A star rating of 3 out of 5.

Having taken something of a detour to celebrate Christmas and, before that, the show's own 60th anniversary, it feels as though it's here and now that Doctor Who is truly beginning to embark on an ambitious new era. With new Disney funding, a pair of energetic young leads and a reinvigorated Russell T Davies back at the helm, the series has rarely been better set up for a stab at global domination.


Those wary of too much change, however, should find their anxieties soothed by the first of two episodes dropping as part of a season launch double-bill – picking up after the events of The Church on Ruby Road and charting a first jaunt into outer space for the Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and new friend Ruby (Millie Gibson), Space Babies is a frothy sci-fi romp that serves as a solid jumping-on point for newcomers but should also satisfy traditionalists with its scares, larks and intergalactic derring-do.

The story is simple – arriving at an isolated space station, the TARDIS duo discover a Baby Farm run by the babies themselves and must protect their new wards from a threat prowling the lower decks – but one suspects that's by design. The narrative is straightforward, the cast limited – Bridgerton's Golda Rosheuvel delivers a spirited turn in the most prominent guest role, nabbing a couple of the episode's best gags – but this allows time and space (no pun intended) to showcase the personalities and shared dynamic of Ruby and the Doctor, with Gibson and Gatwa lighting up the screen both separately and together.

More so than in his two previous appearances, Gatwa gets to run the gamut of the Doctor's emotional complexity here – their joie de vivre, their compassion, their absolute compulsion to keep on moving forward and never look back, but also their shattering loneliness.

Irrespective of how you might feel about the Timeless Child reveal, the show's new status quo – the Doctor as the ultimate outsider, their origins and true home a mystery even to them – is undeniably compelling and Gatwa grabs the opportunities it presents with both hands, gifting us a charismatic, empathetic, very funny, very sad hero.

In her first outing as a bona-fide Doctor Who companion, Gibson is every bit as watchable – there are shades of Billie Piper's Rose Tyler in Ruby's liveliness and sense of humour, but she absolutely also brings her own idiosyncrasies and no-nonsense Northern attitude to bear, absolutely refusing to play second-fiddle to the swaggering Time Lord.

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Though there's the occasional brief nod to a series arc, Space Babies is for the most part just a simple, standalone tale, well-executed and powered by a pair of marvellous performances. Heaven Sent, this ain’t, but nor is it trying to be. Its lightness of touch and lack of complexity might turn off some, but as a "pilot episode", it does the job and then some, endearing its leads to the audience and leaving us hungry for more adventures.

At its heart(s), it's a highly-polished slice of good old-fashioned Doctor Who – uncomplicated but not unsophisticated and, above all else, fun.

Doctor Who will return on Saturday 11th May on BBC iPlayer and BBC One. Previous seasons are available to stream on BBC iPlayer with episodes of the classic series also available on BritBox – you can sign up for a 7-day free trial here.


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