Doctor Who Season 1 Episode 1 Review: Space Babies

at .

It's been a long time coming, but Doctor Who is finally back!

Doctor Who Season 1 Episode 1 was intended to be a soft reboot of the iconic British series as it launches to worldwide audiences on Disney+. It was a pilot episode that felt connected to the past, especially to the classic Doctor Who episodes that aired in the 1970s.

It also connected to the first reboot in 2005 but shed one crucial element: the Doctor is no longer depressed and brooding about his people's deaths.

A New Doctor Takes Control - Doctor Who

Ncuti Gatwa's Doctor Has More in Common With Tom Baker Than With Most of the Modern Doctors

The Doctor was initially conceived as an enigmatic alien who chose to travel the universe in search of fun and excitement and help for beings in need.

By the time the original series ended in 1989, however, he was a much darker figure, and the 2005 reboot presented a Doctor who had been broken by the loss of his people.

Gatwa's Doctor changed that. He's still sad about the loss of his people, but he's recovered that childlike, adventurous spark.

Ruby: We did almost die.
The Doctor: But we lived so much too.

During the Christmas special, I thought Gatwa's Doctor was most similar to Tom Baker, and this new episode made it even clearer. The tired TV trope of the eternally lonely alien traveler was gone, and instead, we had a man who was hungry for new experiences and new adventures.

Tom Baker is the Doctor many Americans know best, as PBS ran his episodes constantly in the early 1980s. He had a mess of curls, a bright smile, and a love of jelly babies. He also had a lot of silly, campy adventures, wore the world's longest scarf, and had a robotic dog named K-9 for half his run.

The Doctor Keeps His Promise - Doctor Who

Gatwa's Doctor has a similar larger-than-life, childlike personality, and his first adventure fell decidedly in the campy side, with some elements that reminded adult viewers that this was originally and will always be a children's show no matter how many grown-ups love it.

Whether it was purposeful or not, linking Gatwa with Tom Baker is an excellent idea for the reboot, considering how many more Americans can access it on Disney+.

People who saw an episode or two half a century ago will find Gatwa's Doctor somewhat familiar and comforting, which always helps to decide if you like a new show.

The Affirmation of LGBTQ+ Identities Was Well Done

Some viewers have complained that Doctor Who is "too woke" because we've had a female Doctor and now Gatwa, who is Black and gay and has pro-LGBTQ+ messaging, including transgender characters being included in the show. 

Here's the thing, though: Doctor Who has always been a progressive show that encouraged acceptance of others and addressed social justice issues.

Ruby Transforms - Doctor Who

From 1963 onwards, the Doctor was a figure who believed all living beings had the right to live in peace. By the Tom Baker era, the messaging was more explicit, with the Daleks being a sci-fi stand-in for the Nazis, programmed to exterminate all who were deemed inferior.

Gatwa's Doctor took this a step further, telling the babies that being their unique self is a superpower and that everyone is perfect the way they are.

This message is no different than what the children's TV host Fred Rogers said on his program every day for 30 years. It was upbeat and life-affirming.

And yes, Gatwa is gay, and as a trans person, I immediately interpreted the message as pro-LGBTQ+. But it wasn't heavy-handed or obnoxious. The only agenda here was to continue the message of acceptance and love that Doctor Who had for almost 60 years.

Other political messages were subtle, too.

Ruby: So the planet below wouldn't allow the babies to be stopped from being born, but wouldn't take care of them afterward?
Jocelyn: Yes. Strange planet, I know.
Ruby: Not that strange.

The planet forcing the space station to keep churning out babies but refusing to take care of them after they were born is an obvious analogy to the abortion debate in the United States. However, it was one line of the story, so viewers who didn't like that message could still enjoy the episode.

Traveling to Prehistoric Times - Doctor Who

Of all the political messaging, I was most concerned about the Doctor discussing the genocide of his people. This is an important thing to talk about. Still, unfortunately, that's a loaded term right now because of the conflict in Gaza and passionate differences of opinion about who is committing genocide there.

This episode was filmed long before the war began, so it wasn't intended as a commentary on that conflict, but it could unintentionally set people off.

The Story Was Campy With Serious Undertones

On the surface, the Space Babies story was ridiculous. It featured talking babies, a monster made out of snot, and a space station weighed down by dirty diapers.

Confident and Happy - Doctor Who

However, there were some more serious undertones to these juvenile aspects of the story. 

It's strange, you were abandoned like this lot. If things connect, you are connecting like crazy.

The Doctor

The Doctor and Ruby talked a lot about how the Doctor managed to keep moving forward despite losing his home and people and how Ruby seemed to be connected to the strange goings-on at the space station.

The Doctor is right that Ruby and her backstory draw her to situations involving abandoned babies. It's probably also what brought her and the Doctor together.

The Doctor is also an orphan who doesn't know his birth parents, so if Ruby attracts abandoned babies, it's no surprise the Doctor was pulled into her orbit (no pun intended.)

Taking Off Into the Unknown - Doctor Who

Ruby's Birth Story Is a Mystery Waiting to Be Revealed

Ruby's origins will be the overarching theme of the season. The Doctor warned her that the one place they can't go is the church on the day of her birth, which means we're going there eventually.

The cliffhanger was intriguing, too. What in the universe did the Doctor see on that scan?

I also think it wasn't a coincidence that he mentioned the Rani. She's a renegade Time Lord who has caused a lot of trouble in the past, but the reboot has been unable thus far to use her because of a problem getting the rights to include her.

Hopefully, that's changed now because she's one of the best classic Doctor Who villains and it would be fantastic for her to return.

Ruby's World Expands - Doctor Who

Your turn, Doctor Who fanatics!

Hit the big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know your thoughts on the newest episode.

Doctor Who streams on Disney+ on Saturdays.

Space Babies Review

Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
  • 4.8 / 5.0
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
User Rating:

Rating: 4.3 / 5.0 (24 Votes)

Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. His debut young adult novel, Reinventing Hannah, is available on Amazon. Follow him on X.

Show Comments
Tags: ,

Doctor Who Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

I am the last of the Time Lords. And I am so glad to be alive.


Ruby: I can't just call you Doctor. I want to know your name.
Doctor: That's kind of complicated because I was adopted and the planet that took me in were posh and used titles like Doctor, Rani, Conquistador. Say Doctor for 1000 years and it becomes my name.