WhovianNet.co.uk Advanced Preview: The Pilot
After weeks, months and nearly a year since her announcement, Pearl Mackie is about to make her official entree into the Doctor Who universe, as the TARDIS prepares to open its doors to a brand new series this Saturday. But what did WhovianNet think of her debut? Basically, it’s like all of our Christmases have come early.
And Christmas really does come early at one point, as The Pilot kicks off with a stylish (kudos to director Lawrence Gough – loving your work!) sequence – set over several months – to document the Doctor’s personal tutoring lessons with his favourite pupil, Bill Potts, at the university where, for reasons that will be explained, he’s serving as a lecturer, while she’s serving… well, chips.
The fleeting festive scene is one of the many initial heartwarming moments between the new partners in crime, and they’ve even bought each other presents, which is sure to melt your Whovian hearts. The Doctor’s thoughtful gift to Bill brings tears to her eyes, and it will probably bring some to yours, too. You have been warned.
Because, in a nutshell, that’s what the Series 10 premiere is all about. Amidst all of the developing danger, it’s a story about the Doctor meeting his new companion, and as such it is ultimately a much more intimate series opener than the ones we’ve come to expect from Steven Moffat. We’re definitely not complaining, though, as it’s one of his strongest, tightest episodes yet. It’s less about scale and spectacle and more about two people getting to know each other, but the stakes are still hella high as Bill finds herself caught up in a confounding campus conundrum. Try saying that three times when you’re drunk!
“Intimate”, though, is the perfect word to describe The Pilot. Even the pre-titles sequence, which Steven usually utilises as ambitious, ‘fly by the seat of your pants’-type prequels, is a simple yet satisfying opening. It all takes place in the Doctor’s office as Bill stumbles across the TARDIS for the first time, and Steven’s scriptwriting skills manage to honour the past (two familiar faces make an appearance), establish the present and look ahead to the future all within the matter of minutes. Or 5 minutes and 4 seconds, to be precise. You’ll absolutely love the first scene, and not only because it will leave you humming along to what we can assume is Bill’s personal theme, courtesy of the master maestro that is Murray Gold. It’s full of whimsy, joy and wonder. Another classic.
As soon as the titles have rolled (they haven’t changed, in case you were wondering, but do they really need to?), the Doctor and Bill’s relationship has already been firmly cemented as one of the most interesting and intriguing Doctor/companion dynamics in the show’s history. That is in no way a mean feat, and a credit to the outgoing showrunner, as Bill already feels like she’s been around forever, in the best possible way.
The episode itself has been described as the perfect starting point for new viewers and it goes without saying that this is largely due to the fact that the story is told from Bill’s perspective. The majority of the adventure takes place on campus (with a quick jaunt to the other end of the universe, 23 million years in the future, thrown in for good measure, naturally), and Pearl Mackie is really given the chance to shine as we join her in discovering the Doctor’s world in all its weird and wonderful glory. The moment she sees the interior of the TARDIS is particularly memorable, and it’s her brilliantly executed one liners and quirky questions which make her stand out from her predecessors. She really is something new, which is exactly what the Doctor ordered. He’s really going to have to up his game.
The most important factor to take away from this episode is that it makes us care. As she joins the Doctor and Nardole to see the universe anew in the final moments, we care about our new friend Bill Potts. When the TARDIS doors close behind her, we just wish we were going along with her. We will be, of course, as there are still 11 episodes to come, but the abrupt ending makes for a poignant closing scene to what we’d describe as the best companion introduction of the modern series.
Let’s not forget the big bad. Without giving too much away (but trust us when we say that you’ll never quite look at puddles in the same way…), the underlying threat fuels the development of Bill’s character, as we’re left with the sense that the story of/her connection with Heather – the girl with the star in her eye – is only just beginning. The Daleks make a blink and you’ll miss it cameo appearance too, with the Doctor’s oldest adversaries once again being exploited in an original, albeit ultimately underwhelming, fashion. It ties up the Friends from the Future scene, though, so it’s nice to get that out of the way so soon. Onwards!
And “onwards” can’t come soon enough. Series 10 is already shaping to be one of the best ones yet, and if The Pilot is anything to go by, we really are in for one hell of a treat. Peter Capaldi expectedly kicks off his final series as a force to be reckoned with, and with Pearl in tow, the new chemistry on the TARDIS is sizzling. Matt Lucas deserves a special mention for his reprisal as Nardole, who it somewhat tragically underused in this episode, though there’s already enough going on to keep the story flowing, so we’ll let that one slide. There’ll be plenty more where he came from over the coming weeks.
In a nutshell, The Pilot is the perfect introduction. It’s sort of one of those episodes that you’d watch on a rainy day, but bearing in mind what’s to come, we’ll probably look back and appreciate that they eased us into it gently. With the Doctor, Bill and Nardole, the prospect of travelling through time and space just got very exciting. A time for heroes it is indeed. And do you know what? It’s about bloody time.