Doctor Who: Dot and Bubble
June 2, 2024 8:45 AM - Season 1, Episode 5 - Subscribe

The world of Finetime seems happy and harmonious. But an awful terror is preying on the citizens. Can the Doctor and Ruby make them see the truth before it's too late?
posted by DirtyOldTown (32 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sorry about the previous post. I haven't seen this oen and pasted the wrong content. That one is being deleted.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:45 AM on June 2

There's always a twist at the end. I guess some folks picked up on it earlier but I was not expecting it. Ok/Good episode, great ending. What can you do when they really don't want to be saved?

I was a bit surprised how everything looked nice even though everyone spends their time bubbled.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 9:38 AM on June 2 [2 favorites]

Or didn't want to be saved by you specifically...
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 9:39 AM on June 2 [4 favorites]

Am I the only one who was rooting for the slugs throughout this episode?
posted by Paul Slade at 11:24 AM on June 2 [7 favorites]

I utterly missed the reason why they rejected his help on first viewing, but once it was pointed out online my jaw dropped and I had to rewatch the whole episode. The second time through, that “Didn’t I meet you before? You all kind of look the same..” hit very differently.

Apparently the ending of this episode was one of the first scenes that Gatwa shot as the Doctor. Wow.

At the same time, I like that they gave us several episodes to get to know this doctor’s exuberant and joyful baseline personality before we see this side of his experience. Too many shows lean into stuff like this right away for cheap pathos. This was really skillfully handled, IMO.

I feel like the writing really let Jodie Whitaker down during her seasons, and I was bracing for a repeat of that situation. My hopes are officially raised at this point.
posted by FallibleHuman at 11:58 AM on June 2 [7 favorites]

What I liked most about this episode was they didn't use the old trope that AI decided to kill humans to conserve resources. They had even set up the conservation angle with the no pee challenge. Instead it's that the AI had to listen to their prattling on for so long that it got creative and came up with this absolutely bonkers way of killing them off.

I utterly missed the reason why they rejected his help on first viewing

Me too, even though on reflection it is not subtle at all. I'm so used to Doctor Who (and sci-fi in general) using allegories about prejudice that it's surprising when the answer is just straight up racism. Even at the twist I was wondering if it's a class issue or just because he's not part of FineTime. Nope, that woman called the Tardis "Voodoo". It's pretty clear.
posted by Gary at 12:30 PM on June 2 [4 favorites]

I noticed that all Lindy's contacts were white, especially as the Doctor kept popping in. I didn't notice all the microaggressions until I rewatched and started dissecting the episode online. She really has a dislike for the Doctor throughout, but some of it is quite subtle. Which is often typical of racism.

I was prepared for RTD to tell a story about people living in their bubbles and not listening to others and surrounding themselves by people of the same political persuasion and I thought it would be heavy handed and eye rolling. But instead, he did tell that story with a much deeper layer about racism and algorithms that enable white supremacy.

I could see the end coming but I didn't really expect it to go that hard. Voodoo and contamination are pretty powerful indicators of what is going on. Ncuti's reaction was superb.

I've seen POC fans that wish the Doctor wasn't so compassionate about the white supremacists, but I guess wanting to save everyone is the character to a tee, regardless of how awful they are. But I can see the point - radical empathy in this situation does feel like POC needing to do the work to bring racists along or save their lives.

For me, this is the third all-timer in a row. It's a surprise, because while I enjoyed the 60th specials and the early eps of this season (including Xmas), none of them were really the kind of WHO I love. These ones are. I'm glad the show can do all these things.
posted by crossoverman at 3:10 PM on June 2 [8 favorites]

Pour one out for Ricky September. I was wondering where the episode was going with his character so blatantly fulfilling the usual role of the Doctor. Then it became clear. Ouch.
posted by dumbland at 7:07 PM on June 2 [14 favorites]

Best episode of the season so far, I think. Taking on racism, classism and entitlement in a way that's not heavy-handed but makes its point with deadly accuracy. A really satisfying ending-- not just jazz-hands or an enigmatic indicator Laying Groundwork for the finale.

