Doctor Who review roundup: Critics praise ‘mesmerising’ performance from Ncuti Gatwa

Ncuti Gatwa’s eagerly anticipated first season of Doctor Who has received glowing reviews from critics ahead of the release of its first two episodes “Space Babies” and “The Devil’s Chord” on Saturday (11 May).

The Sex Education and Barbie actor has taken on the role as the 15th Doctor in the long-running sci-fi series, with early viewers praising his performance as “mesmerising” and “delightful”.

Gatwa, 31, previously made his debut on the show late last year in the trailer for the 2023 specials and has now taken on the role of the iconic Time Lord full time, alongside Coronation Street star Millie Gibson as his companion Ruby Sunday.

The Independent’s Ed Power writes that while “Gatwa has the crucial Doctor quality of being deeply enigmatic” showrunner Russell T Davies’ “stories aren’t entirely there yet, but with Gatwa at the controls, it comes as a huge relief to report that the Tardis is in safe hands.”

The Guardian’s Jack Seale agrees that Gatwa is a “perfect piece of casting” who adds joy back into the long standing series. He says: “[Gatwa] glowers, and the end of the world descends; a nanosecond later he grins and we’re having the most fun in the universe. He’s delightful.”

Meanwhile, Gatwa’s “star turn” is attributed to “elevating” the whole season of Doctor Who by Variety’s Aramide Tinubu who praises the actor’s “megawatt smile” as he “dives into the role, delivering a refreshing dynamism that makes the season a uniquely mesmerising watch.”

Gibson’s performance as Ruby Sunday has also been praised, with Radio Times’s Morgan Jeffery calling her “every bit as watchable” as Gatwa, adding “there are shades of Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler in Ruby’s liveliness and sense of humour.”

Russell T Davies’ writing in the new series has received mixed reviews. The Guardian’s three star write up claimed Davies allotts too much time explaining Doctor Who’s history to new viewers at the start of “Space Babies” and questions “whether all this housekeeping could have been woven more efficiently into the action across several stories.”

Ncuti Gatwa in ‘Doctor Who’ (BBC)
Ncuti Gatwa in ‘Doctor Who’ (BBC)

Contrastingly, Collider’s Samantha Coley lauds Davies’ writing for making “heroes out of seemingly ordinary people” which “renders a show as outlandish and fantastical as Doctor Who more grounded in our world.”

The Telegraph’s Anita Singh, however, writes that “Space Babies” will only amuse “an audience of under 10s”, while the series’ second episode “might bore you to tears whatever your age”.

Singh adds Doctor Who is no longer as “unsettling” as it once was. “There’s nothing here to scare anyone who has recently graduated from Bluey and Peppa Pig,” she writes, giving the series three stars.

Similarly, The Times’ Ben Dowell notes “Space Babies” could be “too silly” for some viewers, giving the episode three stars. However, he praises the series’ return nonetheless, writing Davies takes “many perfectly judged imaginative leaps” in episode two and grants “The Devil’s Chord” an additional star.

“[Davies’] new Who has definitely got its mojo back,” he says.

Episodes one and two of Doctor Who will be on BBC iPlayer at midnight and on BBC One from 6.20pm on 11 May.

Read The Independent’s four-star review here.