Just like whoever plays its lead, Doctor Who is a show that needs reinvention. “Space Babies” reminds folks what Doctor Who can be. Sometimes it’s silly. Other times it can be a little scary. That ability to be anything is what makes this show so compelling. It’s not 2005 all over again. With new leads as engaging and wonderful as Ncuti Gatwa and Millie Gibson, and Russell T Davies back with a clear vision for the show going forward, that’s more than okay.

Ncuti Gatwa as the 15th Doctor and Millie Gibson as Ruby Sunday in the TARDIS
Courtesy of BBC One/Disney+

New episodes of Doctor Who airs every Friday on Disney+.

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  1. If you took a shot every time he said “space babies,” you’d die of alcohol poisoning. Not impressed with Davies’ second run so far.

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