The problem with writing a review long after most people have already had their say is finding a fresh take on it. You don’t want to look like you’re just repeating what someone else has said.
As an example, many of the reviews for Smile have drawn comparisons with Black Mirror. I had thought that myself, so I was disappointed – if a little unsurprised – that it appears to be the consensus.
Perhaps I can expand on that though and offer some kind of unique perspective…
Doctor Who – Smile Review: What’s This One About?
The Doctor and Bill (I wrote Pearl the first time around because I still can’t identify the character as Bill yet) land on a recently set up Earth colony to find that the robot builders have killed everyone because of their lack of understanding of negative emotions.
Thoughts – The Black Mirror Comparison
So yes, this is like the sort of thing you’d see in an episode of Black Mirror, but then you could review an episode of Black Mirror and say it’s a bit like something you’d see on the Twilight Zone or Out of the
Unknown. The nature of the beast is that for as long as television has been a thing, there have been science fiction shows on air, and so there’s likely to be that element of repetition.
At its heart this is a tale of colonists under threat/robots vs humans and that’s hardly new.
Even if you plan on narrowing the comparisons down to Doctor Who, there have been many stories about Earth colonies and expeditions, and even the apparent uniqueness of this episode – the emoji based robots – is something that’s kinda been done in The Beast Below.
Ultimately when it comes to plot, almost everything has been done before to some extent and this episode is no exception.
The big question is whether or not it’s any good.
The Quality of the Episode
The answer to that question is that it’s good in some ways, but not so good in others.
I liked the visuals. Smile looks different and so is a feast on the eyes. Not only is the setting interesting but the emoji-bots have a certain charm to them that will make this story memorable for years to come. They are a bit like the Quarks in that regard.
I also enjoyed the interaction between the Doctor and Bill. Their relationship was expanded upon and Bill’s character came across once again as likeable and an improvement over most of what we saw of Clara.
What I didn’t like was the resolution to the plot.
It’s all well and good having the general idea for a story, but you’ve got to see that through to the end.
After a good buildup in the first half of the episode, things just fell flat towards the end.
The explanation of what caused the advance settler team to be killed was repeated and then the whole thing was solved with the most thoughtless of plot devices – the reset switch.
That in particular let Smile down because although I largely enjoyed it up to that point, I think my lasting memory of it will be the rather dodgy ending.
- Top marks for ending the episode by segueing into next week’s. For the Doctor Who fans out there who seem to be eternally concerned with the show’s ratings, this will probably work to get people tuning in again on Saturday.
- I notice that Nardol didn’t play much of a part in Smile and will likely barely appear next week either. That’s a pity.
- The line relating to Scottish Independence will be grabbed by both sides of the debate. Some will say that it’s taking a shot at the SNP, while others will contend that it supports their stance. Either way it’ll be tiresome.
- Admit it, one of the very first things you did when watching Smile was turn to the person beside you – or failing that think to yourself – “That’s her off The Thin Blue Line isn’t it?”
- So, the actors inside the emoji-bot costumes? Children or dwarves?
- Surely rather than reset everything, the Doctor could have just urged the colonists not to bother accepting the emoji buttons from the bots? Then they wouldn’t know if they were unhappy.
- The explanation of why the emoji-bots couldn’t handle negative emotion was pretty ropey. Surely they must have encountered some unhappiness or anger before the first settler died?
- The trailer for next week got me thinking about how it seems that there have been a lot of obvious alien invasions/encounters in pre-20th century London, and that in turn got me thinking about another issue. When the Mondas Cybermen turn up, will Bill know about them considering the events of The Tenth Planet happened in 1986? If not, why not?
- And am I looking too deeply into this?
Doctor Who – Smile Review: Final Thoughts
Smile is largely unoriginal, but then what isn’t these days?
It should be commended for at least presenting something that looks fresh and for continuing to expand the Doctor/Bill relationship.
However there’s no excusing the cop-out reset switch ending.
Final result then: Hit and Miss.
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