Doctor Who | Episode 1 The Pilot
Written by Steven Moffat | Directed by Lawrence Gough
Yes, ladies and gentleman Doctor Who is back and I’m going to be reviewing in here and in writing every week. Also, spoilers if you haven’t seen the episode.
It seems like the writers are aiming to revamp and remarket timey-wimey Doctor Who as we can see from the title of the episode ‘The Pilot’. Now, I’ve been unimpressed with Doctor Who in the past few years. More often than not for the last few years, the Doctor saves the universe by reminding either us or the monsters about the importance of humanity or what it means to be human and there’s been a lot of talking and lot of time has been taken up by story arcs for the companions with unsatisfying endings. Let’s hope this season will be different.
This episode went back to old school, generally creepy, Doctor which was a breath of fresh air compared to previous series. A question that makes every Doctor Who episode compelling is ‘why’, in this case, why is the monster following Bill? I’ve always thought that the best TV/shows or movies for me are the ones where your second viewing is altered/enhanced by the end of the first one. For example in ‘Asylum of the Daleks’, the main clue as to what tipped the Doctor off about Oswin’s true condition was the eggs, (if she’s stuck where is she getting them from?) and with the knowledge about Oswin actually being a Dalek, you pick up on that clue and others throughout the episode every time you re-watch the episode. When you re-watch ‘The Pilot’, every time Bill makes Heather promise not to leave you can’t help but think ‘No Bill, no!’. It’s a return to clever subtle writing that Doctor Who used to be praised for (at least by me). Even though the monster was ‘defeated’ by talking, again, this time it made sense because it related to the reason the monster was following Bill in the first place. The Doctor wasn’t trying to reason with it or appeal to its moral compass, it was just following a basic instinct which just made it’s ending tragic. Often the most memorable Doctor Who episodes are those with relatively simple premises but have been executed excellently, such as the introductions of the ‘Weeping Angels’ or ‘The Asylum of the Daleks’ (which for me was just heartbreaking and a really interesting way of introducing the new companion) and I think ‘The Pilot’ overall, did both.
I think this episode works for old and new viewers of the show. There are enough fun little Easter eggs for old time viewers to appreciate but also DW has revamped itself enough to reconcile old with the new suggesting that this isn’t your Dad’s old Doctor Who.
Doctor Who finally has it’s first openly gay character and it’s not a big deal and it’s so refreshing. Like many I think was a bit nervous when I watched teaser trailers starring the new companion but that just teaches you not to judge anything on its teaser trailer because Bill grew on me throughout the episode. I found her funny, charming and am generally gutted for her because I was totally shipping her and Heather before, you know, she low key tried to kill her. Again there are subtle references to her past without overloading us and the suggestion to a connection between her and the Doctor that is more than just a student/teacher relationship.
It seems like Matt Lucas’s character is going to be the comic relief of the show as the Tardis’s third passenger, which, if that means we’ve got rid of Strax and the others, is fine with me. He has his own moments in which to shine without ruining the moment which I think the others did. It’s suggested that Nardole has been traveling with the Doctor for a while and it’ll be interesting to see his reactions to the Doctor’s methods and what advice if any, he gives to Bill as to being a good companion. Something that bugged me in previous episodes of DW was how River Song used to talk to his companions about the Doctor as if she knew him better than they did, which I would argue was never true. She may have known him the longest but as far as it’s established she never actually traveled with him for as extensive a period as the companions did but still came across as a know-it-all, sometimes to such an extent, she seemed to know more about the Doctor than the viewers. Nardole on the other hand never gives off that vibe and provides a comfort to Bill and the viewers that even when the Doctor ‘doesn’t notice the tears’ he will be a friend when needed.
Finally the Doctor. It seems like the writers on DW is insistent on giving each new Doctor a thing, with Matt Smith it was bowties and fezzes, now it’s Peter Capaldi and an electric guitar but apart from that, I loved Capaldi’s performance. The grumpy yet energetic old man performance is always enjoyable and funny and the dynamic between him and Bill is reminiscent of that between Donna and Tennant’s Doctor in that he better stop talking once she gets going. Overall the Doctor wasn’t actually in the episode much at all, which isn’t a bad thing so we’ll see how the character progresses over the course of the season.
Predictions and things to look out for this series
Bill – Even though it was never really referred to again after the fact, it’s suggested that the Doctor’s placement at the University where Bill works is more than just coincidence as result of the Doctor in some way being connected to her late mother. Could the Doctor have promised to keep an eye on Bill for her? Is the Doctor in some way responsible for her death as he has been known to be in the past?
The Master – John Simm has been revealed to be returning as the Master this season after the version of the character was last seen saving the Doctor and the Earth at the end of David Tennant’s run as the Doctor in Series 4. As I’ve said was typical for the last few seasons of DW, The Mistress or ‘Missy’ opened up a lot of interesting ideas for the show i.e. Time Lords can change sex/gender, and her introduction was good but in the end it was a lot of build up for nothing really all that memorable. If the writers attribute Simm’s return as The Master regenerating into a previous form it’ll be interesting to see what they do with (or how they get rid of) Missy. Will he essentially be the same character he was before or will he take on Missy’s characteristics, plans etc.?
Thanks for taking the time to read, and see you here again next episode.