Doctor Who “Dot and Bubble” REVIEW

    Another week, another episode of Doctor Who! This week, it’s Doctor Who “Dot and Bubble”; here is our review. The episode is written by showrunner Russell T Davies. Like last week’s 73 Yards, this was directed by Dylan Holmes Williams. Also, like last week, this is another episode with a very limited presence from The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa). Although, in a bit of a twist, the episode also has a small role for Ruby (Millie Gibson). Instead, the episode is following Lindy Pepper-Bean (Callie Cooke).

    The Doctor and Ruby are trapped outside FineTime, but monsters are roaming the streets, and people are disappearing. Can they guide Lindy to safety before she, too, is targeted by these monsters? Is there any hope for the people of FineTime against a threat that they refuse to even look at? In this review of “Dot and Bubble”, the latest Doctor Who adventure, let’s find out!

    WARNING – Spoilers below for “Dot and Bubble”

    Ncuti Gatwa as The Doctor, Callie Cooke as Lindy Pepper Bean, and Millie Gibson as Ruby Sunday in Doctor Who: Dot and Bubble (via BBC Press Office)


    The episode opens on another seemingly ordinary day in FineTime. It’s a small bubble on a distant planet, that’s otherwise completely untouched. Nothing but the Wild Woods (basically just forests) outside. Another episode on an alien planet, which is always nice to see. Lindy wakes up, immediately summoning the Bubble around her head and talking to all her friends. It’s the equivalent of someone waking up and immediately picking up their phone or turning on their computer.

    This is an idea that runs through the episode, with people unwilling to look at the world around them. They’re all too enamoured by this social media world. Walking around the streets on Earth, I can see people on their phones, not looking where they’re going. Whole parties of people sat around the same table, not looking at one another, but on their phones. Those are the people Davies is targeting with this episode, and for the most part, it works.

    This is paired with some criticism of influencer culture as well. Everyone trying to stand out, constantly displaying their subscriber count. The main target of people’s affection is Ricky September (Tom Rhys Harries), constantly modelling and dancing. Outside of 2 hours per day of data processing, that Bubble is all that their life is. They’re happy, living a life of partying but it’s empty, entirely artificial, and totally ignorant of the world around them.

    Callie Cooke as Lindy Pepper-Bean in Doctor Who: Dot and Bubble (via BBC Press Office)

    The Slugs

    Unfortunately there’s a bit of trouble in paradise. Slug monsters are roaming the streets, sliding through buildings and even using elevators. The problem is, the citizens of FineTime, never looking into the real world, never see them. Arrows guiding them around direct them around the bodies of their fallen friends, and sometimes into the mouths of the beasts. It’s never explained what they are, where they came from, or how they got in. However, it is implied that they were created, and not a natural phenomenon.

    It’s not something that I picked up on when viewing the episode, but the people are being killed in alphabetical order. There’s definitely something mechanical going on, a sort of organised killing. When it’s Lindy’s turn later in the episode, she’s hiding from the Slugs and her Dot turns into a killing machine. I’d be interested in who put those systems in motion. We learn it isn’t anyone from the Homeworld, which is totally wiped out with a population of zero by the time Ricky gets to the monitor. It’ll probably go down as one of those big unanswered mysteries.

    Interestingly, we do see somebody who’s off on the homeworld. Lindy’s mother, Penny Pepper-Bean (Susan Twist) turns up for a video call. Yes, that Susan Twist. At long last, the Doctor and Ruby recognise her. The Doctor points her out as the Ambulance on Kastarion 3 from “Boom”. Meanwhile, Ruby recognises her from “somewhere else”, which could be any of the last 5 episodes. Knowing she’s set to appear in “Rogue”, next week’s episode, the future of this little breadcrumb arc is looking very exciting.

    Callie Cooke as Lindy Pepper-Bean in Doctor Who: Dot and Bubble (via BBC Press Office)


    It’s not just the Doctor and Ruby who are trying to save Lindy. When she’s walking down to Plaza 55, she’s guided around the Slugs by Ricky. He’s aware of what’s going on, and able to walk independently. I’d go so far as to say he’s a Doctor-esque hero figure. Lindy trusts him immediately, gushing at meeting her idol. Compare that to her reaction to the equally confident Doctor, it does foreshadow the racism reveal at the end.

