Doctor Who Episodic Coverage: “Dot and Bubble”


Doctor Who Episodic Coverage: “Dot and Bubble”

“Dot and Bubble” Is A Fantastic Entry In The Series

Dot and Bubble” is maybe my favorite episode of the new season so far. Yes, it does rely on a tired critique of people overusing cell phones for its whole premise to work, I won’t deny that—but, if you can accept that slightly cringey idea, this is one of the most poignant, emotionally devastating, and interesting episodes we’ve gotten since “Wild Blue Yonder.”

It’s all in the presentation. That’s what makes it work. “Dot and Bubble” never fails to ramp up the tension. Underneath the sometimes-goofy aesthetic, it’s a true horror story. These people are not aware they’re going to die, and they scream and scream for help—but no one is paying any attention. Even knowing what’ll happen in the office scene beforehand doesn’t diminish the drop. The CGI isn’t great for the monsters, but honestly, this episode would’ve been too frightening if it had been better.

These Slugs Are Conceptually Terrifying Monsters

And then, once the scope of this quiet horror ramps up, it turns into solid social commentary. Forget the cell phone thing specifically. It was just a means to get conflict going. The much more biting, subtle commentary is about privilege and the culture surrounding it. Finetime isn’t social media—it’s living in a bubble. Literally. Even the city is in a bubble. Basically—from the dialogue to most of the jokes—almost every world-building detail ends up mattering to the overall story. Except three things that I have specific issues with. But that’s later.

In the meantime, I love the way this story plays with characters. Our main Finetime girl is so much more complicated than the usual people The Doctor needs to save. I won’t spoil it, but I was amazed by how each decision she makes—and the twists those decisions cause—always feels organic to what we know about her. I complained about “Boom” being too focused on being bleak, but “Dot and Bubble” is arguably even more brutal. But this episode earns each of its moments. I was frustrated with the characters, not the writing—and that’s not easy to pull off.

“Dot and Bubble” Has Excellent Character Writing

It’s also extremely inventive to have the entire episode with this one girl. The Doctor and Ruby are in the episode, communicating via social media, but they are only able to help through dialogue and basic Sonic Screwdriver stuff. This entire season has been playing with the usual episode format, and while I would like some standard adventures soon—Ncuti wasn’t around for “73 Yards” much, either—I’m impressed by the creativity.

And then there are the ending bits that I won’t spoil much. But the lead-up has some interesting moments. The episode sort of pulls a trick. It’s odd how much our random hero, Ricky September, is written like The Doctor. Ricky knows the history of the locations, is knowledgeable about basically everything, and he’s almost fearless. I can’t help but think that’s deliberate. I can’t help but think his inclusion was to make some of the emotional moments hit harder.

The Ending Of The Episode Will Stick With Viewers

And what emotional moments they were. Ncuti gives one of the most intense speeches—and reactions—I think I’ve seen in the whole show. The Doctor’s terror at The Maestro in “The Devil’s Chord” was excellent, but that plea and outburst showcased incredible acting. “Dot and Bubble” has an ending you basically never see in Doctor Who episodes, and that’s probably what puts it so high on my list.

But what were those plot issues I alluded to? Well, “Dot and Bubble” is so considered in its writing that the smallest things caught my attention. The biggest issue boils down to what the villain’s plan had to be, versus what is explained. Basically, the reasoning given for why the slugs showed up is contradicted by something Ricky sees when he communicates with the other planet. I am absolutely dancing around spoilers here, but the cause and effect don’t quite work with the timeline. It’s not difficult to adjust it in one’s head, though.

Dot and Bubble

“Dot and Bubble” Still Has A Few Contrivances In It

The other issues were with the technology. That code-locking system is absurd and is just there to add drama. That’s obvious. And then there’s a visual thing that’s mostly there for the horror—but it does break the established rules. In the elevator scene, the bubble retracted too early. The whole point is that the bubble doesn’t give vision when there are environmental dangers. I know we want to see the character scream in fear for drama, but it’s such a weird choice.

But, like I said, I loved “Dot and Bubble.” It’s poignant, emotional, and has a great science fiction premise with great monster design. It rattled around in my mind for hours after I watched it and is such a great example of how Doctor Who’s premise and format can be used to tell so many different types of stories.

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