Archive for ‘Episode Previews’
April 21st, 2017
Warning! This article and its comments may contain spoilers...
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After last week’s series premiere (which you can Rate & Discuss here), it’s big smiles all around – for now, at least – as Bill Potts is officially aboard the TARDIS.

There isn’t a Dalek or killer puddle in sight this time, however, as we’re fast tracked to the edge of the galaxy where a human settlement is said to hold the secret to everlasting happiness. Well, where else would you take your new companion on her maiden voyage?

OK, so it isn’t technically Bill’s maiden voyage, thanks to her quick-stop visits to Australia and the end of the universe (as you do!) last week, but as she points out in the opening moments of Smile, this is her first proper one, so it better be a good’un.

The latest episode picks up directly where The Pilot left off, with Bill bemusing her personal tutor with yet more of the hilariously random questions of which she is already acclaimed. Her unique take on the TARDIS continues to highlight her fresh perspective as she brings light to areas of the Whoniverse you probably never realised you wanted to know the answers to. We also get to learn a bit more about the conditions of the Doctor’s elusive promise, referred to in this episode as his oath, which we suspect will continue to be teased to the point of tears in the episodes to come. You can share your own theories regarding what lies inside the vault in our dedicated discussion, here.

Back to the mystery at hand, though, and the foreboding pre-titles scene wastes no time in establishing the hidden terror of the escalating Emojibots, with swooping crane shots of the surrounding settlement adding a sense of cinematic grandeur to the proceedings. The sequence also features the first and only appearance of one of the episode’s underused guest stars, Mina Anwar as Goodthing, who is robbed of any opportunity to develop her character when she’s the victim of a very sticky situation in the first four minutes. Slightly problematic.

Ralf Little is another example of a character that could’ve been, especially as a teaser video of him inside the TARDIS suggested that his role as Steadfast would be playing a much bigger part in the action. In reality, he never actually gets to set foot inside the police box, which is parked off in the middle of a cornfield for the majority of the story.

After the opening credits have rolled, the bulk of the episode takes place within the confines of the aforementioned human colony (which is missing one vital ingredient), against the real-life backdrop of the City of Arts and Science Museum in Valencia. The simplistic yet stunning location adds a sense of clinical purity to the luxurious landscape, helping to maintain its connotations as the idealistic utopia. But as the story unfolds, it soon becomes evidently clear that this picturesque paradise is far from ideal. Well, this is Doctor Who we’re talking about, isn’t it?

Enter the Doctor and Bill, whose jaunt to the far future quickly becomes a fight to the death (but what else is new?) when they come face to face with this week’s technological terror. The rampant robots are a fundamentally simple premise, but it’s one that still manages to create a sense of ominous fear, especially as throughout the episode you’re never 100% sure where they are or what they’re up to. Let’s just say, you wouldn’t want to bump into one of these guys in a dark alley. Unless, that is, you were smiling…

One of the most interesting aspects of this episode is that it is, for the most part, a two-hander between Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie. As they explore their new surroundings, you keep expecting somebody else to pop up and join the party, but it just doesn’t happen for the first 30 minutes. Thinking about it, this is exactly the sort of story you want from the Doctor and Bill’s first “proper” adventure, as it enables them to get to know each other – and, in turn, us to know Bill – amidst their investigation of a good old fashioned, albeit futuristic, science-fiction mystery. It’s one of those that you really have to pay attention to, but the best science-fiction mysteries usually are.

As a result, expect a lot of talking. In the Forest of the Night writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce returns on top form with plenty of brilliantly executed dialogue, and Bill’s inquisitiveness and infectious enthusiasm is particularly refreshing and fun to behold. While generally slow-paced, that’s not to say that the episode doesn’t have its fair share of drama, too, as we finally discover what’s really going on at the same time as our heroes do (although admittedly, and rightly so, the Doctor is always one step ahead of us all). It just takes a while to get there, is all.

Sit back and enjoy the ride, though, as it’s one of the first times that the show has managed to execute such a simple format alongside a concept that it can comfortably fall back and rely on. With today’s ever growing technological advances, the story is definitely a grower in the sense that, if you’re anything like us, you’ll find your appreciation for it growing the more you think about it post-viewing.

While it probably won’t be one that we revisit as much as others, Lawrence Gough has directed an intriguing insight into the future of our species, and there is something quintessentially Doctor Who about our heroes jump starting a new civilisation and being home before the kettle has boiled. Or at least, Bill thinks they’re going home…

April 13th, 2017
Warning! This article and its comments may contain spoilers...
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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.

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