Dot and Bubble

Posted in Episode by - June 01, 2024
Dot and Bubble

Aired 01 June 2024


The world of Finetime is a happy and harmonious locale, the people working just two hours a day while otherwise spending their time relaxing and indulging in social interactions through holographic bubbles that connect everyone. Something is preying on these people in ‘Dot and Bubble’ by Russell T Davies, however, and the Doctor and Ruby have limited time to make them see, accept, and act on the truth.

Davies has made it no secret that this episode is a step into Black Mirror territory, and a futuristic world on which the people live their entire lives within the influence of the Bubble that even guides them step by step through their home and working lives is quite a blunt metaphor for the increasing dependence of modern society on technology and how oblivious people have become to the real world and people around them. Finetime’s cheery, pastel backdrop and the elite, carefree youth living here who all but totally disregard the world sitting just beyond the visual barrier of their Bubbles present an intriguing foundation upon which to allow this easy metaphor to quickly unfold, but the seeming conformity of this inconsequential lifestyle comes into an entirely different light as the Doctor virtually tries to gain the attention of just one person to warn of the deadly dangers eating away at each and every person here.

While Lindy’s quick rejection of the Doctor when his screen first appears in her Bubble can easily be shrugged off as the gut reaction of someone who is so absorbed in her own life that any external influence or new voice is simply not interesting or worth the bother, the details eventually provided about what this place is and who these people are leads to a startling revelation that elevates ‘Dot and Bubble’ beyond the realm of simple social commentary to provide one of the darker and more unsettling truths the Doctor has confronted in some time. That Lindy is much more accepting of Ruby’s presence even as she insists that Lindy do the unthinkable and lower her Bubble to look around her is a clever and unobtrusive means of introducing the hidden truth that becomes all the more obvious when looking back at Lindy’s friends and social connections, but the inherent racism on Finetime reaches its peak as the Doctor looks beyond the societal evils here to offer everyone a chance to survive offworld and is rejected on sight quite obviously because of his appearance. Lindy had previously written off his second appearance in her Bubble as thinking he was just a person who looked like the earlier one she had seen, and she is shocked to see the Doctor ad Ruby in the same room, but phrases such as in-person contact being impossible because he is not one of them as well as phrases such as voodoo and contamination are startlingly effective at evoking the truth underlying this society.

Of course, it was only a matter of time before the Doctor in this form encountered racism, and while it perhaps is surprising that it occurred in this setting rather than in a historical adventure, having it rear its ugly head here is a firm reminder that humanity may never escape some of its darker tendencies. Davies and Doctor Who have certainly shown the worst elements of humanity before, but subtly building to that truth behind the shiny veneer of Finetime and the physical manifestation of the increasing fear of sentient artificial intelligence that here has grown to hate its users is a shocking twist that- while some may argue about whether or not that twist was deserved or else needing even more exploration- allows Ncuti Gatwa in what is essentially another Doctor-lite episode to react brilliantly emotionally when the Doctor’s offer to help is dismissed so brazenly. Indeed, the artificial intelligence element by itself would have been enough to provide a satisfying if well-tread storyline, and Lindy’s eventual actions highlighting the self-serving and selfish views of individuals when survival is on the line would have been a dour enough note to end on, but folding in yet another significant theme by story’s end that had been hiding in plain sight throughout is itself a fitting fact for this world in which the horrifying danger has always been in plain sight. There may have been a slightly more resonant story to be told here, and hopefully there is a more thorough exploration of racism and the Doctor’s reactions and restrictions within such a system at some point, but Finetime is a surprisingly layered story that makes the most of its very cynical outlook on life.

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