‘Doctor Who’ season 14 was a solid refresh — but one thing could have made it so much better

The Fifteenth Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) on an adventure in Doctor Who season 14
(Image credit: BBC)

I was very excited to lay eyes on "Doctor Who" season 14 after the 2023 Christmas special. We had a charismatic, brilliant new Doctor in the form of Ncuti Gatwa whose energy was matched perfectly by that of Millie Gibson as companion Ruby Sunday.

"The Church on Ruby Road" was a buoyant adventure, one that leaned into the sillier side of the Whoniverse but also one that acted as a pilot for the show's new era, setting up a key moment in time (and space) that would prove imperative to forthcoming season's arc. 

P.S. If you're not caught up just yet, I'm going into serious spoiler territory here, so stop reading and watch the remaining episodes on Disney Plus before you read on. 

An image indicating spoilers are ahead.

The season finale, "Empire of Death", has now brought "Doctor Who" season 14 to an end. In my eyes, it was a solid, if uneven batch of episodes, one which boasted some serious ups ("Rogue") and some downs ("Space Babies"). Gatwa and Gibson continually proved to be an effervescent pairing. Their bond is easily the season's greatest strength, and that tearful goodbye was a decent way to bring the first season to an end. 

However, I can't help but feel that the series was hamstrung by the decision to make it an eight-episode season. Barring Jodie Whittaker's final outing as the 13th Doctor (which was curtailed due to the impact of COVID), this made season 14 the shortest series we've seen since "Doctor Who was revived back in 2005. And I think it had a real impact on the story; here's why I think some extra adventures could have benefitted the latest season. 

More breathing room = a stronger connection to our characters

Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) looks through a cracked window in the "Doctor Who" season 14 finale, "Empire of Death"

(Image credit: James Pardon/Bad Wolf/BBC Studios)

The strongest element of season 14 was, undoubtedly, the camaraderie between The Doctor and their latest companion, Ruby Sunday. Despite only crossing paths in that aforementioned Christmas special, the pair ended up thick as thieves before long. And from that teary goodbye at the end of "Empire of Death," it's clear that their shared adventures have left a lasting impact on the titular Time Lord.

Across the season, Gibson and Gatwa proved they had boundless chemistry as platonic partners in time, but I keep thinking how much I would have loved to see more of how that bond developed. They only had nine episodes together, but the Doctor was almost entirely absent for two of season 14's adventures. And that meant they didn't have all that much time together before we were being told that Ruby's story was over. 

The show at least acknowledged this; there was a six-month time skip between the season premiere and the second episode, and the Doctor-lite episodes were at least partially a result of Gatwa still being needed at Netflix for "Sex Education." Regardless, I still think a couple of extra capers could have given the pair the breathing room they needed to let us get even more invested in their dynamic. That would, in turn, have made the emotional farewell where Ruby waved goodbye to adventures in time and space even more meaningful. 

The finale felt like it had too much to wrap up

Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson), The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Mel Bush (Bonnie Langford) inside the TARDIS in the "Doctor Who" season 14 episode, "Empire of Death"

(Image credit: Alistair Heap/Bad Wolf/BBC Studios)

It's not just the emotion that suffered, though: the pacing did, too. I really enjoyed "The Legend of Ruby Sunday," it was one of my favorite episodes of the season, but when the credits rolled, I was left wondering how on earth the series could wrap everything up. 

"Empire of Death" followed one week later, and dashed towards the finale at breakneck speed. On one hand, it lent the end-of-the-universe tale a real sense of desperate peril, but it also felt very uneven. It had to juggle Sutekh's master plan, his success and subsequent defeat, a middle-act moment set in the devastated universe, explain the Memory TARDIS' existence and how it works for viewers, tease a new villain for the forthcoming season, and cram in a fitting resolution to the overarching mystery about Ruby Sunday's mother. 

Ruby's reunion with her mother was absolutely worth making the time for, but having to make time for everything left Sutekh — arguably one of the most powerful villains the Doctor has ever faced — feeling underserved. He was revealed in the cliffhanger ending, then unleashed his evil plan, and promptly sent kicking and screaming back into the time vortex in 40 minutes. And a lot of that time was spent hiding from him inside the Memory TARDIS. 

I'm more than capable of suspending my disbelief for "Doctor Who" — this is, after all, a children's show about time travel — but the finale just felt it relied a little too heavily on hand-waving dialogue and dream logic to stitch everything together and set everything back to normal. Another episode, or even just an even longer season finale, could have wrapped everything up a bit more concretely.

Could this change happen soon?

As much as I'd hope Disney and showrunner Russell T. Davies read my posts, and I would love to spend more time in the TARDIs, I doubt this change will be implemented any time soon. 

Season 15's schedule will look the same as the one we've just watched (filming wrapped back in May 2024), and whilst Davies is writing season 16 and has plans for spinoffs that are spinning up (per RadioTimes.com), season 16 hasn't been commissioned just yet. 

Plus, "Doctor Who" season 14 hasn't quite pulled in the ratings the team might have hoped (per DoctorWhoTV); if it was a smash hit, I'd expect longer seasons or bigger budget adventures, but the new era doesn't seem to be one just yet.

If we're sticking with eight-episode seasons and yearly holiday adventures are the cadence going forward, I'd argue more work needs to be done to pare down future season arcs so they can more reasonably fit within that tight schedule. That should help the emotional beats hit harder, and stop some of the overall story feeling quite so rushed in the future. 

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Staff Writer, Streaming

Martin is a Streaming Writer at Tom’s Guide, covering all things movies and TV. If it’s in the theaters or available to stream somewhere, he’s probably watched it… especially if it has a dragon in it. Before joining the team, he was a Staff Writer at What To Watch where he wrote about a broad range of shows that stretched from "Doctor Who" and "The Witcher" to "Bridgerton" and "Love Island". When he’s not watching the next must-see movie or show, he’s probably still in front of a screen playing massive RPGs, reading, spending a fortune on TCGs, or watching the NFL.

    Like i said should have kept RTD away from it, worst figures in dr who history, DR WHO is dead