Doctor Who Episodic Coverage: “Space Babies”


Doctor Who Episodic Coverage: “Space Babies”

“Space Babies” Almost Ruins A Solid Sci-Fi Story

Space Babies” doesn’t seem like an episode to start a season with. Doctor Who is no stranger to weirdness, not by a long shot—but this episode is not only weird, it’s also goofy. Stuff like the bad CGI baby mouths, the “Nanny Filter” jokes, and an extended sequence involving slime sends the tone of the episode into pure chaos.

And this is especially noticeable because despite relying heavily on gross-out humor and baby talk, the actual plot of “Space Babies” is remarkably grounded in science fiction concepts, and even manages to deliver an emotional gut punch despite everything. It’s just difficult to remember that when baby’s blowing their noses is a pivotal plot point. But, truly, the idea of a space station whose function is to grow human life to populate planets being abandoned because of corporate interference—thus leaving children aboard to die—is bleak, tense, and the stakes are instantly engaging.

The episode also doesn’t shy away from using this premise as social commentary. In a single conversation, they reference a lack of abortion rights, inadequate support for childcare, and the plight of refugees. And that’s not even counting all of the other scenes of intense empathy from The Doctor. I really cannot stress this enough: watching “Space Babies” is like watching an intense, thoughtful space opera that’s interrupted occasionally by a cartoon for preschoolers.

Space Babies

“Space Babies” Fails To Establish A Narrative Tone

But I also cannot deny that there are some very cute scenes. A moment involving a brave space baby using a little sword was far too endearing. And there’s perhaps no more effective way of making Ruby and this version of The Doctor likable than having them actively care for the babies and fight like hell to save them. There was probably a way to use this premise—even with its goofier aspects—that would’ve gotten the best of both ideas.

There was also probably a way to do all this without ruining the pacing. This episode is the usual length of an episode of Doctor Who and it felt both rushed and glacial. I have many examples. The scenes with the babies go on for too long. The snot scene goes on for far too long. I’m used to rapid-fire exposition being used to smooth out plot progression, but The Doctor seems to repeat themself a few times. But, also, the now-standard conversations about stuff like having two hearts are glossed over without Ruby having enough time to really digest that information. Even the “scary” scenes suffer. It’s pretty normal for Doctor Who action scenes to consist of mostly running away—but every corridor looks the same, and we know what the monster looks like so early—and it doesn’t look great—so it loses a lot of tension. It’s just so many scenes of the same basic idea. I think they even re-used shots.

Now, I know I sound fairly negative about this episode—and I’m certainly not as happy with it as “Wild Blue Yonder,” but I didn’t hate “Space Babies” or anything. Ncuti’s Doctor is charming, endearing, and, like all the best Doctor, so enthusiastic about the universe. Millie’s Ruby is similarly just so much fun to watch. The two feel like friends already. And when this particular episode decides it wants to be poignant, it works. So, I’m excited to see more serious episodes out of this season. Because the underlying Doctor Who episodic formula is utilized well, because it maintains a commitment to big sci-fi ideas, and the weaving of self-contained (and season-long) mysteries is mostly doled out effectively, I have hope. Just maybe don’t try to introduce a potential new fan to the show with this one.   

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