The Doctor has returned with four episodes, three with Tennant as the Fourteenth Doctor and one fully focussed on Ncuti Gatwa as the Fifteenth-- though he gets introduced in the third of these episodes. The post is not entirely spoiler free, so be warned. I have some thoughts:

"The Star Beast," apparently based on a Doctor Who comic-book story from the 1980s, shows off the new budget and brings back Donna Noble and the Tenth Doctor's supporting cast. It also shows off the new Disney-infused budget. It's a fairly silly but entertaining adventure story with a twist I suspect many (most?) viewers will see coming. The Doctor also casually employs a bit of tech we should have seen before, if he had access to it. The ending gives us the doctor ex machina and sets up the next ep. It's entertaining but not the best entry point for new viewers.

"The Wild Blue Yonder" takes a different approach, a creepy episode which (mostly) just features the Doctor and Donna in something from Outer Limits or the Twilight Zone, but with a significant effects budget. I rather enjoyed this one, though some will find it too talky and the ending a little bit forced. The epilogue allows them to use the minimal footage they got of Bernard Cribbins before his death. That bit sets up...

"The Giggle" features a truly creepy prologue in 1925 Soho, dealing with historical events surrounding the invention of television. It's a great bit that sets up a classic Doctor Who premise. The first three-quarters of this episode does so many things so well that it remains my favorite of the four (though "Yonder" is a close second), despite my misgivings about the final quarter. The premise is solid. The Doctor's problematic past with companions gets mined without becoming overly preaching or revisionist. We get a great supporting cast, which includes Catherine Tate, again, as Donna Noble, Jemma Redgrave as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart (along with the rest of UNIT), Bonnie Langford and 1980s companion Mel Bush, John Mackay as historical figure John Logie Baird, and Ruth Madeley as Shirley Bingham, the fiesty UNIT science advisor introduced in "The Star Beast." Neil Patrick Harris shines as classic Who villain the Toymaker-- someone found a way to contextualize and make, well, as acceptable as it was ever going to be, the original Toymaker's Yellowface faux Asian appearance. The Toymaker (a deranged godlike alien) appreantly just likes doing ridiculous ethnic impersonations. He spends this one doing a fake German.

The ending features the introduction of Doctor #15 (Gatwa), more doctor ex machina, and some unnecessary (IMO). Most significantly (big spoiler), the Doctor bigenerates, giving us both versions of the Doctor existing simultaneously. There may be a point to it, but I don't get it. If they just want to pull Tennant out of their back pocket next season, they could do that. The Doctor has teamed up with his other selves before. He's a time-traveler! The excuse they give, that the earlier version of the Doctor needs a rest, doesn't really make sense. All incarnations are equally the Doctor. This development, however, merely has me scratching my head, rather than the "Doctor is attracted to a companion" bit, that actively annoyed me (though a recognize its appeal to a segment of fans, so I concede it), and the "Last of his Kind" and "The Chosen One" tropes pointlessly, stupidly foistered on the character in recent years, which had me pulling my hair out. Or would have, if I had hair.

We also get a development that obviously means we will see the Master again next season, and another that tells us there's a really big bad lurking in the Doctor's future.

"The Church on Ruby Road" gives Gatwa his first solo Doctor adventure. We get a new companion, Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson), who at nineteen is even younger than the newest Doctor, and the tone very much shifts to emphasize the Gen Z-ness of it all. She also has a mysterious origin and an adoptive family, who play a significant part here, and they're up to the challenge. British broadcaster/presenter Davina McCall appears as herself, while actress (also Brian May's wife) Anita Dobson makes her debut as the mysterious Mrs. Flood. It's clear that (1) she knows who the Doctor is, even though he does not recognize her and (2) we're going to see her again. The episode was fine, I guess, with high production values and the kidnapping of a child at Christmas by goblins, and a new companion who takes these developments remarkably well. It's very much a Doctor Who Christmas Special, and it reuses even more tropes than the previous three episodes combined. As for Gwata, we will have to see how his version of the character settles in.


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