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‘Doctor Who’ Recap: Most Of The Universe Is Knackered, Babe

By Hannah Sole | TV | May 13, 2024 |

By Hannah Sole | TV | May 13, 2024 |


Previously on Doctor Who: Fourteen and Donna returned for some glorious specials that hit us right in the feels, before passing the sonic baton to Ncuti Gatwa. Fifteen’s first solo romp aired at Christmas, and showed him meeting his new BFF Ruby Sunday amidst some baby-stealing shenanigans with goblins.

This week: Fifteen and Ruby take their first trips together, with lots of exposition for potential newbies to the Whoniverse, some mysteries, lots of knowing jokes and plenty of silliness. Spoilers are ahead for episodes 1 and 2!

Now, I love me some timey-wimey antics, but not the ‘playing silly buggers with the schedule’ kind, for which I’m sure we need to blame the Whoniverse’s new co-overlords, Disney+. Calling this season 1, putting out two episodes in one go, and making them available for the rest of the world before primetime BBC? I shake my head and tut in your general direction. We had one perk! ONE! This is serious science-fiction, don’t you know? British prestige drama! And here we are, having to avoid social media for hours, just like the Game of Thrones days. You know, I got up before dawn to watch the GoT finale before I went to work, so that I could watch without spoilers? They were dark times, literally.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. Serious science fiction. Episode 1, ‘Space Babies’, features a Snot Monster and a space station that farts its way out of orbit? PRESTIGE.

‘Space Babies’ probably isn’t one for the history books, but it does what it needs to; it sets up the bond between Fifteen and Ruby, teases some of the mystery at the heart of this upcoming season, and has a lot of fun at the same time. This Nu-Nu-Who doesn’t want to be too bogged down with decades of canon, and so what came before is dealt with as briskly as possible. Fifteen’s line “most of the universe is knackered, babe” was ostensibly about the chameleon circuit but it’s funnier to read it as a reference to the events of Flux. The timeless child arc is more openly boiled down to “I was adopted”, and bigeneration gets a mention, but Fifteen is once again the last of his kind, and we can safely / sadly assume that Fourteen has quietly ceased to be. That’s not to say we don’t have threads to pick at and argue about online; we still don’t know who Ruby’s birth mum is, and there’s too much peril to go looking too hard. Literally world shattering paradoxes at stake. But there are a few crumbs to keep us guessing. I’m putting my money on Jenny for now though; the pointed discussion about Susan would make it very neat if Ruby ended up being the Doctor’s Other Granddaughter.

The titular space babies were very cute and the space station was not, thankfully, quite as Handmaids in Space as it first sounded, though there were some knowing digs at pro-life ideology. And Fifteen’s disdain for genocide is back (huzzah) as even gross Snot Monsters deserve to live sometimes. If I had a quid for every episode where a baby nearly got eaten, I would have two pounds from two consecutive episodes, which is a bit weird, but I’m theoretically two pounds up and no babies have been eaten, so that’s a win.

In ‘The Devil’s Chord’, Ruby and the Doctor have been travelling around for half a year already, leaving plenty of space for other tie-in content, but making the two minutes between episodes feel like some more timey-wimey weirdness. Episode 2 might stick in the memory more, due to some epic scenery devouring from Jinkx Monsoon as Maestro. Appearing with the Toymaker’s Giggle Arpeggio, Maestro descends on the world and claims all music as their own, swirling the notes up and chomping on them like musical candy floss, and wielding floaty notes as weapons. When Ruby and Fifteen turn up to watch the Beatles record their first album in 1963, they find an altered reality that is doomed without any decent music, only tuneless dirges reluctantly offered up by the Fab Four (and Cilla Black!). No-one even whistles any more. (Wait, I thought this was meant to be dystopian?) A future sans music is bleak; Ruby’s time will not survive unless Maestro is stopped, but Fifteen’s not keen to fight a god again after The Giggle.

Monsoon’s flamboyant turn as Maestro was only beaten in campness by the fact that Eurovision aired immediately afterwards. I never thought a tuning fork could look quite so ominous. Maestro is like the Toymaker crossed with Winifred Sanderson, a panto villain that asked the question I never thought I needed answered: what if the Family Ness grew tired of Thistle Whistles, went rogue and decided to destroy the universe?

It was a magic chord that summoned Maestro, and a magic chord that can banish them again, if there’s only a musical genius or two who happens to be hanging around in Abbey Road Studios in 1963. Fifteen figures out most of it — he wings it by virtue of having a lot of feelings — and the potent floaty notes hang around by the unattended piano waiting for someone to discern that last missing element. Hey, John Lennon and Paul McCartney! A musical flourish later, and Maestro is sucked back into the piano / magical ether from whence they came.

There’s always a twist though, right? There’s time for a song and dance before the end, and this is regeneration in a nutshell: everything is as it was, and everything has changed. The Doctor’s always loved a boogie, but confidence and rhythm will vary…

To be fair, that was Cassandra.

Maybe we’re being lulled into a false sense of security, but Fifteen’s run thus far is all about fun. Gatwa and Gibson are warm and sparky together, and the dynamic between them feels fresh new ground; Ruby’s mystery is perhaps closest to Clara’s without the burden of being the fully Impossible Girl.

Wibbly-Wobbly Timey-Wimey Stuff

The door’s open for more gods among the monsters, what with the reference to the Toymaker being part of a pantheon. The one who waits is still…waiting according to Maestro. But “almost here”… Is The Waity One the same as “the Oldest One” who Maestro also said absolutely “couldn’t have been there on the night of [Ruby’s] birth”? What is her secret hidden song all about? It can’t just be the epic power of Carol of the Bells, after all. IS THE OLDEST ONE CALLED CAROL?

The internet let out an excited gasp at the mention of the Rani.

“This creature is very wrong”: bit harsh, Maestro. We know Ruby’s mysterious but let’s not be too mean about it.

Wait, Ruby was born in 2004? I take it back, Maestro. Carry on being mean while I rest on my fainting couch. What even IS time at this point?

Was the little boy looking confused during the Twist Henry the Harbinger back again?

The literal Butterfly Effect gag made me chortle, but not as much as this:

Next week: Fifteen and Ruby are stuck in the middle of a war, and the landmines might interfere with any further dancing for a while…