(Though: if the dots could just kill people by flying through their heads like bullets, why would they need to use the slugs? Where do the slugs come from? How does the slug species sustain itself if they could depopulate Homeworld and over half of Finetime in a day?)

Ricky September: same initials as Ruby Sunday, same name/time format, same humanitarian instincts. Are there more of them? Secret heroes of the universe?

Or would Ricky have been a hero? Would he have proven to be as racist as the rest? Or would he have been shown to be capable of (at least) gaining self-knowledge and learning to question the racism of his society? The reading he mentions doing suggests the sort of enquiring mind that wouldn't turn away from an open TARDIS door.

It would also have been an interesting choice to have Lindy choose to enter the TARDIS, knowing what we know about her-- that she'd cheerfully throw anyone to the wolves as soon as she feared for her own safety, and feel no remorse about it.

Anyway, it left me both feeling genuine satisfaction that the wealthy racists were all going to die in the woods and genuine grief for the Doctor watching the lives he'd worked so hard to save waste themselves.
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:54 AM on June 3 [4 favorites]

Why kill them alphabetically? Surely the Dots had an algorithm ranking everyone by how annoying they were.

What exactly happened on the home world? Did they have the same Dot/Bubble system and the Dots found them just as annoying? From the screen Ricky September sees when he tries contact it looked like the home world background was a bit more war-torn (but I have to go back and look). Was there more fighting against the Dot/Slug alliance? Or was it just a battle against the slugs, and the Dots decided to import them down to this outpost?

Aspects of this reminded me of WALL-E, like Lindy not being able to walk well on her own at first and also wanting to just turn a blind eye to the slugs and go back to work/the Bubble. Plus the survivors going out to the wild world to start over, although I give better odds to the WALL-E folks.

if the dots could just kill people by flying through their heads like bullets, why would they need to use the slugs

Or, why not just direct the people to walk off the top of a building? It's one thing if they had just declared "RELEASE THE SLUGS" but controlling the slugs somehow to eliminate people alphabetically seems to be 1960s Batman TV series level of enemy elimination. But maybe that's what their AI was trained on. The one advantage to the slugs I see is that they leave no human mess behind. Granted, you now have a city of slugs but the Dots seem to prefer their company to humans.

I did not see the "twist" ending coming exactly (although annoying I did hear it was twisty before I could watch the episode) but I did note that while there seemed to be a range of gender expressions among the people there certainly was a lack of diversity otherwise.
posted by mikepop at 6:34 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]

The biggest mystery is when Ruby asked what they do the rest of the time, what did Lindy mean by “We party”? I can’t decide if this means something like a Covid-era child’s zoom-call birthday party or ritualistic cult gathering.
posted by Gary at 7:42 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]

Why kill them alphabetically? Surely the Dots had an algorithm ranking everyone by how annoying they were.

Yeah, this was a double minor annoyance for me in an otherwise great episode:

1) Kill them off in reverse popularity order. Killing people who only have 10 followers will be less immediately obvious than killing off Ricky September who everyone follows. The Dots would know their follower counts, right? Which leads to....

2) You're telling me that Ricky September's Dot didn't know his real name?
posted by Kyol at 8:04 AM on June 3 [4 favorites]

What exactly happened on the home world? Did they have the same Dot/Bubble system and the Dots found them just as annoying?

Mulling it over, I've landed on the idea that the wealthy off-worlded their offspring to Finetime to protect them. Thus the impenetrable bubble around the Finetime city, and nothing but obviously canned messages from parents.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:54 AM on June 3 [4 favorites]

So, Hoochy Pie's parents named her Hoochy Pie? That's not just a screenname? Gothic Paul too? Ok then.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:39 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]

No no, they explained Gothic Paul's name when they were going through the explanations at some point, but it was quick around 30 minutes in:

Doctor: Lindy. Lindy, your friend Gothic Paul. Is he a Paul who's gothic, or is Paul his surname?

