A star rating of 3 out of 5.

Much like last week's 73 Yards, it's almost impossible to discuss Doctor Who's latest, Dot and Bubble, without delving into spoiler territory – but for very different reasons.


Saturday night's outing – a fusion of political thriller and Welsh folk horror – kept its puzzling plot under wraps pre-broadcast. But it's not so much what happens in Dot and Bubble as what's the episode's about that's difficult to get into without giving the game away – this is a thematically rich offering from writer Russell T Davies, but one that arguably overextends itself by trying to do too much.

Our setting is the world of Finetime, "where everything’s fine all of the time" – but this being Doctor Who, there's no prizes for guessing that all is not as it appears. Beneath the sterilised, artificial surface, there's a great darkness lurking – and the same can be said for Dot and Bubble itself. Don't be fooled by early glimpses at its technicolour visuals – the subject matter explored here actually makes for one of Doctor Who's bleakest episodes to date.

Its exploration of a human (or at least human-like) colony almost entirely dependent on technology will inevitably draw comparisons to Black Mirror, something that's not entirely unintentional, with writer Davies describing the episode as "probably our clearest step into Black Mirror territory" – but he's also insisted that while "it's Black Mirror-like, it’s more Doctor Who", with "the bones and the blood of our favourite show" and that's absolutely right. It even strongly recalls a specific story from the 1960s, though to say which would again perhaps be giving the game away.

Our de-facto lead is Lindy Pepper-Bean, one of Finetime's privileged citizens who live their lives with blinkers on – quite literally living in a bubble, Lindy is painfully naive, hopelessly indecisive, and oblivious to the horrors around her. She is also, at points, patronising, rude and self-serving.

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In the hands of a lesser performer, the character might have been just too irritating, but the casting of rising star Callie Cooke – spectacularly good in, amongst other things, BBC One's woefully under-seen comedy-drama Cheaters - is a masterstroke, with the talented star mining the nuances of Davies' script to find some deeper complexity to the character.

Callie Cooke as Lindy. She is wearing a purple jacket and is walking with a confused expression on her face.
Callie Cooke as Lindy in Doctor Who BBC Studios/Bad Wolf/James Pardon

With Lindy taking centre stage, the Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby (Millie Gibson) feature more in supporting roles – though neither is as absent as the Doctor was from 73 Yards, it's perhaps best to describe this as a "Doctor and Ruby lite-ish" episode, which might come as a surprise coming so soon after last week.

But rest assured, Gatwa in particular absolutely eats up his limited screen-time – it's his magnificent performance in Dot and Bubble's final scenes that will stay with you long after the credits roll.

Its the abundance of ideas on display here though that are, ultimately, the episode's greatest strength and its greatest weakness. Dot and Bubble feels like a victim of its own ambition – it's a story that has so much to say about the society that we live in, but in its efforts to take potshots at so many different targets, it ends up not as sharp as it could've been. The final product is flawed, but undeniably fascinating.

Doctor Who continues on Saturday 1st June on BBC iPlayer and BBC One. Previous seasons are available to stream on BBC iPlayer.


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