Tune in Tonight: A new ‘Doctor Who’ arrives

I tend to avoid reviewing long-established series, or “properties.” Nobody is going to watch or avoid “Star Trek” on my say-so. And that goes for “Doctor Who” as well.

But with Ncuti Gatwa (“Barbie”) as the new Doctor and Millie Gibson (“Coronation Street”) as the new Ruby Sunday, it seems as good a time as any to check out the franchise. Russell T. Davies has returned to the series where he worked as writer and showrunner from 2005 to 2010.

Three new ‘Doctor Who’ episodes stream on the Disney+ service starting today.

When it was announced that Disney+ would be distributing “Doctor Who,” some worried about its fate. Would it merely stream the series or turn it into the Disney version of itself? The latter is true.

Much was made of Jodie Whitaker, the last Doctor, being the first woman to take the role. And the charming, frequently swashbuckling Gatwa is both the first Doctor of color and a gay man as well. In fact, in the Christmas episode, streaming today, he’s first seen dancing in a crowded disco bar where Ruby works as a keyboardist for a trans singer.

Some may quibble with the fact that the Doctor is gay and that Ruby, a foundling child, is raised in a magical foster home run by Caribbean immigrants whose patois extends to the kind of “bless my soul” dialect that wouldn’t tax the credulity of a “Call the Midwife” fan.

So much of the charm of the long-running “Doctor Who” series lies in its peculiar British flavor. But here, that Marmite seems to have been run through the Disney food processor. This is hardly a new phenomenon to anybody first introduced to cockney accents by Dick Van Dyke’s character in the 1964 musical “Mary Poppins.”

My beef with this Disneyfied “Doctor” is not its souvenir-shop Britishness, its unsubtle messaging, multiculturalism or gender fluidity. I’m simply depressed by its peculiar sterility.

For a show set in a 21st-century approximation of jolly old London, the streets are curiously empty. Nearly every scene features a single character, or at most two, sharing dialogue against the backdrop of depopulated sets, vacant avenues and shopping mall/snow globe versions of churchyards. It’s as if all the money spent on digital effects meant that they couldn’t afford to hire what used to be known as “extras.”

The effect is jarring. For all of its bold adventures, dazzling sets and effects, swelling and insistent orchestral score and even moments when the Doctor breaks into song, this series seems completely lifeless.

— With “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” now in theaters, Hulu wants us to know that viewers can binge the entire “Apes” franchise, including all the 21st-century reboots from the 2001 “Planet of the Apes” starring Mark Wahlberg to “War for the Planet of the Apes” from 2017. Fans of the old-school version can enjoy “Planet of the Apes” from 1968 and the four sequels made between 1970 and 1973.

— Max begins streaming the 2023 wrestling biopic “The Iron Claw,” starring Zac Efron.


— Best friends visit a holiday-themed village in the 2023 fantasy “Everything Christmas” (7 p.m., Hallmark, TV-G).

— A local reporter has concerns in the 2023 shocker “My Sister’s Serial Killer Boyfriend” (8 p.m., LMN, TV-14).

— “Great Performances” (9 p.m., PBS) presents “Hamlet,” a performance from the Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park, starring Ato Blankson-Wood as the troubled Danish prince.

— Sean becomes a victim of a campus robbery on “Blue Bloods” (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

— Now streaming on Netflix, “Living With Leopards” offers a “coming-of-age” saga starring two spotted cubs.


The new kid in town (James Dean) creates an informal family with two troubled souls (Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo) in director Nicholas Ray’s 1955 teen touchstone drama “Rebel Without a Cause” (8 p.m., TCM, TV-PG).


An eco-terrorist kidnaps the heir to an energy fortune on “S.W.A.T.” (8 p.m., CBS, TV-14) … “Password” (8 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG) … “WWE Friday Night SmackDown” (8 p.m., Fox, TV-PG) … “Jeopardy! Masters” (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).

A fire spreads after some questionable moves on “Fire Country” (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14) … “Dateline” (9 p.m., NBC) … “20/20” (9 p.m., ABC).


Jimmy Fallon welcomes John Krasinski, Brooke Shields, Tracy Sierra and Jimmy Carr on “The Tonight Show” (11:35 p.m., NBC) … Jim Gaffigan and Charli XCX & Troye Sivan visit “Late Night With Seth Meyers” (12:35 a.m., NBC, r) … Taylor Tomlinson hosts Maria Bamford, Jackie Kashian and Laurie Kilmartin on “After Midnight” (12:35 a.m., CBS, r).