Doctor Who – Season 10, Episode 01
The Pilot
Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Lawrence Gough

Doctor Who is back! And Audiences Everywhere are going to be covering each episode of Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffat’s final season of the show. The trailers look good, the cast is good, and Moffat strikes me as the type who likes to save the big fireworks for the end. Now, though, it’s time for new beginnings and a new companion to join the TARDIS crew.

Recap

We open on a bedroom, a clock ticking. Nardole enters with Bill (who we know from adverts and press releases).

Bill examines the room, noticing a giant blue box in the corner with an out of order sign and two pictures on a desk: one of River Song and the other of Susan, the Doctor’s granddaughter.

A guitar solo from another room signals the arrival of the Doctor who has apparently asked for Bill Potts to see him.

He asks her why, if she doesn’t attend the university (she works in the kitchen), she has been attending his lectures. She tells a long story about a girl she fancied and who she accidentally fattened up with chips from the canteen, and after some questions about the TARDIS admits that he goes to the lectures because she enjoys them.

The Doctor tells her he noticed her because when she doesn’t understand something she smiles, and she tells him she doesn’t understand how he gets away with lecturing about whatever he feels like.

He offends her by talking down to her and she goes to leave, but he stops her by telling her he’ll be her personal tutor.

After the credits we get a montage of the Doctor lecturing about time and Bill making chips before heading to the Doctor’s office for her lesson. We learn that Bill has a foster mum and that she’s gay (but we got that from the early chip story).

During the lecture a girl intently watches the Doctor and then we see Bill out clubbing and the same girl is watching her. The girl (who has one eye that looks like a star) approaches Bill and they stare at each other.

Bill sees the Doctor and Nardole running around and follows them.

She ends up in a cellar where the Doctor and Nardole are talking about Bill and what the Doctor is teaching her. Bill sees them sonic screwdriver-ing something futuristic-y. Bill makes her exit.

And runs into Star Eye. Star Eye takes Bill for a walk to a construction site and points out a puddle. She tells Bill to look in it and Bill sees her reflection which is wrong in some way she can’t explain. Star Eye/Heather walks away.

From beneath the puddle a whispery voice says, ‘”The pilot is located.’”

It’s Christmas and Bill has brought the Doctor a rug. She asks him where he goes for Christmas and he says nowhere. She tells him a little about her mum who died when she was little, and how she doesn’t have many photos of her.

At home Bill’s foster mum is a bit rubbish to her but has, somehow, found a box of photos of Bill’s mum, which Bill tearfully goes through. Until she comes to one with a mirror in the background that shows the photographer. The Doctor.

Bills sees Heather back at the puddle. She tells Bill she’ll show her what is wrong with the reflection. Bill walks around the fence and Heather is gone. Bill walks away annoyed and we see Heather sinking beneath the water, the first casualty of season ten.

Bill goes to see the Doctor and tells him about Heather and the puddle. She looks out of the window trying to explain it and sees the Doctor running across the campus. She goes after him.

At the puddle they stare into the water. Bill thinks that maybe Heather was possessed but the Doctor realizes that the puddle isn’t reflecting their faces the right way around…or it is, but it’s a mirror so it shouldn’t be. The Doctor realizes that its not a reflection, it’s something mimicking them.

The Doctor sends Bill away and pretends to dismiss the puddle as boring. As they walk away the water begins to spread out.

Bill goes home and hears the water running as her foster mum runs a bath. Then her phone rings and its her foster mum telling her she’ll be home later. Uh oh.

The water stops running. Wet sounds some from the bathroom and Bill grabs an umbrella for protection. She opens the bathroom door and finds…nothing. Except for a wet, empty bath and wet footprints leading to the shower. She draws back the shower curtain and again, nothing. She peers down the drain and sees a star eye staring back at her. She runs out of the flat to the university.

Heather has followed her, dripping wet, and ghostly. Heather mimics her voice and actions. They stare at each other and Heather lunges. Bill escapes into the Doctor’s office.

Water comes under the door and reconstitutes T1000 style into Heather. The Doctor and Bill get into the blue box and Bill asks what good that’ll do.

As Bill complains that the doors aren’t going to keep anything out, the Doctor switches on the lights. The TARDIS comes alive and Bill get the obligatory first time in the TARDIS moment. And I always love the first TARDIS moment.

The TARDIS begins to shake as they come under attack, so they take off. The arrive at the cellar from earlier. It turns out the futuristic-y thing they were sonic-ing is actually a vault, and whatever is inside needs to stay there.

The sound of dripping water fills the room and they edge back to the TARDIS. Water flows down the cellar stairs and T1000 Heather returns. They run to the TARDIS and fly to Sydney (Doctor Who in Australia… that is what this writer likes!)

Bill freaks out and the Doctor tells her about being an alien and some TARDIS stuff. Heather returns and attacks.