Lindy: It's his surname. Alexander Paul. Gothic's just a nickname.
posted by Kyol at 10:54 AM on June 3

It occurs to me that the dots remind me vividly of Culture drones-- including in their opinion of humans.
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:10 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]

I very nearly turned this off about twenty minutes into it, because I found Lindy so insufferable that I could barely stand to look at her. What a horrifically awful human being, and what a performance! If an actor can win an award for Most Unbearable, she absolutely gets my vote for it.

I love that The Doctor is such a wonderful person that it tears his heart out that these kids are so blinded by hate and privilege that he can't save their lives. I am a much less noble soul, and I was a little disappointed we didn't see them die horribly within, like, six minutes, tops. I don't think the Great Forest is going to be very kind to kids who can't walk down the street without help.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:10 PM on June 3 [4 favorites]

Mulling it over, I've landed on the idea that the wealthy off-worlded their offspring to Finetime to protect them. Thus the impenetrable bubble around the Finetime city, and nothing but obviously canned messages from parents.

I think they sent the kids there because they were awful. It's like a big summer camp the little turds never come back from. I'm sure their parents were delighted to see them go.

Babies really seem to be thing this season. At first, I was calling this one "Space Nepobabies," because the privilege seemed to be the overriding factor. When I realized they were actually also Space Racists, I lost all sympathy.

I came back, though, to say that I appreciate how Dot turned into The Ball from Phantasm.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:37 PM on June 3 [4 favorites]

Babies really seem to be thing this season.

Babies/childlren and parents and their relationships are a strong theme this season, given the mystery of Ruby's parentage, the reference to the Doctor also being a foundling (and a rare mention of his granddaughter), plus Space Babies, the Maestro being the child of the Toymaker, Boom featuring a father/daughter relationship and her dealing with his death, 73 Yards reiterating Ruby's abandonment issues and this one about the racist progeny being ejected to Finetime (and then their absentee parents being sent to The Sky).

I really hope the resolution to the mystery of Ruby's parentage is strong, because it's been built up and alluded to a lot.
posted by crossoverman at 2:54 AM on June 4

And I swear since they explicitly commented on Susan Twist:

Ruby: Hold on. I've seen her before.

The Doctor: Yeah, she's like-- She's the face of the ambulance on Kastarion 3.

Ruby: No, no, no. I've seen her somewhere else.

I hope it turns out to be something? But honestly I'm just sort of expecting Bad Wolf mk2.
posted by Kyol at 7:07 AM on June 4 [1 favorite]

There's always a (Susan) Twist at the end.

Maybe she is Ruby's mom somehow?
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:37 AM on June 4 [1 favorite]

They've already brought up the subject of the Doctor's granddaughter this season.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 10:47 AM on June 4 [2 favorites]

they explained Gothic Paul's name

Right, forgot about that. Still, someone's last name is "Pie," although I guess that's not any more ridiculous than "Pepper-Bean"

crossoverman: the Maestro is also Henry Arbinger's parent, so we have at least two families with 3 generations represented: Ruby, her mum Carla, and her gran whose name I forget; Henry Arbinger, Maestro, The Toymaker; and we can sort of count the Doctor's family, since he mentions his granddaughter Susan, which of course suggests the missing generation between the Doctor and Susan.

the dots remind me vividly of Culture drones-- including in their opinion of humans

Me too, especially when Lindsay's Dot shot right through Ricky's head like a knife missile. Oof.
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:41 PM on June 4 [2 favorites]

the Maestro is also Henry Arbinger's parent

Of course! And Henry turns up during the song at the end.
posted by crossoverman at 5:42 PM on June 4 [1 favorite]

On re-watch, a few hints I noticed:

When the Doctor first tries to "Friend" Lindsay, it's accompanied with a warning, whereas Ruby's call doesn't get a warning.

