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< The Return of Doctor Mysterio
10.2 - Smile >

10.1 - The Pilot

Rating Votes
10
2%
1
9
21%
12
8
53%
30
7
14%
8
6
5%
3
5
4%
2
4
2%
1
3
0%
0
2
0%
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1
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Average Rating
7.8
Votes
57
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Writer:

Latest Community Reviews

From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
7
Plot Rating:
7
Acting Rating:
8
Replay Rating:
7
Effects Rating:
8
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: adamelijahReview Date: 7/22/17 11:03 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

This episode works as a very effective introduction of Bill, while also establishing a status quo for the Doctor after the long absence with only two Christmas specials in between "Hell Bent" and "the Pilot."

Overall, the episode succeeds. Bill is an interesting and engaging character who plays wonderfully off of the Doctor. Peter Capaldi really has settled into the role and has good rapport with Bill. Bill provides some great humorous moment and a serious one as well.

In terms of the new status quo, the Pilot reveals enough so you have an idea of what's going on, but leaves a lot to be figured out by the season's end.

The monster of the story provided some scary moments and was interesting, but ultimately the overall plot seemed to me to be a bit like copies of a couple better stories from the Davies era.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
7
Plot Rating:
5
Acting Rating:
9
Replay Rating:
7
Effects Rating:
10
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: DalekbusterScreen5ReviewsReview Date: 4/29/17 9:18 pm
1 out of 1 found this review helpful.

It feels strange writing this review two weeks after the episode aired. I did see The Pilot as soon as it was broadcast, and I have seen both Smile and tonight's episode, Thin Ice - but I haven't found time to review them. I was planning to one or two days after broadcast, but I have been extremely busy with my 90 page dissertation (yes, that's right: 90 pages. I'm writing a feature film screenplay). It's kind of fitting, because the title of this episode is odd itself.

Doctor Who has already had its Pilot in An Unearthly Child, yet this episode claims to be the beginning. In some ways, it's right. This is our introduction to Bill Potts. The start of her story, just after Clara's ended. In other ways, it's like claiming 2016's The Jungle Book is the original Disney Jungle Book. It isn't. Regardless, that's the title Steven Moffat chose - and its probably this pedantic analysis of the title that he wanted fans to give. There is a literal pilot in the episode - a puddle that possesses the body of Bill's (Pearl Mackie) crush Heather (Stephanie Hyam) - but the character is not really the major focus of the episode despite being the primary antagonist, so I doubt Moffat is referring to her. More on the puddle pilot later.



The Pilot is interesting in that much like The Return of Doctor Mysterio it creates a large gap between the last episode and this one. Moffat's Doctor Who has done this often to accommodate Big Finish but this time it's different. We are told The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Nardole (Matt Lucas) have been guarding a Gallifreyan vault for somewhere between 50-70 years, and during this time the Doctor has been posing as a university lecturer at St Luke's University in Bristol. We find out in the following episode Smile that he swore an oath not to leave Earth. This is perhaps the most compelling mystery of the Moffat era, and arguably the most unpredictable story arc the 2005 revival has done.



During his time lecturing at St Luke's University The Doctor notices that a canteen worker has been regularly sneaking into his lectures, and has been reacting differently to his lectures compared to the students. The students look puzzled when they don't understand something. The canteen worker smiles. Her name is Bill Potts, and The Doctor decides to make her a student - with himself as her private tutor. Meanwhile, Bill's crush Heather notices something strange about a puddle. Instead of reflecting, it shows the same symmetrical face back. The puddle chooses Heather as its pilot and pursues The Doctor, Bill and Nardole across time and space hoping to take Bill with her on its space journey.



The puddle monster is a fun threat, but much like 2005's Rose the episode is more about introducing Bill than it is the monster-of-the-week. This can lead to the puddle monster feeling a little under-developed compared to other Moffat creations such as The Silence and the Weeping Angels. It's a cool concept that does what the best Moffat monsters do - take an ordinary childhood fear like stepping into a puddle and turn it into an alien menace - but because it isn't the episode's primary focus, it never feels like a credible adversary for The Doctor. It's for this reason that I hope the puddle monster appears again - I'd like to learn more about its origins and if it has any connections to The Flood from The Water of Mars (it bears striking similarities). Hopefully next time the puddle monster won't be played by Stephanie Hyam though.

