Doctor Who: The Pilot
April 16, 2017 5:30 AM - Season 10, Episode 1 - Subscribe

The Doctor and Nardole have occupied themselves under the guise of a university professor and assistant. Bill Potts is called to the Doctor's office, where Bill becomes the Doctor's student.

Bill becomes intrigued by a student named Heather. Heather asks her to inspect a puddle, asking her if she can see what's wrong with her reflection. The Doctor investigates the puddle, and notes that it is not a reflection, but something mimicking them. Bill returns to her flat, and is chased by a moving body of water, appearing as Heather. She runs to the Doctor's office, forcing him and Bill into the TARDIS. The Doctor moves the TARDIS, where he and Nardole check on a guarded vault. The TARDIS lands again in Australia, where the Doctor admits who he is. The Doctor takes them to to another planet and into the future, then decides to have it chase them through a Dalek battle. Heather assumes a Dalek's likeness. Bill convinces Heather to let her go, and it melts away. The Doctor and Bill return to his office, where he attempts to wipe Bill's mind but she stops him. As Bill leaves, she finds the Doctor waiting with the TARDIS.
posted by miratime (45 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
So - what do we think?

My initial reaction is much more positive than I'd expected, having kind of petered out over the run of Matt Smith and not caring all that much for Clara's storylines despite really wanting to like Capaldi's take on the Doctor.

Apparently Moffat was aiming for another full reset (though I question the timing of that for... reasons) and a good jumping-in point for new viewers. As such, the similarities to 'Rose' can't really be ignored, but for someone who started watching the show there, and who loved that era, it certainly felt nice to see someone who I could recognize as my Doctor again. The overall 'small story' feel was nice, and I think Bill is going to be a really fun character - she seems to have some of the best of Rose, Martha, and Donna about her and the actor is quite charming.

Still feel like there are some issues with Moffat and writing stories for and about women (spoiler: another dead(?) love interest used as a plot device to move the main characters) but appreciated that the queerness of the companion seems to be framed in a less sensationalized way than the occasional nods to Clara's potential interest in women, and allows the character to just be herself. And while I love Jenny/Vastra, I never thought it was handled all that well by the writers, either.

I saw someone point out that while the 'chips' story that Bill told seemed a little odd at first, it's an interesting context - because what else does the Doctor do but 'fatten up' his companions through their time with him, leaving them fundamentally changed?

I think there's a good potential chemistry brewing with Bill and that she will be able to call out the Doctor in a way that feels less awful than how they handled it with Clara.

I still haven't watched the Christmas Special, so I wasn't expecting the third member of Team TARDIS, but so far I like him and hope to see a nice balance there as well.

Overall - I felt like this hit a lot of the same notes as 'Rose' in the way that The Force Awakens echoed A New Hope, and it worked for me. Cautiously optimistic about the season for now.
posted by miratime at 5:44 AM on April 16 [4 favorites]


We (wife and I) loved it and love Bill. We were ever big fans of Clara and were not sad in the slightest to see her go. It should be interesting to see what they do with Bill this season and how she plays off The Doctor (so far she has a very Donna vibe about her character).
posted by Captain_Science at 6:14 AM on April 16


Overall, I enjoyed it. I really like the idea of the Doctor posing as a university lecturer. I'd actually love to see that as a regular part of the show.

The title of the episode struck me oddly, reading also as this being a pilot episode. Not sure if that was intentional. Do they do pilots in the UK?

I liked the banter between the Doctor and Nardole. More like partners.

I'm a bit confused by Heather, though. When she and Bill meet in the club, is Heather already under the control of the liquid? She's not dripping water at that point, yet she very obviously is seeking to lure someone (Bill) to the puddle. And, the star pattern in her iris really had little pay-off in the story, except to make the Dalek identifiable.

Can we assume that the vault will play a part in future episodes?
posted by Thorzdad at 6:54 AM on April 16


Cautious optimism here. I liked Bill hugely, Capaldi was great. The plot was a little meh, but that's nothing new for a first companion episode. Intrigued by the reappearance of Simm in the series trailer because I loved Simm's Master. I wasnt very keen on the fatted her up bit.

Do they do pilots in the UK?

