Reviewed: Doctor Who’s 60th Anniversary — Wild Blue Yonder and The Giggle

Cosmic horror with dashes of wit and wonder followed by whacky, magical idiocy.

5 min readDec 20, 2023

I’ve been thinking more and more about how disappointing I found The Star Beast.

It’s tempting to look back at Russell T Davies’ first era with rose-tinted glasses — he resurrected the show, all guns blazing — but the man’s incapable of resolving stories satisfactorily. Love saves the day! That, or his villains realise they’re too evil and instantly detonate. He does, however, write fascinating, believable dialogue.

Well, usually.

His successor, Steven Moffat, couldn’t write realistic dialogue to save his life — but he did write extremely clever wibbly-wobbly story arcs. This is why, when he worked with RTD, they produced the most incredible episodes together, such as The Empty Child, Blink, and Silence in the Library. Simply put, Russell T Davies is having too much fun, like a bull in a china shop. George Lucas was no different — some creatives just need a bit of help to reign it in.

And for all my incoming criticisms, I will say this: it’s nice to have some telly that’s not nihilistic. “Doctor Woke”, as some are calling it, is just dumb fun — all beaming smiles and jaunty music.

Which is not to say the show’s for me.

“My arms are too long.”

No frills thrills

Wild Blue Yonder highlights the stark differences in these showrunners’ approaches to storytelling. Had it been made under Moffat, it’d be dimly lit and very bleak (until Murray Gold’s “I Am The Doctor” kicks into gear for the 50,000th time). Instead, we got a bunch of brightly lit sets, one very crappy-looking CGI corridor, and a whole host of campy hijinks — alongside unnerving existential dread and snippets of body horror.

The basic premise: the Doctor and Donna arrive on a mostly empty spaceship, except for a couple of aliens who take their form and read their thoughts — unless they don’t think at all (or at least think very slowly). This is basic in comparison to the overstuffed previous episode — and it’s much more intriguing. It even experiments with the unexplored “timeless child” arc as introduced by Chris bloody Chibnall; I’d argue that, here, it’s the most effective it’s ever been.

But — in my view — no Doctor should be talking about how “hot” anyone looks. It was uncomfortable when Eleven commented on Clara’s short skirt and it’s inappropriate here too.

Why on Earth would the Doctor exclaim that Isaac Newton’s a hottie, as if he’s never met him before? Even if the Doctor is pansexual, he never letched after anyone. His relationship with Rose was not overtly sexual — quite respectful, actually — though with River he was more flirtatious. She summed it up well: “You can’t expect a monolith to love you back.” I’ve always understood that the Doctor, if he is to fall for anyone, does so based entirely on their character, charm, and soul — ultimately, seeing through aesthetics and gender.

A 2,000-year-old timelord is not going to be diving into anything with just anybody, or gossiping about how hot anyone is. He’s not James Bond (or Jack Harkness), sleeping his way around the universe. He negotiates rather than shooting first and asking questions later—because he sees people wholly: “I’ve never met anybody who wasn’t important before,” he’s said.

If Isaac Newton was so hot — whatever his race — it wouldn’t correlate for The Doctor. What’s hot, when you’ve traveled the cosmos and encountered incalculable beauty, divinity, hatred, more than a human mind could comprehend? Or am I overthinking?

That’s a minor gripe.

Ncuti Gatwa in his new TARDIS

A tension void

Here’s a major gripe though — the series isn’t prepared at all to deal with the turmoil it creates. Donna still won’t ask the Doctor why he violated her mind and took it upon himself to wipe her memories. The audience didn’t invent this plotline, Russell T Davies did. He should explore the ramifications and demand the answers any reasonable human being would. It could even be done lightheartedly — better that than gloss right over it.

If the writers of Doctor Who don’t want to grapple with their main characters’ experiences (and his resulting emotional baggage), perhaps they should simply write a different show? Because without consequences, be they emotional or physical, just about anything can happen for almost no reason at any time. As we’ve just seen.

It’s not a smart choice to undercut the first official black Doctor by keeping the popular white guy ready in the wings — with his own TARDIS. If I was Ncuti, I’d be utterly miffed. In-universe, it doesn’t make sense either. David Tenant’s fourteenth Doctor was shot through the chest with a laser beam powerful enough to destroy a satellite. And next? He doesn’t die. He doesn’t change. His mistakes cost him nothing. Instead, he’s rewarded. Whatever tension remained… dissolved like regeneration energy.

I think Ncuti is capable of carrying the whole show — just as any of the Doctors before him. It’s not fair to burden him with the success of Russell’s creepy corporate lovechild, “the Whoniverse”. The main show’s scripts are clearly lacking — now is not the time to be thinking about spin-offs.

Doctor Who needs desperately to stop relying on the charity of its fans to fill in the gaps; I’ve seen countless Reddit threads mining the timeline for answers — wibbly-wobbly ones—as they’re frantic to make the “rehab out of order” line make even a lick of sense. Why isn’t Russell doing the heavy lifting? Is he not paid enough?

What’s more — are we expected to believe that whenever the world’s due to end, Tenant’s Doctor will keep his feet up with a nice cup of tea, while Ncuti endangers his companions fighting goblins or whatever?

Seems so.