The white supremacist kiddos are doing "substack processing" -- little jab at the platform's stance on Nazis?

Lindsay gets most upset at the Doctor when she thinks he is being condescending.

When she finally recognizes him from before, she says at first she "just thought you looked the same."

During the group chat, she tells her friends that the Doctor is going to get "so disciplined" and that he's "not as stupid as he looks."

And re: the motif of people stepping on things: this week it's about not knowing how to walk without orders and potentially being led to walk right to your death when following them.
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:16 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]

Oh, one more thing: when talking about the Dot, the Doctor says it uses an "anti-GRAV" something or other, rather than anti-MAV. A clue? Or just a slip in the script?
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:28 PM on June 8

It occurs to me that if the Dots did indeed develop hatred for their users, then they might also have developed a desire for punitive irony, in the same vein as AM from "I have no mouth and I must scream".

Which might explain why they fed them to the creatures instead of just doing mass headshots. This way was slower, (sluggish, even!) and methodically calibrated to punish people for their inattentiveness.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 5:09 PM on June 8

This episode, like The Devil's Chord felt to me like the best kind of 1980s high concept cheeseball camp Doctor Who. Like The Happiness Patrol or The Greatest Show in the Galaxy. There's a lesson, and if it weren't packed in such a fun romp it would feel like a sermon.

Asking about the order of death or why slugs is asking too much of a flimsy scrim. Doctor Who is never going to be deep or well thought out (at least not for long). I enjoy speculating about the Ruby/Twist/Mavity mysteries along the way. I've learned to accept that the season finale will satisfy me maybe 1/10 of the time, so my expectations are low.
posted by rikschell at 6:06 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]

I have no problem with the choice of giant slugs (sure, why not?) or killing them in alphabetical order (it's a computer, going through the spreadsheet in order, it makes enough sense to roll with). It does seem odd that everyone on the Homeworld was killed first -- were the parents even more annoying than their kids? And one would assume that all the actual children -- the under 17s -- were also killed with the Homeworld, unless there was a third planet called PlayTime for the littlest tykes. In other words, those Dots are some psychopathic muthas.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:58 AM on June 10

I loved the visual gag of the slug sliding cartoonishly sideways into the video feed (sliming into your DMs). It looks so cheap and fake, but somehow it worked to highlight the unreality of the bubble for me.
posted by Therapeutic Amputations at 2:39 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]

The slugs felt very Classic Doctor Who, like they made a CGI version of guys in stiff rubber suits. Just standing around and occasionally munching on people, perfect mid-tier Classic Who monster. Love it, great fun.
posted by BungaDunga at 9:29 PM on June 14 [3 favorites]

With this second consecutive Doctor-light episode (out of eight, which raises some season-planning issues), I have some concerns about how this story serves the characters.

I might have been less concerned if Ruby was able to explore Finetime with the Doctor providing her with audio support in an earpiece. Maybe Gatwa could have recorded the audio afterward or even done it over the phone?

Maybe the Doctor would have been age-gated from the bubble-- too old to enter the community, so Ruby has to take an active role in investigating (a la Clara in Flatline).

Would Ruby be annoyed with the Doctor's constant questions, like a digital assistant? "Ok, Ruby..."

Could it have explored Ruby's relationship with technology like Pokemon Go, Minecraft or Instagram filters, which could have been central to her use of tech as a teenager? How could she help the Doctor to solve this mystery?

It seems better to show Ruby taking some initiative, in contrast to the previous episode where she showed some passivity and nastiness without the Doctor.

Also, what happens to people in Finetime when they turn 28? Would the lower levels be progressively full of people sorted by age as they are ejected from the bubble?

I certainly want the show to do well and tell unique stories, so I'm hoping for Davies to rise to the level of the talents he's shown in the past.
posted by JDC8 at 6:15 PM on June 16

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