Written by Frank Cottrell-Boyce | Directed by Lawrence Gough
After the smash hit that was ‘The Pilot’, The Doctor and Bill go into the future for Bill’s first adventure on the TARDIS. And we thought the upcoming ‘Emoji Movie’ was terrifying enough.
This episode has a strong Black Mirror aspect to it taking a social phenomenon of our time to a logical extreme. The way we use language is ever evolving and emojis are an effective way of translating how we feel without necessarily using words and it is possible that in the future emojis will still serve that same purpose, almost like modern hieroglyphs. We’ve all misinterpreted messages. When we’re not face-to-face it’s easy to misunderstand someone’s intentions. Is my best friend being sarcastic or genuine? What does that ellipses mean? The Robots in this episode simply misinterpreted grief and like any good villain, they thought they were doing good, or at least what they were programmed to do, by getting rid of grief. It reminds us that grief and sadness is a part of life and it’s just as important to embrace and accept what we’re feeling as it is to strive for happiness.
The juxtaposition between the scale of the colonists base and the fact that for the majority of the episode it was just The Doctor and Bill left to figure out what was going on helped raise the stakes immensely. The Vardy reminded me of the Vashda Narada from the Series 4 two-parter ‘Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead’ and the fear that came from that episode in that everything around you could potentially kill you and leave nothing left but your bones. Creepy.
Pearl Mackie’s Bill continues to be an excellent pick for the new TARDIS companion from the offset asking questions we’ve probably all had at one time or another whilst watching this show. I love how we’re continuing the feeling of rebooting the show through having the Doctor explain how the TARDIS navigates through time and space, that it’s through negotiation rather than steering. Again I think the writers have got the perfect balance between recognising the old lore and previous episodes for long time fans whilst giving us something new and exciting that won’t be too daunting for new time viewers.
For me at least, Doctor Who has struggled over the past few years to provide satisfying endings to otherwise intriguing storylines and though ‘The Pilot’ was strong than most previous episodes ‘Smile’ seems pretty divisive amongst fans. The Doctor’s solution was essentially ‘turn it off and on again” and I am not entirely convinced is the best solution as the robots still have the capability of murdering everyone and the remaining humans are forced to live with the things that killed their families. However, considering the entire bass is made out of tiny robots that can’t really be got rid of co-habitation is probably the better option against all out war.
Smile is a strong episode with it’s Black Mirror-like set-up and despite the ending, I was thoroughly creeped out by the Vardy and this serves as yet another reason why we shouldn’t create A.I’s or robots of any kind to be our servants.