Timey Wimey

Disney+ is Trying to Make Doctor Who A Lot Easier for New Fans

A sci-fi institution is trying to reinvent itself, but it's far from the first time.

BBC Studios

Doctor Who is a show built on reinvention. Thanks to the titular character’s ability to regenerate, the series has been able to continue on with more than a dozen characters playing the Doctor and traveling through time and space. But after 60 years, it’s not just the actors that have to change. Doctor Who is also constantly reinventing its substance as well, and the upcoming season will be the biggest reinvention in almost 20 years. But it’s not the first time a soft reboot has been attempted, though many of the same tricks are being used.

According to a press release from Disney+, the new distributor for the British series outside of the UK, the 15th Doctor’s introductory episode, “The Church on Ruby Road,” will be considered Episode 1 of Season 14 of Doctor Who despite airing as the 2023 Christmas special.

The 2023 Christmas special, “The Church on Ruby Road,” will serve as Season 1, Episode 1 of this new evolution of Doctor Who.

BBC Studios

However, because of the move to Disney+, Season 14 of the show is now considered Season 1, meaning that “The Church on Ruby Road,” the first episode to feature Ncuti Gatwa as the sole Doctor and the introductory episode of Millie Gibson as Ruby Sunday, will be the very first episode of this new era for the show.

This is obviously done as a way to make new viewers able to dive into Doctor Who with a fresh start, without needing to navigate through the specials to get the whole story. “There will be plenty of callbacks and references for diehard fans,” a new feature in Entertainment Weekly promised, “but the goal is to create a fresh starting point for newcomers to jump aboard.”

Much like the past reboot, the first episode of the season will also be the first full episode with a new Doctor.

BBC Studios

It’s not the first time the show has taken this approach. In 2005, when the series was revived and restarted under showrunner Russell T. Davies, the seasons started recounting from Season 1. When Steven Moffat took over as showrunner before Season 5, Doctor Who Magazine reported that the new season would be called Season 1 to emphasize how it’s a blank slate and starting point for new fans. Season 5 started with an introductory episode for a new Doctor, and now that’s exactly what this season is doing — but this time, it really is Season 1.

Hopefully, this reboot will actually stick and usher in a new era for the series, but reinventions can get old eventually. But maybe a fresh start and easy entry is exactly what new fans need to take a chance on this daunting but incredibly fun sci-fi adventure.

Doctor Who Season 1 premieres May 10 on Disney+.

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