Doctor Who has finally returned to our screens, and we get our first introduction to the new companion, Bill, played by Pearl Mackie. Obviously it’s always a hugely exciting event when a new companion comes on board the TARDIS, as it’s the first time to see what kind of character they are and how they’re going to play off The Doctor. Be warned there are big spoilers for the episode ahead.
In The Pilot The Doctor is teaching at a University. His reason for being there is something that is sure to be explored throughout this season, but all we are told for now is that he is guarding a mysterious vault, and it is hinted that he is protecting it on behalf of someone else, as he mentions promises he’s made. The Doctor has also recruited Nardole, the character played by Matt Lucas who has been seen in the previous two Christmas specials, who is under the guise of his assistant at the University. Nardole hasn’t been a great character in his last two appearances, which does worry me going forward in the series, but he wasn’t a problem in this episode. The vault is clearly being set up as the through line story for the season, and whilst we didn’t get a lot of information about it this week, it was just enough to wet the apatite, and intrigue us as to where this is going, what could be in the vault, and just what is the threat The Doctor is protecting it from.
Bill enters The Doctor’s life as a cafeteria worker at the University who attends The Doctor’s lectures, and catches his attention because she is so eager to learn despite not being a student, so he offers to be her private tutor. At the same time Bill develops feelings for a student named Heather, who shows Bill a puddle, but one that doesn’t show a reflection of you, but rather imitates the observer. Afterward the puddle takes Heather, and creates a body of water in her likeness, which begins to peruse Bill. This gave us the classic introduction to the TARDIS scene, which Moffat managed to make feel fresh and funny. Best of all though was when Moffat created a genuinely scary moment involving the shower at Bill’s flat. Moffat has always had a great ability to turn mundane things, such as statues or shadows, into objects of fear and he brings that back strongly here.
Originally the ending of The Pilot, where The Doctor realises that Heather is following Bill across the Universe because Bill asked her not to leave, meaning the solution was as simple as telling her to let Bill go, seemed to be a let down. But after some reflection it was nice way to get to the root of Bill’s character and her motivations. The ending does still leave Heather out there, and leaves a lot of unanswered questions about the puddle. A voice states that Heather was acquired as ‘The Pilot’ hence the name of the episode, and Bill was referred to as a potential passenger. The Doctor had already theorised that the puddle was some form of living fuel, and it was surrounded by scorch marks, which raises the questions of who left the puddle, what was the aim or destination of The Pilot? These are interesting questions, which will hopefully get answered in the upcoming season, but not necessarily.
Most importantly this was a good opening episode for Bill. Pearl Mackie played of Capaldi really well, and held her own nicely. Refreshingly there isn’t some big mystery surrounding the companion at the moment, and hopefully that doesn’t change, as it got frustrating for Amy and Clara to be these huge figures in the Universe, rather that simply a normal human that we as the audience can relate to. It was interesting to note that The Doctor has already gone back to mess with Bill’s history, taking photos of her mother so that Bill can remember what she looked like.
I think this was a positive start for season 10. The most important aspect was that the new companion fits in well, and there is no question that Mackie, as Bill, seems like a great fit. Whilst the episode may not be that memorable for much else, it’s just a really solid way to kick of Moffat and Capaldi’s last season.