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Peak woke for Doctor Who: 'Isaac Newton was of Indian heritage and the Doctor fancies him'

The Doctor and Donna (James Pardon/Bad Wolf/BBC Studios)
The Doctor and Donna (James Pardon/Bad Wolf/BBC Studios)

Isaac Newton had Indian heritage and the Doctor is gay and fancies him.

Yes, the returning showrunner Russell T Davies’ second episode back continues to gleefully rub the faces of the haters in a big pile of steaming Woke. In fact, ‘Wild Blue Yonder’, which Davies also wrote, has a false start purely to do that – ok not purely, also to set up a brilliantly silly running joke - with a little stop off in 1666 when the Tardis crash lands into the tree under which Newton had just had the apple drop on his head, before toddling off again to the location of the episode proper. It’s a highly amusing little flourish, since Newton is played by the excellent British-Indian actor Nathanial Curtis from It’s a Sin, and it causes Catherine Tate's Donna to reflect later, "Wasn’t Isaac Newton hot?", and for David Tennant’s Doctor to concur: “He was, so hot…oh! Is that who I am now?” slightly taken aback at this apparent change of sexuality in his new incarnation. “Well it was never far from the surface,” Donna deadpans.

"Wait, the Doctor isn't gay!...and…and I think you’ll find Sir Isaac was very much white!’ splutter a thousand GB News trolls in their front rooms, before hurling their toad-in-the-holes at the flat screen.

Come now, chaps, sit back down. Of course the Doctor has to be a bit gay - knowing the flux of genders he’s been through by this stage, it makes perfect sense for him to be bisexual at the very least. As for the Newton stuff, well, who really cares about the details, he's supposed to be sexy in this and Curtis most certainly is that. More to the point, this is the kind of freewheeling, nod-and-a-wink, devil-may-care attitude that embodies Tennant’s and Davies’ Doctor Who, which, after a joyous return last week in 'The Star Beast', is now fully in the groove with this five-star instant-classic episode.

 (James Pardon/Bad Wolf/BBC Studios)
(James Pardon/Bad Wolf/BBC Studios)

At the end of the last one, Donna spilt her coffee into the console of the spanking new Tardis, so it’s now in flames and crashing around time and space. After the bit of Newton ogling, the pair find themselves on board a massive spaceship (Donna: “I’d hate to be the cleaner.”). No one else is around apart from a rusty old robot which takes one step about every half an hour. The ship keeps on reconfiguring in some way. And, actually the ship is not space, they realise, it’s in a dark void beyond the edge of the universe, “absolute nothing”. The ship’s computer reveals an air lock opened and closed again three years ago to let something in. Worrying. The best thing to do would be to get back into the Tardis and get the hell out of there, but the Tardis does a runner on them – the Doctor stuck his sonic screwdriver in its keyhole to regenerate it after the fire, but in its recovering state it left because it senses danger.

“There’s something so bad on board this ship that the Tardis ran away...”

 (James Pardon/Bad Wolf/BBC Studios)
(James Pardon/Bad Wolf/BBC Studios)

As in 'The Star Beast', this represents Davies leaving behind previous showrunner Chris Chibnall’s multiverse and taking things back to basics, as the very best science fiction tends to do. After the Newton escapade, the episode is just a two-header, with the Doctor and Donna in isolation on the ship. It is reminiscent of Alien, of Silent Running, and, given (bit late to give a spoiler alert, but: spoiler alert) the fact doppelgangers of the Doctor and Donna turn up, Solaris. Of course, it’s not at all pretentious, with huge dollops of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy thrown in too – the way the doppelgangers can’t “get the arms right” is a giggle for the kids watching. There’s a delightful puzzle to the episode that works as a satisfying mini-movie, while also delivering some intriguing lore tidbits and tease Davies’ overall new arc.

And actually, it even manages to not cast aside Chibnall’s work, but to humanise it a little more. Chibnall worked it so that the Doctor is not actually a Time Lord at all but the ‘Timeless Child’, a kind of Patient Zero for Time Lords, who’s from another universe entirely. Anyway, Jodie Whittaker had to deal with the shock of that, but Tennant does great work here in tugging some heartstrings to show how haunted the Doctor is by this new knowledge. After being riled up about the fact he doesn't know who he truly is by the spooky space doppelgangers, Tennant kicks at the ship in a rage, and generally demonstrates in his Hamlet-meets-Ace Ventura way that he is very tortured indeed, but still a laugh. (Incidentally, are his suits getting tighter? Is another lore-busting sub-plot here that the Tardis is actually some kind of intergalactic spin dryer slowing shrinking the clothes on the Doctor until he loses his mind? Just putting it out there)

 (James Pardon/Bad Wolf/BBC Studios)
(James Pardon/Bad Wolf/BBC Studios)

‘Wild Blue Yonder’ has a tremendous sleight-of-hand climax, and ends on a particularly emotional moment with a returning cast member. It's pretty much as perfect a piece of televisual entertainment you could hope for in the year of our Time Lord 2023. Truly, we’re all watching way too much TV, but this returning Doctor Who makes you think that actually this is a worthwhile thing to do with our lives.

Oh, and ‘Wild Blue Yonder’, they explain, is a war song, so another question was why the Tardis was playing while it was on fire? What’s coming? Spooky space stuff, no doubt. Roll on episode three...

Doctor Who is on BBC One and BBC iPlayer