Doctor Who Series 14 Review: A New Doctor But the Same High-Energy Antics

SUMMARY

  • Ncuti Gatwa steps into the iconic role of The Doctor
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No television franchise sees changes like Doctor Who, but high turnover can be overrated when you’ve built a world as rich as this one. Our first glimpse of Series 14 and the Fifteenth Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) came at the end of the Christmas specials in 2023. Gatwa came out the gate blazing and established himself as a fun-loving doctor, breaking the mold in terms of performance and style for the iconic character. Of course, Gatwa has already broken barriers as the first black and openly queer Doctor. On top of his groundbreaking aspects, the pure energy and charisma Gatwa’s brought to the role already makes it feel like we’ve hit the jackpot.

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Doctor Who Series 14

Doctor Who Series 14 Plot

The new Doctor begins noticing strange accidents throughout London. As he investigates, he meets a young woman – Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson). Abandoned at a Church as a baby, Ruby wants to know about her birth parents. After the two solve a mystery together, The Doctor invites Ruby into the T.A.R.D.I.S. so they can travel through time. Yet as they grow closer, The Doctor realizes there’s more to Ruby than even she knows.

Doctor Who Series 14

The Critique

The return of Russell T. Davies to Doctor Who allows Series 14 to immediately pick up with confidence. Davies oversaw the revival of the sci-fi adventure series back in 2005, which led to its nearly twenty years of success. Davies led his version of the show with a focus on heart, compassion, and chemistry. If the start of Series 14 proves anything, it’s that Davies still believes this is the foundation of a good Doctor.

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Gatwa and Gibson stun from the word go. While the 2023 Christmas Special offered a peak at their interplay, it only scratched the surface. Of the two new episodes provided to critics, their relationship becomes the clear heartbeat of this iteration. Gatwa brims with confidence, but he leaves a raw nerve exposed that helps Doctor Who change tones on a dime. His ability to play to any comedic moment is only surpassed by his dramatic turns. It’s among the most emotional Doctors of the revival era, and considering Davies’ M.O., Doctor Who seems poised to capitalize on that.

Additionally, Gibson gets to showcase her own range as a performer. The end of her first proper episode is among the most heartbreaking moments on the show in years. Additionally, she sells the wonder of traveling in the T.A.R.D.I.S. to perfection. There will be many comparisons to Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) or Amy Pond (Karen Gillan). Given her role as the first companion for a new Doctor, that’s not unfounded.

However, Gibson emphasizes the wonder of traveling with The Doctor. Together, they’re game to dress up, visit strange worlds, and find themselves in harm’s way. Like the best companions, their relationship pushes each other out of their comfort zone. Wearing her heart on her sleeve allows Gibson to make the journey even more relatable. Already, Gibson shows the potential to help Gatwa become one of the most exciting Doctors in some time.

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Doctor Who Series 14

There’s also something to be said about Davies’ willingness to keep the series light. Some of the fandom may balk at this idea, especially over the first episode. However, by the end of the second episode, Davies keys into the fact that The Doctor exists between the darkest aspects of human nature and the light the character brings to the world. Across the two new episodes provided, Doctor Who can occupy a space just outside of horror while also delivering some of the silliest lines you will ever hear. It’s a testament to Davies, Gatwa, and Gibson that the show can adapt to whatever form best serves the story in progress.

Finally, there’s an undeniable commitment to helping Doctor Who become a more openly queer series. Gatwa gets some credit here, especially in his performance style and willingness to commit to the show’s tone. An early antagonist dives into camp but never loses what makes their character viscerally unsettling nature. It’s a giant swing, and Doctor Who is better suited for it. The performer stuns throughout and quickly becomes one of the best characters to go toe-to-toe with The Doctor. With another mystery hanging over Doctor Who‘s fourteenth series, there’s plenty to enjoy in the early beats of the season.

Doctor Who

Conclusion

The Doctor Who revival continues to boost talented filmmakers and performers to superstardom. With so many intriguing performances at play, there’s a ton of potential on display in just two episodes. Gatwa should spark renewed interest in the show given his rising star (Sex Education and Barbie), but Davies’ return is equally important. There’s a foundation for excellent storytelling, and with the most challenging aspect in place, Doctor Who should only get better from here.

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9/10

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Written by Alan French

Articles Published: 45

Alan French began writing about film and television by covering the awards and Oscar beat in 2016. Since then, he has written hundreds of reviews on film and television. He attends film festivals regularly. He is a Rotten Tomato-approved critic and is on the committee for the Critics Association of Central Florida.