Doctor Who Series 14 Just Gave the Doctor a Jesus Moment

This Doctor is here to save the universe, even the bits that don’t deserve him. 

Ncuti Gatwa portrait photographed by Yoshitaka Kono for the BBC
Photo: Yoshitaka Kono/Bad Wolf/BBC Studios

Warning: contains plot spoilers for “Dot and Bubble”. 

If you needed to know who the Fifteenth Doctor is, then “Space Babies” told you: he’s not just the guy who saves the babies from the monster, he also saves the monster itself. That episode established the Doctor and Ruby as equal opportunities rescuers; not only extending the hand of help to the adorable, but also to disgusting creatures made of snot. “That’s what you do,” explained Ruby in the series 14 opener, “you save everyone.”

As hero manifestos go, it couldn’t have been clearer. And then… it instantly stopped being true. Over the course of the next four episodes, the Doctor didn’t save a soul. 

In “The Devil’s Chord”, John Lennon and Paul McCartney struck the chord that banished Maestro. In “Boom”, the AI version of dead Vater infected the ambulance system and saved Ruby’s life. In “73 Yards”, a literal misstep by the Doctor left Ruby alone to face an existential nightmare timeline conjured from her darkest fears, from which she ended up rescuing them both. 

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And in “Dot and Bubble” – if not strictly a Doctor-lite episode, then certainly an episode light on the Doctor – he also fails to save the residents of alien colony Finetime. This time though, his heroism is back in force, and the failure is all on them. 

By the end of episode five, the residents of Finetime reveal themselves to be more disgusting than the “Space Babies” snot monster by a considerable factor. They’re white supremacists living in a segregated colony with security settings that keep people of colour out. At some point in their history there was something called “The Great Abrogation” (meaning the repeal of a law or a right), which presumably led to this whites-only system.  

After Finetime’s sentient AI turns on its vapid bubbleheads and starts killing them off via a herd of engineered slug creatures, the Doctor and Ruby offer to take the survivors off-world to somewhere safe. But they won’t go on account of the Doctor being Black (and presumably if they knew that Ruby’s mum and Gran were also Black, they wouldn’t go because of that too.)

At the moment the Doctor and Ruby realise that even this far into the future, on this distant and alien planet, racism is still poisoning humanity’s well, viewer sympathies instantly shift. Fair play, sentient AI, you might think. Go right ahead, giant slug-creatures, and eat your fill. This lot? It’s really no loss.

Except, to the Doctor, who aims higher than us, it is. To the Doctor, who is rightly staggered and enraged at the stupid bigotry of these people, a life he can save is a life he should save. Because that’s what this version of the Doctor aspires to be. A saviour. Not vindictive or petty, never cruel or… you know the rest. 

However often Finetime’s Lindy Pepper-Bean brattily protests that she’s not a child, that’s exactly what she is. She and her white nationalist pals are pampered children raised by racists to believe ugly lies and to live shallow lives of play. They’re dreadful, but to quote some guy, they know not what they do. So the Doctor turns the other cheek and pleads to help them, even through their ignorant jibes. It’s his Jesus moment, and Ncuti Gatwa plays it like the huge talent he is. 

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It’s objectively awful for the Fifteenth Doctor – that joyful, loving man – to be subjected to this idiotic cruelty. If he were anything other than a centuries-old being who’s lived so many lives his perspective is more deity than person, then nobody would blame him if he’d have left that colony laughing instead of in tears. (These guys can’t walk or pee without an AI telling them how; they will all one hundred percent have been eaten by bears by nightfall.) But he cried, and he pleaded, and he screamed in frustration. 

He did all that not because racism should be met with charitable forbearance, let’s be clear. He did it because he’s a hero, and from his vast perspective, everybody is a child and so if you can save them, you do. Even the snot monsters. Even the ones who the rest of us would be quite happy to feed to space slugs. It’s upsetting for the Doctor’s hero moment to come with such a nasty reminder of humanity at its worst, but at least when the residents of Finetime showed who they were, the Fifteenth Doctor did too.

Doctor Who series 14 continues with “Rogue” on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and Disney+.