Doctor Who Season 14: ‘Dot and Bubble’ review — Black Mirror without the bite

Jessica Cullen
Callie Cooke as Lindy in Dot and Bubble

Doctor Who Episode 5 takes a page out of Black Mirror’s book for its tale of digitally-obsessed citizens under attack, but never truly succeeds at being mind-bending.

After two episodes that allowed the Doctor and Ruby Sunday to thrive on their own terms, the newest adventure of Doctor Who Season 14, ‘Dot and Bubble’, keeps the duo together as they attempt to help a spoiled young woman named Lindy navigate her way through a monster-laden city.

From the offset, fans assumed from the title that ‘Dot and Bubble’ would be tech-focused, perhaps even Black Mirror-leaning. They weren’t wrong — everything from its fictional social platform to its pastel-hued cityscape just screams ‘Nosedive’. (Even the two protagonists in the respective shows are named Lindy and Lacie, though if we had to draw a line between all correlations, we’d be here all day.)

Unfortunately, Dot and Bubble might have done better to stretch for more originality, as it’s not quite the effective statement on a digitally-dependent society it’s obviously striving to be. 

The Doctor and Ruby take a backseat

For the most part, the Doctor and Ruby are absent in this episode, save for appearing on Lindy’s “dot and bubble” screen. In Lindy’s city, known as Finetime, rich young civilians communicate only via a social media platform that obscures their vision. With the system telling them where to step and what to do, there’s no need to ever remove it. 

However, this proves a problem when Lindy’s friends start going missing. Something is hunting down these unsuspecting airheads, and the Doctor and Ruby are forced to help Lindy via digital navigation. 

This means that Ncuti Gatwa and Millie Gibson aren’t the heroes of this story as such. In fact, Lindy is doing most of the narrative work here, forever irritated by the Doctor and Ruby’s constant interruption of her day. 

Callie Cooke, who plays Lindy, is strong enough to lead this adventure, but it’s admittedly strange that Lindy is such an unlikable protagonist. She’s vapid and self-absorbed, but at least it’s somewhat fun to watch — the watery plot might have been duller if she’d been more amenable. 

Other episodes push ‘Dot and Bubble’ to the sidelines

What ‘Dot and Bubble’ is most guilty of is being…well, a little boring. Finetime isn’t a particularly engaging world, emulating the atmosphere of a newbuild estate rather than a planet designed for the elite children of the wealthy. The monsters too, once revealed, aren’t hugely terrifying or unusual, meaning this Doctor Who episode doesn’t feel particularly urgent or threatening. 

If anything, ‘Dot and Bubble’ is pretty ugly, both in aesthetic and in nature. And when it’s not being actively off-putting, it’s never really piquing interest. 

Following on from ‘Boom’ and ‘73 Yards’ — both clever and emotionally-gripping episodes, ‘Dot and Bubble’ doesn’t have much to offer, other than being a run-of-the-mill, semi-energetic installment.

‘Dot and Bubble’ isn’t about anything

It’s hard to tell what ‘Dot and Bubble’ is really supposed to be about. Is it a commentary on fake reality and digital obsession? If so, where is the point it’s trying to make? Yes, those hooked on their dot and bubble system can’t even walk when it’s turned off, but one gimmick doesn’t make a moral.

Perhaps it’s a message about false comforts and the vapidness of the rich offspring. But again, this isn’t hammered home in any particularly convincing way, since there’s no connective tissue to be found.

Callie Cooke as Lindy in Dot and Bubble

The only “moral” of the story can be found in a very heavy-handed moment. (There’s no need to specify when it happens, because you’ll know exactly when it does.) But unfortunately, this feels cheap and unearned, leaving a sour taste in the mouth after viewing and feels more out of pocket than revolutionary.

It’s not hard for one to imagine a hundred different ways this particular point could have been handled far more effectively, and by someone who isn’t Russell T Davies. 

‘Dot and Bubble’ verdict: 2/5

Put simply, ‘Dot and Bubble’ is one of the more forgettable Doctor Who episodes of Season 14 so far. It’s not wild enough to be memorable as a concept, and it lacks everything it’s trying to give. But it’s not the worst either, with enough sense and purpose to propel its own runtime.

Audience reaction to the final act will prove whether this will stand as a notable, perhaps polarizing addition to the canon, or whether it’ll become lost in the show’s history.  

For more, find out when the new episode of Doctor Who Season 14 is out. You can also make sure you’re up to date with all the Doctor Who Season 14 villains, and check out all the biggest Doctor Who Season 14 theories.

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