Not to the same degree as the US, I think, but I think most Who fans would probably know the term. I took it as being a post-Clara reset, essentially. I actually don't mind her as much as some, but I think she did dominate.
posted by threetwentytwo at 7:02 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Liked the whole Professor Chronotis thing. Liked the gentle pacing of Bill's story.

Our chief weapons are: going to Australia, going into the far future that still looks like that quarry and a complete indifference to the plight of the Movellans.
posted by hawthorne at 7:16 AM on April 16 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I liked this too. Looks like The Moff's got an interesting one-and-done season planned. The gag about the TARDIS travelling anywhere in the whole university got the right sort of laugh-groan from me. I guarantee whatever Simm/Gomez shenanigans we end up with includes the pun "A Doc cannot have two Masters" because. (Loving Simm's beard too!)

It's really interesting that the Doctor's known Bill in situ for some time, that's a different relationship right there. I remember Rory coming out with a Davros-level character dissection in Vampires Of Venice after only knowing Eleven for a couple of disconnected episodes and it feeling unearned. If they can build on the idea that the Doctor and Bill are already acquainted but getting to know each other better that'll be cool. Not sure about Twelve being in the old photo of Bill's Mum, hopefully that happens in a future episode with Bill (Father's Day style?).

I was slightly frustrated by the obvious "what's wrong with my reflection" bit, until I reminded myself that Who is a family programme and kids being able to guess the right answer before anyone else does is a part of that.

It was interesting to see Bill reject the offer from the Pilot's which paralleled the Doctor's usual pitch. Might get some good, different digging into that "what the Doctor does to his companions" angle. Really hoping that Bill isn't now primed by the Master into being some sort of Adric/Castrovalva trap (thinking about it, wasn't that what Missy claimed to have done with Clara, sooo maybe not).

Lots to like, tiniest complaint is that Matt Lucas's manservant turn as Nardole shades into something Matt Smithy at times, which is odd.
posted by comealongpole at 7:16 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


Not sure about Twelve being in the old photo of Bill's Mum, hopefully that happens in a future episode with Bill (Father's Day style?).

The implication is that he takes those pictures for her during this episode isn't it?

Bill gives the Doctor a Christmas gift and tells him she doesn't have many pictures of her mother. He looks thoughtfully at the pictures of River and Susan on his desk. In the next scene a box of them taken by him suddenly appears out of nowhere ("didn't know we had 'em") and in the next scene Bill sees that the Tardis is now over the rug so has moved in the interim.
posted by sobarel at 7:37 AM on April 16 [20 favorites]


The Doctor went back in time to take photos of Bill's mum as a Christmas present to Bill. He just happened to slip up and not notice his reflection in one of them.
posted by plastic_animals at 7:37 AM on April 16 [6 favorites]


Duh, of course! Well, call me Thicky McThickpants.
posted by comealongpole at 7:50 AM on April 16


FWIW, British TV companies pilot things internally when they need to and roll it into the series later on - for example the first episode of The Young Ones is the pilot, I think. They needed to do one first so they could make sure that it would work, which is why the tone is so different from the rest of the series.

Being Human was commissioned because there was such a positive response to the pilot which was broadcast with a number of hopeful pilots. (It had Andrea Riseborough instead of Lenora Crichlow, Adrian Lester instead of Jason Watkins and a different Mitchell.) The one the BBC actually wanted to make was called Phoo Action, but the series was cancelled before shooting.

And so forth.

I'm hoping and assuming that basically Steve wants to kick back and have fun for his last season, and why not? This felt a lot more like the early RTD episodes, which I suppose would now be the subject of nostalgia in some areas. Classic NuWho.

I certainly think the way the world's been going, what we need out of our escapist television is some kind of escape.
posted by Grangousier at 7:58 AM on April 16 [5 favorites]


I didn't hate it which was a surprise to me.
posted by Faintdreams at 9:21 AM on April 16


Well, it wouldn't be Moffet without casual misogyny - only 2 minutes in and we get Bill's "beautiful, like a model, only with talking and thinking" line. Sigh.

