The production values of this episode blew my mind. The City of Arts and Sciences complex in Valencia, Spain could not have been a more perfect location.
Let’s be honest, the gorgeous vistas in the episode would have made a lovely settlement if not for the killer emojibots. Sadly, the fall of mankind writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce depicted in “Smile” feels eerily current, doesn’t it? We simply don’t learn from history and seem doomed to repeat the same damn mistakes until we’re forced to live among the stars. The Expanse on Syfy deals with a similar theme, as humans colonized the solar system with war brewing in the backdrop threatening extinction. By the way, if you’re not watching The Expanse you’re missing out. It’s one of the best sci-fi shows out there. I found it interesting that in this episode we’d cracked human happiness, but the bots interpreted grief as plaque. What?!? It was a really unique twist on the “last survivors” sci-fi trope.
I mentioned this in my previous review, but I am absolutely lovin’ the new Capaldi and his chemistry with Pearl Mackie. It kind of bugs me that Moffat didn’t write “Twelve” this way from the start. Of course, much of it has to do with the way the Doctor interacts with Bill. The questions she asks are priceless… Like how much does the Tardis cost? Or why does the Doctor have two hearts? He must have really high blood pressure. Bill is a delightful character, and the series really needed some levity after such a gloomy run with poor Clara. I guess you’ve got to linger in the dark in order to appreciate the light, right? Here’s hoping Season 10 remains fun and witty, up until Twelve regenerates naturally. So, why doesn’t Nardole like Bill? I’d take her over him any day of the week.
Early on we witnessed the microbots devour that poor lady, so we were one step ahead of the Doctor and Bill most of the hour. Still, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to piece together what the fertilizer was made from… Ewwww! Those skulls dropping to the ground were just the icing on the cake. Whenever the emojibots displayed the one tear, it sent a shiver up my spine. Would they gobble up that poor little boy who had just lost his mother? That would have been way too cruel for Doctor Who, but not its spin-off Class.
While I didn’t get exactly how/why the new fancy structure was built out of the survivor’s spaceship, I did understand it was made of microbots. The good news is, the episode was so entertaining I’m looking forward to watching it again. Last season, there were many episodes I never watched more than once. I’m sure I’ll pick up more details during my second viewing. Anyway, the Doctor’s plan to blow the structure up backfired when the duo learned there were humans still in suspended animation pods. I didn’t see that one coming. For some reason, I figured the microbots had done away with everyone by the time the TARDIS arrived. Not so much. Which is why the old lady with the book was a fascinating reveal. Don’t you wish we had learned a little bit more of her backstory? It just felt like there was a really interesting tale there. Oh well, they do have to keep the hour moving along after all… you know? That’s just a nitpick.
It was crazy to learn that when the badge emoji sensed the wearer was too unhappy to live, the bots would terminate them. Insane! The Doctor figured out a hard reboot would take care of the problem. That was an easy enough resolution, pressing the reset button. It was now up to the human survivors not to hold a grudge. Do you think they’d be able to get past it?
I don’t know about you, but I had a goofy “Smile” on my face throughout this installment. It really does represent the best of what Doctor Who can be, when everything comes neatly together. Not only was this a memorable hour that looked beautiful, but it continued to nurture the new relationship between the Doctor and Bill. Honestly, this is the most fun I’ve had watching Who probably since Matt Smith exited the TARDIS. Capaldi’s constant smile, his energy and the fact he’s thoroughly enjoying his final run speaks volumes. I’m not only excited to tune-in LIVE again, but I find myself really looking forward to the next episode.
What did you think of the killer emojibots in this latest adventure? Are you enjoying the Doctor and Bill’s unique dynamic?
Doctor Who airs Saturdays at 9/8c followed by Class on BBC America.