These impressions contains spoilers for Doctor Who Season 10 Episode 1. Doctor Who started airing April 15th on BBC.
The Doctor has taken up a university residency for a number of years and takes an interest in Bill, the chip lady, who leaves the cafeteria to attend his lectures on time and physics (sometimes even poetry). There’s some nice nods on his desk with photographs of Susan Foreman, the Doctor’s granddaughter from the very first Doctor Who and of course River Song.
We’re introduced to Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie), the Doctor’s newest companion. And Nardole (Matt Lucas) is still tagging along. He’s the weaker part of this cast; a cyborg used as comedic relief, but his dialogue in the Christmas Special and this first episode is lacking. I’m no fan of Lucas for his use of blackface in his previous shows Little Britain and Come Fly With Me, and as little as he is used here I still find his inclusion unnecessary.
Mackie on the other hand is a breath of fresh air after Clara Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman) who got grating after a while. The companion’s role is to ground the doctor and bring him back down to earth, but at points Clara even exceeded the Doctor’s eccentricities. Bill is filled with good humour and easily relatable. She watches Netflix scifi just like the rest of us!
Bill’s not the first black companion. We had Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) early on in the reboot and Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke) to an extent. But she is the first openly gay full-time companion, which leads into some of the plot this episode. She is infatuated with a fellow classmate, Heather, who leads her to a mysterious puddle that shows a symmetrical reflection. Apparently it’s a spaceship and it needs a pilot, hence the title (I also like the little nod to television format). Spaceship driver’s licence or no, Heather is the chosen one.
There’s also a nice emotional beat where time travel is used more subtly. Bill tells the Doctor she wishes she had pictures of her mum. A little while later her foster-mum finds a box of photos of Bill’s mother. In one of the photos you can see The Doctor reflected in a mirror holding the camera. I know you can’t do this every time but more of this please! This is the time travel stuff I crave.
Bill discovers the TARDIS and her first thought is needing to go to the bathroom, but she’s rudely interrupted. I fear for Bill’s bladder! We run through the whole “it’s bigger on the inside” yada yada. It’s a Doctor Who staple at this point.
“I know you’re not exactly a scifi person.”
– Bill Potts
They are chased throughout time and space by Heather who now moves about in water and rises out of puddles, dripping with water. It’s effective in being very creepy. Of course everyone’s favourite plumbers, the Dalek’s are brought in for a brief cameo. Bill simply talks to Heather and asks for her let her go, and that’s it. The monster is defeated. What a fantastic moral message, simply ask your stalkers to stop following you and they will.
Back on Earth The Doctor is about to wipe Bill’s mind but Bill pleads to keep the memories if only for a night. It’s almost a call back to our heartbreaking companion Donna Noble. The balance of power between the Doctor and his companion is hardly equal. But it’s a fair response, if you’re shown the wonders of the universe, what would that feel like to have that taken away?
“This is the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me in my life. The only exciting thing.” – Bill Potts
The Doctor and Nardole are guarding a mysterious vault, which its contents will hopefully be revealed sooner rather than later. Knowing Moffat’s tricks I hope it isn’t something horrific like Bill’s coffin from the future. More likely, it’s something that will be the through line plot of this season.
Speaking of Moffat. Steven Moffat’s direction and writing for the show is getting stale at this point and just going through the motions. While this episode isn’t too bad, I fell off last season because of it. A change of the guard will hopefully change things up enough to complement this new companion.
First impressions: I like this new companion, but this Capaldi-lead season is more of the same. I am looking forward to a new showrunner next season to match.