But count me as another "liked it more than I expected to" viewer. I am so ready for Moffet to be gone and for some other show runner to take charge, was only sorry that I wouldn't get a chance to see what Capaldi's Doctor would be like with someone else at the helm, but maybe this won't be such a bad exit after all? The Bill+Nardole+Doctor dynamic seems like it will be fun.
posted by oh yeah! at 10:17 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


There was a pilot version of An Unearthly Child. I think the photo of Susan on the Doctor's desk is taken from it (Susan wears a different hat in the broadcast episode).
posted by bebrogued at 10:22 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]




It didn't leave me vaguely irritated like most Moffat-era Who has done lately. I think we'll be all right as long as we stick to Bill just being a companion and not the Most Super Secret Special Awesome Companion Who Is The Key To The Whole Universe Ever, a trope of which I am heartily sick nigh unto death.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 1:59 PM on April 16 [6 favorites]


"It didn't leave me vaguely irritated like most Moffat-era Who has done lately."

Yeah -- my reaction is pretty much the same as many others here. I was surprised that it was enjoyable and not infuriating. A bit grudgingly surprised. What I liked about it was its ... innocence? Or maybe its simple earnestness. It was willing to be likable, as opposed to being clever and contrived at the expense of being likable.

The one thing I didn't like was the rip-off of the Ringu girl. That did annoy me. I mean, yeah, there's something weirdly creepy and terrifying about ... a girl dripping water? Yeah. Weird. But, even so.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:16 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]


All those derelict AI ships floating through the universe scooping up humans for parts sure do keep the Doctor in business.
posted by bleep at 7:26 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Well, it wouldn't be Moffet without casual misogyny - only 2 minutes in and we get Bill's "beautiful, like a model, only with talking and thinking" line. Sigh.

Plus Bill's line that she "fatted her" and some allusion to her still finding her attractive after that. Like that was some revelation. Double sigh.

That damned dialogue aside, I also enjoyed the small story and the hint at a much larger story with the vault and why the Doctor has been at the University for so long.
posted by crossoverman at 7:33 PM on April 16 [3 favorites]


Plus Bill's line that she "fatted her" and some allusion to her still finding her attractive after that. Like that was some revelation. Double sigh.

And just to up the ick factor, per the Vulture interview roger ackroyd linked above:
Vulture: You’ll be playing the first openly gay companion in Who’s history. Was it always written that Bill would be gay when you auditioned, or was it developed after you signed on and workshopped the character a little more?
Mackie: The first time I read for the part … the scene with the big monologue Bill has right at the very beginning of the first scene of the episode, she’s talking about a boy, and she says that there was this boy she was really attracted to, but then she gave him loads of chips and he got really fat. [Laughs.] That was initially written about a boy and not a girl. And Steven realized that there was something that just didn’t work about it. One night he was like, Oh, she’s a girl, of course, that makes so much more sense. That’s all it came from, that was the only adjustment, and that’s how it happened, really.

posted by oh yeah! at 8:21 PM on April 16


"Plus Bill's line that she 'fatted her' and some allusion to her still finding her attractive after that. Like that was some revelation. Double sigh."

Yeah, I should say I literally cringed away from the TV and my face filled with a combination of incredulity and indignation at that bit. I chalked it up (not excused it) to Moffatt's sexism coupled with European fat-shaming.

Honestly, I quite like that Bill works in the canteen (cafeteria) and serves chips (fries). And the fries looked yummy and, also, Bill herself avers that, hey, chips are good. So I mostly pretended either that it didn't happen, or that it didn't happen the way it really did. Which is sort of a learned and necessary habit for watching NuWho.

"And just to up the ick factor, per the Vulture interview roger ackroyd linked above..."

Oh, FFS.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:23 PM on April 16 [5 favorites]


I liked it too. I enjoyed the small scale of the story (never liked those "the Universe is at stake" stories) and the selection of incidental music. Also, some university professors can seem quixotic in the same way the Doctor does (I've known a few like that), so that was a clever angle.
posted by jabah at 8:33 PM on April 16


The one thing I didn't like was the rip-off of the Ringu girl.

