After almost a year and a half without regular episodes, Doctor Who is back.
And it’s a season I have mixed feelings over.
On the one hand, while I appreciate that he’s still capable of writing the occasional top episode, I’m glad that Steven Moffat is leaving, but on the other, I’m gutted that Peter Capaldi – for me the best actor to take the part – is also departing.
Some might say he hasn’t been given the best material to work with, which is arguably true, but I think a lot of very good episodes have been glossed over for people to make a generalised view that the show is not as good as it once was.
Less welcoming to new and casual viewers? Fair enough, but then that is apparently what the first episode of this new season aims to correct.
It’s a bit of a ‘soft reboot’.
It’s ‘The Pilot’
Doctor Who – The Pilot Review: What’s This One About?
The Doctor is working as a tenured lecturer at a university and has taken a shine to a girl who works in the canteen and attends his lectures.
Meanwhile the most powerful puddle in the universe lurks nearby.
Thoughts – Let’s Talk About Bill
The main thing to focus on in this story is the debut of the new companion, Bill Potts.
Unlike some, I won’t focus on her sexual orientation as it doesn’t matter either way to me. Much like the heavily debated gay kiss in Beauty and the Beast, I totally appreciate the significance of it, but I’m personally
not bothered. If it makes a positive difference to some viewers, I’m all for it. If it makes a negative difference to others, then those people need to get a grip.
But regardless, her sexual orientation shouldn’t define her character, and I don’t think it does.
Personally, I thought the immediate establishment of her tutor/student relationship was well done as it set the tone quickly and efficiently.
On first impressions, Bill seems like a fun and quirky companion who is probably easier to relate to that the increasingly smug Clara. That’s a tick in the box for making things more welcoming.
So on the companion front, we’re off to an encouraging start.
The Story Itself
But what of the story beyond Bill?
It was fine…for what little else there was.
The ‘monster’ – because lets not forget that Doctor Who apparently has to have one of those – was good in theory, but was spectacularly underplayed.
Here’s an organism that can travel millions of years in an instant and is impervious to anything you could throw at it, and yet it offered no real threat and barely had any tension surrounding it.
That seemed like a missed opportunity.
But then I don’t think it was supposed to be anything more than a token alien to operate as a backdrop against the introduction of Bill.
Beyond that it served to set up the rest of the season rather than focus on being in the moment, and I guess that’s just the nature of the beast.
I enjoyed it, but it’s one of these stories where people will look back and say “Yeah, it was good for what it was”.
- I thought about writing a dedicated section of this review to my dismay at the Daleks showing up for the sake of the BBC’s ongoing contract with the Terry Nation estate, but really, it doesn’t merit it. They obviously have to appear at some stage, and I’m glad that we’ve got over that hump already.
- But if they appear again I won’t be happy.
- There were other elements of ‘fanwankery’ such as the Movellans appearing with them, and the pictures of River Song and Susan, but I think we can forgive that.
- I would be interested though if Susan manages to turn up at some stage. My only potential concern there is that Carole Ann Ford’s last proper acting role appears to be The Five Doctors. There’s just a chance she might be out of practice…
- The overall highlight of the episode has to be Bill’s dialogue upon entering the TARDIS. That scene in general was well done, and it’s fun that they keep managing to find new and interesting reactions for people entering the TARDIS for the first time.
- We’re not at ‘Strike Me Pink’ levels from Black Orchid yet then.
- I also got a laugh from the line where she asks the Doctor if he knows much about science fiction.
- While the water monster appears to be a slight ‘Best Of’ homage to Midnight and The Waters of Mars – and that’s great – I do feel that its realisation on-screen was a bit of a let down. I know the show doesn’t have the world’s largest effects budget, but that for me goes down as ‘Ropey CGI’.
- I haven’t yet mentioned Peter Capaldi or Matt Lucas, but I don’t really feel I need to. Both were effortlessly top-notch, as usual.
- I’m encouraged by the mystery of what’s in the vault, and though I don’t think we have to know what’s in there by next week, it would be nice of this didn’t remain a mystery until the cliffhanger of the penultimate episode.
- Another element that was underplayed but that I thought was a nice touch was the pictures of Bill’s mum that the Doctor had taken for her.
- The scene in the bathroom was mildly creepy. Perhaps it was Steven Moffat’s way of making children scared of having a shower.
- Anyone overly concerned about a puddle on the ground even though it hasn’t rained for a week obviously hasn’t been to the Gallagher Retail Car Park in Dundee…
- The one dialogue letdown was the “I’d leave it ten minutes if I were you” toilet humour. The show is better than that.
- Perhaps its worth noting – as this might have been a problem with the episode rather than my lack of attention – that I actually couldn’t remember the name of the new companion at the start of this review. I’m not sure if it’s not mentioned enough or that the character’s name is far less memorable than the name of the actress playing her, but either way, I had to look it up.
Doctor Who – The Pilot Review: Final Thoughts
As stated above, this will come to be regarded as an inoffensive, perhaps even by-the-numbers companion introduction story.
It was fun and it did its job, but it was essentially a story about a new companion with a token monster and an even tokener (and I know that’s not a word) appearance by the Daleks thrown in for the sake of it.
Hopefully anyone who thought the show was too geeky and unwelcoming can come in and join the party now.
More Doctor Who Reviews
Remember that you can read a select amount of my Doctor Who reviews on this blog and all of them in my two ebooks, available here from Amazon.