Is it just me, or does it feel like it’s been a long time since Doctor Who was on our television screens?! Yes, there was the mediocre Christmas special, but after a year without a weekly dose, I tuned in last night with all my fingers crossed and thankfully it didn’t disappoint. We all know that series 10 will be the last for Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi and I was so pleased that The Pilot saw a return to form, proving to be one of the most enjoyable episodes in a long time.
This series opener acted as the perfect springboard for anyone new to the show, or hoping to introduce others to it, as we see the Doctor meeting Bill Potts (played by Pearl Mackie), the latest companion to be introduced to the fantastical life of the Doctor and his blue box. He is currently undercover as a university professor and Bill has been attending his lectures, despite not being a student. It becomes clear very quickly that she is someone with the curiousness and bravery that appeals to the Doctor and is the ideal candidate to travel through time and space with him and Nardole (continuing to be played with fun & wit by Matt Lucas).
It’s not easy taking on the role as new companion, but Pearl Mackie does a great job in this episode. So much so, that I already felt she’d been around for ages by the time the credits rolled. Bill is strong, independent, clever and able to think on her feet. She’s also kind, caring and not intimidated by the Doctor and takes the revelation of who he is in her stride. She reminded me a lot of Rose from series one, with her simply keen for adventure in her life. She also likes chips too! The Doctor has clearly taken an interest in her, investing time in her education and already displaying a protectiveness towards her. With the photo of his granddaughter Susan on his desk, I’m looking forward to seeing a similar style relationship unfold over the course of this series. Much has been said in the media about Bill’s sexuality, being the first LGBT companion. I think it’s great that a show such as Doctor Who is including such a character without making a fuss about this aspect of her life. It’s simply who she is. It’s early days, but I’m already thinking Bill could be one of my favourite companions yet.
Story-wise, this was a solid start from Steven Moffat. I admit I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with Moffat’s style of storytelling in recent years, with less than satisfactory resolutions to convoluted arcs, so it was great to see him back to writing an entertaining, creepy story without all that baggage. As is his style, this was a scare for children coming via something they see every day. He’s done shadows, statues and snowmen and now it’s the innocent looking puddle outside your front door that could be coming to get you and the episode had just enough creepiness, enhanced by its direction and Murray Gold’s music. The scenes with Bill in her bathroom were even tense enough for the adults watching!
Admittedly, there were ideas here that we’ve seen before in Doctor Who that fans will pick up on. We’ve already had water monsters coming to get you in The Waters of Mars and the eerie repeating of what you say in Midnight, so this wasn’t an original story in every sense, but I don’t mind that too much when the story is engaging (and admittedly only hardcore fans who watch the show a lot will notice these points anyway). I wasn’t sure about the inclusion of the Daleks though. Yes, they are a cornerstone of Doctor Who and in the right story they are brilliant, but this did feel a little unnecessary to The Pilot’s plot, being more a “look it’s Doctor Who with Daleks” stunt. It’s a minor gripe though and overall this was a fun, entertaining and engaging return to this iconic series, which also laid some questions that I assume will unfold over the next few episodes, in particular what is in The Vault and to whom the Doctor promised not to get involved with another companion. I just hope that there is a clear arc this year, culminating in a satisfying farewell to Peter Capaldi.
Welcome back Doctor! I’ve missed you!
Doctor Who continues in the UK on BBC One on Saturday nights and in the USA on BBC America, also on Saturday nights.