It's been a while since I've seen Ringu, so the more immediate comparison that came to my mind was It Follows. (This was reinforced when the Doctor went to Sydney, which is exactly what I thought the people in It Follows should do.)
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:58 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


So, Bill is the first gay companion because Moffat thought the fatshaming line about a boy made more sense if she was talking about a girl? So many levels of fucked up nonsense there. UGH. ARGH.
posted by crossoverman at 9:46 PM on April 16 [16 favorites]


I know it's a small thing, but the Sydney hop was wrong. They ostensibly were in an amusement park, which logically would be Luna Park. Here's the problem. The view they show back to the Opera House is free and clear of the Harbour Bridge. Except, Luna Park is on the other side of both the Harbour and the Harbour Bridge. They could have just as easily done the reveal from the actual park and had the same, AH HA! moment.
posted by michswiss at 9:53 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]


Is Moffat not gone already? I thought he was gone. Is this like a Disney thing where they made a big deal of him going away and then pulled him back out of the vault after a couple of years?
posted by tobascodagama at 6:34 AM on April 17


This is his final season. But don't worry, we're getting the chap who gave us this as the new boss.

*hides under Tom Baker duvet weeping*
posted by sobarel at 6:46 AM on April 17 [4 favorites]


I've found that, since he became the show-runner, I have enjoyed Doctor Who a lot more when I just ignore Moffat in any other way than what shows up on screen; his interviews often manage to take something that I find slightly problematic and turn it up to 11.

And based on what I watched this weekend on screen, Bill is fantastic and Pearl Mackie's chemistry with Capaldi is charming, and I actually give a damn about the overarching mystery (what's in the vault?), so I have much more hope for this series/season than I had a week ago.

(Giving me a fleeting view of the Movellans for the first time in 35 years is just the kind of fan service I'm never going to not get a bit giddy over too.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:11 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


This is his final season. But don't worry, we're getting the chap who gave us this as the new boss.

Wait, what? Gah, I really wanted to come back to Doctor Who and like it again.
posted by mordax at 7:46 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


Is Moffat not gone already? I thought he was gone.

He's doing the Christmas special which hasn't started filming yet.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:00 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


I know it's a small thing, but the Sydney hop was wrong. They ostensibly were in an amusement park, which logically would be Luna Park. Here's the problem. The view they show back to the Opera House is free and clear of the Harbour Bridge.
I don't see why they had to be in an amusement park. Couldn't they have been somewhere in Kirribilli (like Beulah St Wharf) where the Bridge wouldn't have been in shot? Although it would have been cooler if they'd shot from Potts point (where it would've).
posted by hawthorne at 8:10 AM on April 17


Really liked it. It felt kinder (the box of photos, "when you don't understand something, you smile") despite the fat-shaming and the throw-away scene that the foster mother has bad taste in men. It's nice not to have plots turned up to 11 all the time. The fan-service was subtle (Morvellans! Spacecraft landing in warehouse lot a la Remembrance of the Daleks! Susan's photo (whom I mistook for Dodo)! Drippy Heather like Waters of Mars!) The water made a great, cheap effect. Pearlie Mack and Matt Lewis were both fantastic; I am even more annoyed that the 2016 special didn't introduce Bill.

The early banter was a little too focused on witty lines that can fit into a GallifreyOne ribbon. Like Nardole's "Yes but really no" answer when tossed the screwdriver before visiting the Marvellan-Dalek battle, and hunger looking like evil depending on your end of the cutlery.

Least liked: drippy Heather. There was no reason for her to be so soggy all the time, and not even that much liquid in the puddle. It seemed very out of character for the Doctor to not simply ask what the liquid wanted. Or would that be too much of a Tennant/Billie Piper era thing to do?

Now, if anyone can tell me where to buy a set of spectacle frames like Nardole's ...
posted by JawnBigboote at 11:02 AM on April 17


I thought this episode was just OK. Bill seems like she has legs as a companion, Mackie's doing a good job. Nardole is back and he's hilarious. But I don't expect him to do much more than comic relief.

But what exactly was up with the evil puddle? It sort of got explained, but it seems like a hell of a thing. It's as powerful as the TARDIS. Seems kind of a lot for a one-off bad guy.

Hopefully it's all setting things up for the rest of the season.
posted by GuyZero at 1:48 PM on April 17


This is his final season. But don't worry, we're getting the chap who gave us this as the new boss.

