‘Doctor Who’ Season Premiere Recap: Back in the Groove

Season 1, Episodes 2 and 3: ‘Space Babies’ and ‘The Devil’s Chord’

Russell T Davies, the showrunner for the new season of “Doctor Who,” had a tough task ahead of him.

How do you convince longstanding fans that this British institution of a show is back in safe hands after several disappointing seasons, while also introducing a new international audience to a sci-fi series steeped in 60 years of history?

In the premiere double bill of “Doctor Who,” you can feel Davies grappling with these questions, with largely successful results. After the show was canceled in 1989, Davies rebooted “Doctor Who” in 2005, manning the ship during Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant’s tenures as the time-traveling Doctor. Under Davies, “Doctor Who” was not only popular, but, dare I say it, kind of cool.

We met Davies’s new Doctor, played by the Scottish-Rwandan actor Ncuti Gatwa, last year in the show’s 60th anniversary episodes (and somewhat confusingly, this new season’s first episode aired as a stand-alone Christmas special). This is also the first season to debut on Disney+ in the United States, and since the rules governing time and space in the “Whoniverse” are notoriously complicated, there’s a lot of world building to do in less than two hours of TV.

Typically, a “Doctor Who” two-parter would feature a shared story or location, but here we have two separate adventures. The first episode, “Space Babies,” does much of the heavy lifting to set up the season, so that by the time “The Devil’s Chord” rolls around, “Doctor Who” can do what it does best: take the audience on rip-roaring, high-voltage adventures.

“Space Babies” picks up where the Christmas episode, “The Church on Ruby Road,” left off. The Doctor’s new companion Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) enters the TARDIS, his spaceship disguised as a police box, with lots of questions about where he comes from. It’s the Doctor’s job to take her, and any first-time viewers, through the basic Time Lord fact sheet: He comes from the planet Gallifrey and is the last of his species, an orphan like Ruby; he has been alive for thousands of years; and he spends his time traveling through time and space. As introductions go, it’s not subtle, but it gets the job done.

Ruby is human, TARDIS technology confirms, but she remains a question mark we can expect the season to return to later.Credit…Bad Wolf/BBC Studios
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