Doctor Who finally came back to our TV screens last night, April 15th, and what a fun adventure we were given. It was really great to see the show in such a stripped back, simple form, especially with Pearl Mackie as the amazingly likeable Bill Potts. Just a heads up, this review will contain spoilers.
Let’s start with the good, and believe me there are so many good things about this. The first scene of the episode was the perfect to start this new era of Doctor Who, and by the end of it we had a very clear idea of what the Doctor and Bill’s relationship was going to be like. As the episode developed it was lovely to see how fond of Bill the Doctor actually is. The scene where Bill receives the box of photos of her mother was one of the most heartwarming moments from the show in recent years and genuinely brought a tear to my eye, and also kind of grounded Bill even more. She’s a far cry from the character we saw in the intro clip we got a year ago. Within 50 minutes, Bill feels more fleshed out and relatable than Amy or Clara ever did within their first series. This, along with the more stripped back nature of the episode really gave it more of a feel of an episode from the RTD era. Stripped back and having a clear idea of the companion by the end of their first episode.
Just performance wise, Pearl Mackie and Peter Capaldi acted their socks off in this story, with Pearl giving an incredibly human layer to Bill, again something missing from Amy and Clara at times. Peter was also on fine form, portraying a more reserved version of Twelve, he kind of feels like this is the middle ground between the grumpy dark Doctor of series 8 and the more fun loving incarnation of series 9. As for Bill’s sexuality, it plays into the plot but isn’t the true point of the story, which is great. I love that she’s been given this back story as it shows that not all the Doctor’s female companions are either white or straight, and there’s no big deal if they’re not. It actually gave me one of my favourite moments of dialogue when Bill says she accidentally “fatted” a girl by continually giving her flirty free chips. If that’s not incredibly relatable then I don’t know what is.
As for the plot, again it’s simple. It features a deadly puddle and a girl named Heather who Bill fancies. It took me a few goes to realise what was wrong with the reflection in the puddle and why Heather was the only one who noticed it but once I got it (on my third viewing of the episode) I thought it was a clever bit of writing from Steven Moffat. The puddle (or space oil) has taken control of Heather as their pilot and she is now pursuing Bill. This leads to a great moment in the episode, when Bill comes home to her flat and hears the shower running. I loved this moment, it was so tense once she realised her foster mother wasn’t in the house. I got a genuine fright when she noticed the eye in the drain.
And that’s another thing I loved about this episode was that it was quite scary at times. It feels like so long since Doctor Who was genuinely chilling and I liked that this episode tried to be, especially during the scene where Bill finally encounters Heather outside the University and when Heather comes into the Doctor’s office.
I’m also very curious about the vault now… I wonder what’s held inside. Also not really much to say on him, but I rather enjoyed Nardole in this story, he’s growing to be a likeable addition to the TARDIS team.
Now we get into the back half of the episode and this is where certain things went a bit wobbly for me in the plot. The scene where Bill entered the TARDIS was beautiful. It felt like so long since we saw the wonder of someone new entering the TARDIS but the fact that she didn’t notice for a while was so funny. But for me, after this, the time hopping we get seemed to drag things. Australia was fine, then I was like “right okay…” when he hopped to the alien planet, but when they time jumped again it just started to feel tedious to me. It did provide me with another moment I loved though when Bill questions the Doctor why the TARDIS acronym is in English when he’s from another planet. Later, I enjoyed the little implication that the Doctor had actually taken Bill to the Last Day of the Time War on Gallifrey, showing that the Movellan’s like many other races had been pulled into the fight, but it just felt like the production team fulfilling their contract of featuring the Daleks once a year, something that Moffat has said isn’t real but I don’t buy that. I don’t know but I felt that the pace and momentum of the story was slightly effected by all the time hopping and the resolution to the plot felt very much like ending on a sigh than a bang. How often have we had a defeated by love resolution? When viewing it as a tragic love story, it’s good, but the fact that the whole time Bill could’ve just said go away and she would have gone sort of diminishes the effect of what came before in the episode.
However, the concluding moments to this episode are absolutely beautiful. The moment Bill calls the Doctor out when he tries to wipe her memory is very emotionally heavy, with Clara’s theme slightly playing in the background. When Bill says “This is only the exciting thing to ever happen to me” added more to the emotional weight of the plot. Followed up by the moment where the Doctor finally offers Bill the chance to travel in time and space, it was a beautiful end to the story. The mixture of visuals (the glow from inside the TARDIS) and the swelling music created the perfect ending to this character based story, and made he feel so much hope for the rest of the series to come.
A good, fun start to a series that will hopefully only get better from here. Thanks so much everyone for reading, love you long time!
A few other things to note – how amazing does that coming soon trailer look and did anyone else orgasm at the sight of John Simm as the Master? No just me, okay!
Also just something else I wanted to point out, just an observation I made recently. I have come to realise recently that while there are some amazing stories in series 9, you could essentially jump from Death in Heaven to The Husbands of River Song and feel like you’ve not missed anything. That’s what the mind wipe of Clara has done to show. Apart from the return of Gallifrey and Missy’s survival in Death in Heaven, all the events of series 9 can be skipped over and you could act as though Clara’s exit was in Death in Heaven, because she’s barely even been referenced in the show since Hell Bent, obviously because of the mindwipe. Anyways, just food for thought. Here’s the aftershow!