    However, Lindy soon realises it’s her turn to die. Hiding from the Slugs, her Dot turns into a machine ready to murder her. Instead of running from or fighting it, she heartlessly sacrifices Ricky. As a massive fan of his, she’s able to tell the machine that his birth surname is earlier in the alphabet. When questioned on where Ricky is by her friends, she lies and creates the illusion that he’s still out there saving people. We’d seen Lindy being everything from incompetent to physically incapable of moving, and being a little too attached to her Bubble. This is a sharp turn.

    As a viewer, it felt like Davies pulled the rug out from underneath. I think back to other Doctor-lite episodes, led by a character who has limited contact with the Doctor. A popular example of this would be Sally Sparrow (Carey Mulligan) in “Blink”, the hero of the hour who saves herself and the Doctor from the Weeping Angels. As an audience, we’re following her and supporting her the whole episode. At least I was doing the same thing with Lindy here. The idea that the character we’ve been rooting for for the last hour was beyond amoral was a real wake up call.

    Callie Cooke as Lindy Pepper-Bean in Doctor Who: Dot and Bubble (via BBC Press Office)

    That Ending

    It’s a similar thing with everyone’s racism, although that’s substantially more set up through the episode. Everyone’s white, Lindy immediately blocks the Doctor and is very hesitant about him the whole time. It’s subtle, but it’s there. I picked up on it within the first few minutes, and even predicted it in our episode preview. Commentary like this is the sort of thing that science fiction as a genre is built for. It leads to one of the most gutwrenching performances by the Doctor in recent memory.

    He learns that the citizens of FineTime are sailing off into the Wild Woods, living independently like their ancestors. The Doctor sees the problem with this immediately. They’re barely able to walk, totally unable to live independently, probably can’t swim either. The citizens of FineTime are going to die, very quickly. The Doctor offers to save them, take them somewhere safer in the TARDIS. However, because he’s not white, they decline. His performance as he realises what’s going on is an absolute gutpunch. A devastating ending to an episode.

    It’s made better by the fact that this is one of the first scenes that Gatwa filmed for the show. The Doctor’s been saving people for thousands of years, and he’s never been turned down for such a silly reason. It’s a solid stab at the way bigotry thrives in small social bubbles too. I’m happier than anybody that the show continues to be openly political. However, the episode written by a white man. There are people far more qualified to comment on this than myself, but I can’t shake the thought that it could have been stronger if there was a more diverse writer’s room.

    Callie Cooke as Lindy Pepper-Bean in Doctor Who: Dot and Bubble (via BBC Press Office)


    “Dot and Bubble” was an episode I honestly wasn’t particularly excited about. The idea of a social media bubble commentary written by someone not particularly online scares me. To my surprise, I had a lot of fun with this. It’s a perfect world, from the colour palette to the music. It is so perfect that something needs to go horrifically wrong. For someone who went in with very low expectations, I was pleasantly surprised. Davies targets how all-absorbed people are in their own bubbles and echo chambers with near razor-sharp precision and a good deal of humour.

    Of course, there are evils within the people of FineTime, too. Although I found that aspect reminiscent of “The Star Beast” and its handling of transgender themes. It’s become a pattern in this era that Russell T Davies is writing basically everything. Having one main writer isn’t necessarily bad; look at Babylon 5. However, it becomes a problem when writing about experiences you’ve never lived. I don’t doubt Davies’ good intentions and applaud attempts to start meaningful conversations. Although it could be handled more authentically by a diverse writer’s room.

    Doctor Who started its new era on Christmas Day 2023 with “The Church on Ruby Road.” The episode saw Ncuti Gatwa and Millie Gibson debut as the 15th Doctor and Ruby Sunday. Doctor Who premiered at midnight on Saturday, May 11th, on BBC iPlayer with a double-episode bill. The episodes will stream internationally on Disney+, Doctor Who‘s exclusive home outside the UK and Ireland, giving audiences a simultaneous global launch. Episodes will also air on BBC One each week in a primetime slot on Saturday evening.

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