Sunday, April 16, 2017

Doctor Who, Season Ten, Episode One: The Pilot

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I'm not even going to pretend to start off seriously because the return of Doctor Who absolutely demands a serious amount of squeee. Yes, epic squee even.
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It's been such a long time since we've had an entire series to look forward to.  I'm so happy about this that I can almost forgive Moffat for the horrible xmas episode, please note that I said almost.  As a loyal Whovian, you probably already know that at some point we are going to lose Capaldi as our Doctor.  I know for some that this will be a relief because Capaldi's Doctor has been the darkest of NuWho in many ways.  Sure, the 10th had his moments when he was completely unhinged but Capaldi has truly been scary - a stark reminder that the Doctor is not a man to be played with. 

In The Pilot we got an introduction to the Doctor's new companion Bill. Bill is the series first openly gay companion.  I know that right now you're screaming about Captain Jack, but he wasn't actually a companion and he spent more time flirting with Rose than he did with men.  At any rate, The Pilot makes it clear from the very beginning that Bill's interest is strictly women and even goes as far as to give her a love interest, which doesn't end well. I do like that Bill's sexuality was made explicit rather than leaving it to subtext which more often than not, is how LGBT people are portrayed.  I really want to get excited about Bill because we haven't had a companion of colour since Martha Jones and as aforementioned, Bill's the first openly gay companion.  I really need this character to be awesome.  My big worry with Bill is that she won't be around for long. I understand that we are getting a new show runner and that he's going to want to put his own stamp on Doctor Who but that being said, it's not an excuse to limit Bill's time as a companion.  To be clear, the only other black companion - Martha Jones, only lasted a year and she spent her time flirting with the Doctor, who soundly ignored her because he was mourning the loss of Rose. It makes me want to wrap Bill in a protective bubble to keep her safe. 

It's only been one episode and I'm already attached to Bill. Sure, I could do without her horrible attire but I love that she's an honest to goodness sci fi nerd and that she quickly caught on when the Doctor attempted to wipe away her memories.  I like that she's quirky and warm and I especially love that she rocked that amazing fro throughout the entire episode.  By any measure, Bill is an absolute win and a great change of pace from Clara. Go ahead and boo Clara fans. 

The Pilot is clearly meant to be a reboot of the series, moving us away from the darker elements of Doctor Who which have been blamed for the recent ratings drop to much lighter fare.  The episode begins when Bill is called into the Doctor's office (yep he's a professor now) to explain why it is that she's secretly been attending his lectures, even though she works in the cafeteria and is not in fact a student. The Doctor is drawn to Bill because instead of frowning when Bill hears something that she doesn't understand, she smiles. The Doctor's office is filled with memorabilia from his various incarnations. On the desk is a cup holder which contains all of his previous sonic screwdrivers, including those belonging to fourth and fifth Doctor, which were supposedly destroyed. We know now that the tardis can simply spit out a sonic screwdriver on command, so perhaps the Doctor just had the Tardis remake them to remind him of his past adventures.

The Pilot was absolutely loaded with fan service, even as it paid homage to past companions and past adventures. On the Doctor's desk, are two very prominent pictures. One picture is of my beloved River Song and the other is of Susan. Susan is the companion who came up with time and relative dimension in space, which as we know Bill called out because the acronym only makes sense if you speak English and the Doctor is an alien.   I know what happened to River Song but for the life of me, I cannot remember what happened to Susan.  Her picture being displayed leads me to believe that she's dead as well. Can someone clarify that for me please? The office also contained a bust of Shakespeare, whom we know that the 10th Doctor met, along with a stain glass of Robin of Loxley, whom Capaldi met, even though he was never quit convinced that Robin Hood was real. 

Even the fact that the Doctor has been working as a professor is a call back. If you think back, you'll remember that the Doctor played a teacher in Human Nature and the Family of Blood, two of my least favourite 10th Doctor episodes because the Doctor fell in love with someone other than Martha. The Doctor also played a teacher in School Reunion and for her cover, Rose worked in the cafeteria serving up chips. As Bill reveals this episode, she also works in the cafeteria and has been known to hand out extra chips to help a disappointed student, to help deal with the Doctor's rejection. Chips certainly are always a thing with Doctor Who and it's no wonder, considering I'm quite sure that from birth to death the British eat their body weight several times over in chips. 

The alien threat this episode took the form of water.  Did anyone else think of The Waters of Mars?  It really hit home for me because this is the episode that the Doctor went all Timelord Victorious and attempted to change a fixed point in time toward the end of 10's tenure.  It cannot be an accident that this form of alien was chosen to begin series ten, given that it's 12's last series.  The alien in The Pilot also very much reminded me of  Midnight because of the way that she mimicked everything Bill said. An interesting little aside, Sky Silvestry in Midnight, like Heather in The Pilot, was also a lesbian.   There's also a fireplace in the Doctor's office which had me thinking about Reinette.  I know that I picked up on a lot of what happened with 10 and that's probably because Tennant is my fave Doctor. Please feel free to share whatever it is that I missed in the comments.

Perhaps the funniest moment of the episode was Nardole and the Doctor waiting for Bill to figure out that the Tardis is actually bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.  Why did it take her so long to realise this fact? It was one of the few moment of The Pilot that Nardole didn't get on my nerves. As much as I like Matt Lucas, I'm not at all sold on Nardole so far. 

The call back that hit me the hardest, despite my lack of fawning over Clara, was when Bill asked the Doctor how he would feel if someone just took his memories away from him.  We all remember that series nine ended with Clara pulling a switch on the Doctor and erasing his memories of her.  The Doctor still remembers Clara's name and that he mourns the loss of her.  We know that this is painful for the Doctor and Moffat drove home the point by having Clara's haunting theme playing the background. This is what causes the Doctor to allow Bill to keep her memories of him. Now that he knows how the loss feels himself, he cannot do it to another.  The Doctor may have felt sad for Donna when he took her memories of him but he could only empathise with her and now he knows what it feels like. 

As an opening to the series ten, The Pilot isn't as eye catching or dramatic as the opener to series nine The Magician's Apprentice.  What The Pilot did however set the stage for the transition that is coming with the loss of our beloved Peter Capaldi. The Doctor seems to be a bit morose and caught up in his memories but he's also down for the ridiculous again. The Pilot was filled with so much fan service that it felt like an appeal to fans who haven't been keen on Capaldi's Doctor to get on board again and remember what they loved about the Doctor the most. This is sad in many ways to me because while Capaldi's doctor has been dark, he's never been boring.