Polygon

Doctor Who goes full Black Mirror only to set up its most shocking twist

At first “Dot and Bubble,” the most recent episode of Doctor Who, appears to be borrowing from Black Mirror’s bag of methods. It’s set on Finetime, a planet the place everyone seems to be accompanied by a small spherical AI assistant known as a Dot, which tasks a “Bubble” round their heads. Inside their particular person Bubbles, folks stay their whole lives — group chatting, watching humorous movies or performances by pop stars — and they don’t appear to depart besides to sleep. Even strolling is mediated by the Bubble, telling them what number of paces to transfer in every path, guiding them to the workplace, again residence, and to meals. It’s a really “kids these days and their damn phones!” form of premise, however once more: only at first.

The initially blunt metaphor only will get blunter when the monster of the week is launched: terrifying slug aliens which might be consuming the denizens of Finetime alive, as they obliviously stroll into their gaping maws as a result of they’ll’t see previous their bubbles. Our heroine for the week, the hapless Lindy Pepper-Bean (Callie Cooke), finds her Bubble’s feed intruded on by the Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson), who spend the episode attempting to remotely lead her to security, despite her skepticism.

It’s a intelligent setup, one which hearkens again to fan-favorite Doctor Who tales like “Blink,” and tropes beloved by writers like Steven Moffat (who, surprisingly, didn’t write this episode): horrible issues on the edge of 1’s notion, a tough restrict on the Doctor’s potential to intervene, and a world engineered for conformity, with security depending on characters’ potential to escape societal gravity. This canny construction clashes with the painfully patronizing metaphor on the coronary heart of “Dot and Bubble” — which author Russell T. Davies exploits to obscure what he’s actually doing.

Picture: Disney Plus

As a result of in between the seemingly lazy satire of the terminally on-line youth and the chilling thrills of its plot, Davies quietly drops pertinent particulars about Finetime and what’s actually taking place right here. Who are these folks? What do they do? Why are they there? Every reply, delivered conversationally in an episode full of a loud, candy-colored palette, louder social commentary, and one of many creepiest monsters of the season, barely registers. So once you lastly get to the ending and the reality about Finetime is made clear, it’s like the ground opens out from beneath you, and “Dot and Bubble” instantly turns into one of many grimmest Doctor Who tales instructed in a while.

[Ed. note: This means spoilers for the very end of “Dot and Bubble.”]

Ultimately, there is no such thing as a saving the folks of Finetime. The primary trace was in Lindy’s speedy dismissal of the Doctor’s warnings at the beginning of “Dot and Bubble,” and that she only started to pay attention when Ruby Sunday spoke to her. Extra hints piled up, main to the reply of what introduced the slug aliens to Finetime within the first place: the Dots. The Dots, of their algorithmic service to their customers, realized an excessive amount of about them, and grew to hate them. And it’s not due to their tech-addled brains blinding them to the true world; it’s as a result of they’re fucking racist.

Lindy and the opposite Finetime survivors refuse to take the Doctor on his provide of secure passage away from Finetime, as an alternative selecting to courageous the wilds the place they face sure dying, simply due to who the Doctor seems to be like. It’s right here the place the final tidbits fall into place: chilling glimpses of selfishness from Lindy, her lily-white pal group, the truth that Finetime is only inhabited by the younger grownup youngsters of the 1%.

A bunch of sunny looking video chat windows filling the screen from the Doctor Who episode “Dot and Bubble.”

Picture: Disney Plus

Up till now, Doctor Who has been fairly unconcerned with how the Doctor taking up the looks of a Black man would possibly change the dynamic of the present. On the one hand, that is comprehensible, fascinating even — it will be crass and arguably retrograde to instantly topic the Doctor to racism the second it turned a potential story final result. It additionally feels intellectually dishonest to act as if it will by no means matter. Davies, because the white showrunner who engineered this case, selected neither trauma porn nor avoidance. As a substitute he selected specificity: That is how the Doctor’s job is more durable now. There are some individuals who don’t need to be saved by him. There are some issues that can not be solved by cosmically deep wells of compassion and empathy. There are some folks with hearts so imply they won’t even save themselves.

“Dot and Bubble” argues that its hero’s function is to stand within the hole and assist even within the face of such shocking contempt, as a result of life is treasured above all, even hateful little ones — presumably as a result of life will be redeemed, and dying is ultimate. It’s arduous to settle for this, and Gatwa’s efficiency means that perhaps such idealism isn’t deserved right here. He laughs on the madness of the state of affairs, after which screams in anguish. Who is aware of if it’s the precise name, however he made one. He tried.

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