Back in the TARDIS and they travel to the end of the universe, 23,000,000 years in the future. They leave the TARDIS into a barren wasteland planet. They try and work out what the water thing is, its origins, its intentions. They work out its not really water but actually part of an alien ship that has mimicked Heather to the point of wanting what Heather wants: to leave. As the Doctor and Nardole discuss why the water wants Bill, Bill looks into a puddle and sees Heather rising out of it. Heather grabs Bill and it’s freaky as hell.

They save Bill and back to the TARDIS they go. They head for the universe’s deadliest fire and the Doctor gives Nardole one of his old sonics. They leave the TARDIS into a warzone, a skirmish in the Time War (I think, though if any good Whovians want to correct me, please do). Explosions and the sound of Daleks ring out as they run through the battle. They see soldiers in white shooting at enemy we can’t see (though the voice is pretty recognizable). They make a run for it and see Heather. As they round the corner they come face to… eye stalk with a Dale, or, as the Doctor calls it, “the most deadly fire in the universe.”

The Dalek fires and hits Heather who begins mimicking it.

The Doctor and Bill try to escape but are cornered by a Dalek who is malfunctioning. They stare into the eye stalk and see a star before the Dalek dissolves into a puddle of water and T1000s into Heather. The Doctor speaks to Heather and tells her to leave, the fly away. Bill realizes that she has asked Heather to promise not to leave earlier and the water Heather is keeping the promise.

The Doctor asks Bill to release her from her promise and Heather reaches out for her. The Doctor and Nardole tell her not to do it but she grasps Heather’s hand.

Heather shows Bill images of the universe as a lure but Bill breaks the connection and lets Heather go.

Back in the office they talk about Heather and how she showed Bill the universe and invited her to travel the stars with her. Bill looks longingly at the TARDIS and the Doctor tells her to not think about that. The Doctor goes to grab her head to erase her memories and Bill pushes him away, completely aware that that is what he intends to do. He tells her he has no choice and that he is at the university because he has promises to keep and is in disguise. She asks to be able to remember for just one night before the memory wipe but he doesn’t answer. She tells him to just do it then but wants him to imagine if someone did it to him. A snippet of Clara’s theme plays on the soundtrack and he lowers his hands. He kicks her out and lets her keep her memories.

Bill runs out and finds the Doctor and the TARDIS. “It’s a big universe,” he says. “Maybe one day we’ll find her.”

He snaps his fingers and the blue doors open. Bill runs in and the adventure begins.

Review

Doctor Who is a unique show in that every few years it completely soft reboots. The basic premise of the show stays the same but the parts of the Doctor and his main companion change after every few seasons, creating new dynamics and giving the show a chance to tell new stories.

These changes also mean that every few years we get an episode like The Pilot in which someone new joins the Doctor on his adventures and we spend the episode getting to know this new person as they learn all about the Doctor, the TARDIS, and a whole lot of other stuff.

The success of these episodes rely on a few things. Most importantly they need to somehow do something that has been done a million times in a fresh and interesting way. They also need to sell us on the companion very quickly and they need to tell a compelling story. The last one is usually the biggest weakness as it is hard to have a great story when at least one character has to be brought up to speed on the basics of 50+ years of story. The best one of these was The 11th Hour, which had the task of introducing a new Doctor and a new companion, and which is held up as one of the best ever episodes. Others have never quite hit these heights as it is a very skinny tightrope a writer has to walk to make it work.

The Pilot succeeds admirably on the first two counts. Bill is a wonderful new character who feels very different from previous companions while having a lot of similar characteristics (Amy’s bravery, Rose’s yearn to get away). She has a compelling story already and there feels like there is a lot more for us to learn about her. Having the Doctor be hiding out at the uni instead of just bumping into Bill and recruiting her was a great touch and one that feels as though it’s going to run through the season as we are teased about the contents of the vault. On the third count the episode is pretty good but spends a lot of time establishing a new status quo with the team of the Doctor, Bill, and Matt Lucas’ Nardole, a character I already love after a handful of episodes and who I think has a lot of legs for future adventures. The story between Heather and Bill is sweet but a little rushed, and the episode never really takes off.

As an intro to Bill, though it works wonders.

Body Count: One. Maybe. Unless Heather is still alive.

Best Line: “Hunger looks very much like evil from the other end of the cutlery. Do you think your bacon sandwich loves you back?” – The Doctor

Best Callback: It’s been a long time since we’ve seen or heard anything about Susan so that was a great callback/possible cool hint for some later season surprises.

Predictions for next week: The episode was filmed in Valencia in the shadow of my brother’s apartment so my prediction is a lot of me saying, “Oh, I’ve been there.” Also adventure, mishaps, and derring-do.

Featured Image: BBC