The verdict is in and Pearl Mackie absolutely kills it as Doctor Who’s latest companion, Bill Potts. I love her already!
Its been a long 16 months since the Season 9 finale aired December 5, 2015. Yup, you read that right… 2015! Sure, we’ve had a couple of Christmas specials in-between, but those are much more standalone events than regular episodes. This is the first proper episode since we said goodbye to Clara Oswald and although Jenna Coleman is irreplaceable, Pearl Mackie brings a new energy and vitality to the long-running TV series. From the moment the episode opened, you could feel a shift in tone as the music was lighter and Capaldi smiled constantly. Man, I wish Steven Moffat had given us THIS Doctor from the start, rather than the grumpy grandpa we met back in 2014 in “Deep Breath.” I realize “twelve” had to be fundamentally different from “eleven,” but unfortunately I think Capaldi’s always suffered by comparison as Matt Smith was such a fan favorite. Perhaps this reboot will allow Capaldi to go out on a high note.
Titling this first hour “The Pilot,” is a clever play on words. A way of simultaneously reintroducing the Whoniverse to fans, while making it the perfect jumping off point for new viewers. The episode really did explain most of what you need to know about Doctor Who and his TARDIS. Naturally, the photos of River Song and the Doctor’s granddaughter would go over newbies’ heads. However, they’re featured as tiny nods/Easter eggs for the more seasoned fans. Nardole returned as well, and though I can’t say he’s one of my faves, the focus was much more on Bill throughout the hour. Capaldi and Mackie’s chemistry is off the charts. The two play off each other amazingly.
Wasn’t it a bit sad seeing the TARDIS sitting in the corner gathering dust? It’s been so long since the last season, I couldn’t remember where the heck we left off. Did the Doctor get the teaching gig in the off season? I guess it doesn’t really matter when he started, only that Bill caught his eye while attending his lectures. She instinctively knew there was something special about this man. I loved that he mentioned how she smiled when she doesn’t understand something. That’s a trait that will undoubtedly rub off on the Time Lord, as he’s softened so much already. I think Bill is going to be tons of fun, in the same way Donna Noble was during David Tennant’s incarnation. In retrospect, a companion like Bill would have created a nice balance for Capaldi. Again, it’s a shame she is being introduced now when Twelve is on his way out.
The story was pretty simple for Who. Girl meets girl (with a star in her eye). The two flirt over an odd alien puddle and soon madness ensues. Wasn’t it wonderful after Bill shared her story about Heather, and the Doctor took off running, how she compared him to a penguin with his arse on fire? Oh man, I know I’m just going to adore this new partnership. Plus, Bill loves sci-fi… Perfection!
Doctor Who is a fairy tale for the young (and young at heart), so it’s cheesy or corny at times but never terribly scary. For a more violent hour and a much darker tone, tune in to the spin-off Class, which airs immediately following Doctor Who. Check out my series premiere review for that show here. However, “The Pilot” had plenty of creepy imagery to go around. The dripping wet girl mimicking Bill, and that screech… Eeeek! The VFX were pretty dazzling, but then again Doctor Who is the BBC’s flagship sci-fi show. We’ve come to expect a certain “movie quality” to the visual effects on Who. Still, watching Bill take in the wonder of the TARDIS for the first time was magical… even to fans familiar with the iconic blue box. It was hilarious that she called the Doctor’s “technical marvel” a posh kitchen and asked to use the toilet. Yeah, there’s no question Bill is unique and brings a lightheartedness that’s been missing since the Smith years. I loved that she took longer than most to say, “it’s bigger on the inside.” Ha!
The Doctor, Bill and Nardole visited Australia, then a planet one million years in the future and eventually came face to face with the Daleks (well one). However, they couldn’t dodge the alien puddle. Ultimately, Bill remembered that Heather had promised not to go without her. She needed to be released from that promise. I was surprised that Bill took the dripping wet girl’s hand. Did that moment forge some kind of connection the series will revisit this season? When the Doctor decided not to wipe Bill’s mind, she flashed to those visions Heather shared. I have a feeling Moffat will circle back to the mysterious moment at some point. Will this new alien be the cause of the Doctor’s regeneration? With the Doctor stating, “Maybe one day we’ll find her” it seems likely she’ll be back.
To wrap things up…
I could not be more pleased with this episode, Capaldi’s softer side and the Doctor’s new companion, Bill. Again, all the pieces fit perfectly in place giving me a sense this season will be special. It’s sad that both Capaldi and Moffat will be leaving at the end of this run, but we’re still 12 episodes away from that fateful regeneration. I plan to enjoy “Twelve’s” swan song in a way I haven’t appreciated Capaldi’s run as the Time Lord in the past. Having Bill Potts at his side is going to make it all the more interesting and fun. Even if Doctor Who is heading toward a total reboot next season, this premiere was proof everyone involved has poured their heart and soul into this final season. I’m stoked!
What did you think of Bill? Did you catch that peek at Capaldi’s regeneration in the “coming soon” promo? We know Missy is back, but how does John Simm’s version of the Master return?
Doctor Who airs Saturdays at 9/8c followed by Class on BBC America.