Spoiler Alert

Doctor Who’s latest episode, “73 Yards,” is probably a bit confusing if you’re a new fan. The wild timeline shenanigans that aren’t supposed to make a ton of sense aside, a lot of people are probably wondering why the Fifteenth Doctor was barely in the latest Who adventure. The answer is rather simple: it is what we call a “Doctor-lite” episode. Doctor Who occasionally does episodes that either focus heavily on the companion (Doctor-lite) or on the Doctor (companion-lite). There’s a couple of reasons why the show would put the Doctor or a companion on the temporary backburner. 

BBC Studios/Bad Wolf Studios/Disney+

Doctor Who Has Doctor-Lite Episodes for Production Reasons

The main one is, of course, for production purposes. In the show’s classic era (1963-1989), many stories were told in a serial format that could take 4+ episodes to complete. That’s a lot of shooting for actors and, well, they need time off. So, Doctor Who did episodes that either didn’t have the Doctor or companion in them at all or, if they were there, it was for very short amounts of time. For example, part three and four of the serial “The Keys of Marinus” did not have the First Doctor in them because William Hartnell was on vacation. 

A Doctor-lite Episode Can Help Develop (or Complete) a Companion’s Arc

Sometimes, there’s a storytelling/character development purpose. In the modern era (2005 and onwards), there are episodes like “Turn Left,” which focused on Donna Noble instead of the Tenth Doctor. This episode set up a major plot point that began to close out Donna Noble’s ongoing arc, so this focus was necessary.

BBC Studios/Bad Wolf Studios/Disney+

This is similar to “73 Yards,” which gives us a chance to get to know Ruby and how she can figure out and handle a crisis without the Doctor’s help. Now, we truly know that she is a capable companion. In return, “Midnight” takes Donna Noble out of the game and gives the Doctor a roster of people on a train to work with in a crisis.

One extremely popular standalone episode, “Blink,” is actually both Doctor and companion-lite and focuses on a new character entirely. We barely see the Tenth Doctor and his companion Martha Jones in the episode at all. It is actually based on a short story that Steven Moffat wrote about a character named Sally Sparrow in the Doctor Who universe. And, from a production standpoint, actors David Tennant and Freema Agyeman were able to simultaneously film another episode

Why Wasn’t Ncuti Gatwa in Doctor Who‘s Latest Episode Much?

A production overlap (or a vacation) could have affected Ncuti Gatwa’s availability for this episode. Or, as previously stated, it could have been an intentional way to get the audience bonded with Ruby Sunday. She did spend much of “Boom” nearly dying, so that was sort of companion-lite and allowed us to see Fifteen shine on his own. Either way, there’s no need to fear. This TARDIS team will have plenty of time to go on more adventures together.