The Doctor is back, with a new companion.
Cast and Crew
Peter Capaldi as The Doctor
Pearl Mackie as Bill
Matt Lucas as Nardole
Stephanie Hyam as Heather
Jennifer Hennessy as Moira
Directed by Lawrence Gough
Written by Steven Moffat
This episode originally aired on April 15, 2017.
The Doctor has been a Professor at the local University for many years, lecturing on whatever he wants to. One of the fry/chip cooks, whose name is Bill, has been dropping in on his lectures. Unlike pretty much every other human, when she doesn’t understand something, she smiles instead of frowns, which gets the Doctor’s attention. On a completely unrelated note, Bill meets an attractive woman named Heather. The two hit it off until Heather gets sucked into a sentient puddle that keeps chasing Bill.
It’s another “new companion” episode, but this is different. Statistically speaking, we’re overdue for an LGBTQ spectrum companion according to many. (Questions have been asked about Tegan and Nyssa, and I know what my head canon says their relationship was like, but this is the first time the series regular has been explicitly homosexual.) This companion gets involved in something fantastic, but only after catching the Doctor’s attention. She was chosen just because of her reaction to the unknown from the safety of a regular University lecture. That’s a nice change, compared to the last few companions.
The Doctor’s first plan for dealing with Bill. It seems out of character. I may change my mind about this by the end of the season, as there is clearly more going on here than we realize, and the Doctor’s current perspective may be more appropriate by the time that gets fully revealed.
It’s tough to stay original in the 36th season premier of a TV series. We have a nice blend of references to the past while taking us somewhere new. (Somewhere out there, there’s a story to be told about the absence of Susan’s parents in the story so far.) I give it 5 out of 6.
The effects are well done. CGI water rarely looks like water. The fact that this isn’t quite water helps us dismiss any flaws in the composition. The other effects are pretty minimal. I give it 5 out of 6.
The story works well. We have a monster with very unusual motivations, a new kind of companion who promises not to get romantically involved with the Doctor. (At least, not until a future regeneration.) If anything, the only issue is that it’s all from Bill’s perspective rather than the Doctor’s leaving some dangling questions. (Who unrolled the rug? Nardole? Did the Doctor do it just to see if Bill would notice?) We also have a lot of moments that are clearly there to set up the ongoing story for the season. I give it 5 out of 6.
The acting is great. Capaldi could very well end up as my favorite Doctor, and virtual unknown Pearl Mackie steps into the role with no signs of effort or difficulty. I give it 6 out of 6.
The emotional response is good. It’s enjoyable, it’s great to see the Doctor back, and Bill is genuinely interesting. I give it 5 out of 6.
The production is great, as usual. It’s one of the BBC’s highest funded shows, finally, and the money is well spent. I give it 6 out of 6.
Overall, it’s a good season opener, though not quite as riveting as some in the past. I give it 5 out of 6.
In total, The Pilot receives 37 out of 42.