*hides under Tom Baker duvet weeping*


He did that under RTD's influence, at least.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:15 AM on April 18


Loved the framing of the opening shot, as if it were a stage.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:16 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


This is the first one in a long time that I really enjoyed. It was quite nice to see this Doctor be kind. In the bathroom in Australia, when Bill is freaking out, he says, "Okay, what can I do?" Last season's Doctor wouldn't have said that and I'm so glad he did. It's hard to watch crotchety-ness all the time.
posted by cooker girl at 5:42 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


It seemed very out of character for the Doctor to not simply ask what the liquid wanted.

I think it's somewhat in-character for the Doctor (this version, at least) to completely overlook human emotions/love. He'd analyse it as "just another sentient spaceship lubricant that wants to eat human brains - mystery solved" and completely miss the fact that the girl it had absorbed fancied Bill and that was what was driving it to pursue her.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:39 AM on April 19 [3 favorites]


Folks asking about 'pilot' episodes: obviously it's a more American term, but the use here as the episode title is a reference to Heather.

After saying something to Bill about always wanting to move on, Heather stares into the puddle again, and we get a shot from the soggy AI's perspective, and a line from it saying something to the effect of "pilot acquired."

I'm sure it didn't escape notice that, as the first ep of a season, they would also be making a cheeky ref to American TV terms, but the main and more obvious connection is to Heather's role with the AI.

LOVED the pic of Susan on the desk.
posted by uberchet at 7:07 AM on April 19


So what's the MoffGuffin?

I'm assuming we're going to go full Curse of the Fatal Death here, and the scorch marks from the leaky spaceship will have been from those who have already been to steal what's in the vault but the Doctor has been cagily waiting to pretend to return so he can reveal he anticipated them (etc).

But what was/is/ willan be in there? The Watcher? The duck caller that emptied the pond in the 11th hour? Shockeye's recipe book?
posted by hawthorne at 8:58 AM on April 19 [2 favorites]


The Doctor pointed out that there doesn't actually need to be a "villain" per se. He said something to the effect of "not many things are evil, but lots of things are hungry, and hunger looks very like evil from the wrong end of the cutlery."
posted by uberchet at 10:27 AM on April 19 [6 favorites]


My impression is that the leaky spaceship was a one-off appearance. This plot was generic because the purpose of the episode was to introduce Bill, not advance a larger story. What's in the vault is part of the series arc but is probably not a deep secret given what is known (officially and leaked) about what is upcoming.
posted by plastic_animals at 10:40 AM on April 19


Despite the fat shaming and other problematic content others have pointed out, this was genuinely the first time in YEARS I've enjoyed Who. I do really hope Moffat manages to keep Bill's specialness as "she's just a really cool person" and that is pretty frickin' special and not she's an impossible girl or the girl who waited or the girl who whatevered. I'm realllllllly over that.
posted by miss-lapin at 11:11 PM on April 19 [2 favorites]


After all the grousing about the previous producer by some, the more I think about it the more I find the fact that Moffat basically introduced Bill successfully by absolutely lifting from the Russell T. Davis "how to introduce a companion" playbook, fascinating.

And I love that, originally, the Doctor sought out Bill based on who she is, not the other way around. She was sitting on his classes but he chose her. Something about that feels very right and "Doctor-y" in the best way.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:06 AM on April 20 [4 favorites]


I like the show. I like Capaldi. Thought this episode was rather weak. The plot was thin. The alien-of-the-week seemed contrived and silly. Every episode shouldn't be "epic Who" but a sentient oil leak? Really?

I'm really disappointed that the misogyny the Doctor had been showing toward Clara has continued into this season. What does it take for a show filmed in 2016 and 2017 to stop relying on that ugly, woman-hating, fat-shaming bullshit? Bill's lines were so jarring and appeared early enough in the episode that I found her pretty instantly dislikeable. That didn't change by the end of the episode.

She has big shoes to fill. This was a lousy introduction.
posted by zarq at 7:02 PM on April 20


Is anyone watching the Class spinoff? Enough anyones to merit a FanFare post?
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:48 PM on April 23


I liked Class quite a bit, though it has a few flaws. But I'm a big Patrick Ness fan. I guess it didn't have much of an audience, though.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:06 PM on April 25


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