Stephanie Hyam is terrible. She is possibly the most wooden, dull, uncharismatic actor ever to appear in Doctor Who. Every line she speaks is said in an emotionless monotone voice that makes it sound like she's under a Cyber-conversion process - in fact, maybe she was about to become a Mondasian Cyberman before the puddle monster took over? They are returning in the two part finale. I have no idea what Bill sees in Heather because Stephanie Hyam's portrayal ironically makes her come across as wet and boring. Couldn't the puddle monster have chosen someone more interesting as its pilot?



Thankfully, Bill Potts is a very interesting character. Bill is a wonderfully inquisitive companion brilliantly played by Pearl Mackie. She's the companion who asks questions that have never been asked before, such as why the words on the police box exterior are in English and 'Where's the toilet located in the TARDIS?'. The latter is something I've personally always wanted to know. Why has no companion asked that before?

As for The Doctor's other companion Nardole...well, he's just kind of there at the moment. Matt Lucas isn't given anything of note to do, and it's hard to form an opinion either way. I'm not sure what the point was in bringing back Nardole: he was barely in The Husbands of River Song, made little to no impact in The Return of Doctor Mysterio and in both Smile and Thin Ice he features even less. He may as well not even be there. Matt Lucas isn't really needed when Pearl Mackie does such a good job as Bill.



The Pilot contains some of Steven Moffat's best writing for the show. Just look at this pre-titles sequence, for example:



It's probably one of the best exchanges between Doctor and companion (even if it feels like it should have come later into the episode) and definitely one of the Moffat era's finest scenes. Much like Rose there is generally a slower pace to this episode, but it's a wise decision that helps us get to know who Bill is as a character. After the frantic pace of Series 9, it's a very welcome change of pace too. Having episodes where a lot of things happen is very fun to watch, but it runs the risk of becoming exhausting for the viewer if done too often.


The Pilot's main focus may be to introduce new viewers to the show, but there are plenty of nice references and call backs for those of us who are already fans. For instance, the Movellans from 1979's Destiny of the Daleks appear briefly fighting a war with The Daleks, and Nardole is given the Fourth Doctor's Sonic Screwdriver. There are even framed pictures on The Doctor's desk of his granddaughter Susan Foreman and wife River Song.



Intriguingly the camera lingers for a very long time on Susan's photo. Could it be foreshadowing her return? The Doctor did say that one day he would return to her...

Probably the best piece of fan service in the episode is the Impossible Girl theme playing when Bill refuses to have her memory wiped by The Doctor. It's a touching moment as the Doctor remembers his own memory being wiped, and hopefully is foreshadowing the Doctor beginning to recall who Clara is. It would be a shame if this incarnation of The Doctor regenerates without remembering his most significant companion.




Overall, The Pilot is a good introduction to the character of Bill Potts. Pearl Mackie does a great job at playing the part of Bill, especially in the knowledge that it's her first proper TV acting role. The puddle monster is a cool if underdeveloped concept and there are some nice callbacks to earlier episodes. However Matt Lucas as Nardole seems like an unnecessary inclusion and Stephanie Hyam is dreadful as Bill's crush Heather. The Pilot is essentially the 'Rose' of the Moffat era, and does just as good a job at introducing us to the new companion. If Bill is going to be the new 'pilot' leading new viewers into the world of Doctor Who, then I think the show is in safe hands.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
8
Plot Rating:
6
Acting Rating:
9
Replay Rating:
NR
Effects Rating:
8
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: TakeTheType40Review Date: 4/16/17 8:58 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

As someone who was expecting to hate Bill, I was very pleasantly surprised. I thought she was annoying and stupid in the preview (still do), but in this episode, they toned it down and Pearl Mackie's acting performance seems a lot stronger. Bill is actually hysterical and a breath of fresh air (coming from someone whose favourite companion of the entire series is Clara). It really does feel like a new show. This episode actually reminds me of 'Rose' (S01E01) except Bill seems to have a little more spunk than Rose, as well as being funnier and less ordinary. In both episodes, the threat is fairly simple with a very little complexity of plot, to focus on the introduction of the companion. I wasn't excepting to (reaaalllly wasn't) but I've already taken to Bill and even after the first episode, could easily be sad if she were to leave/die. Her sexuality was really nicely put, very subtly in contrast to Vastra/Jenny's. I believe Steven Moffat said in an interview that he wrote the scene with Heather except with a man in the role, but changed it because it didn't feel right. Nardole and the Doctor don't do much in this episode, especially Nardole. This episode is the worst case I have EVER seen of a companion being underused. Except maybe 'The Return of Doctor Mysterio' with the same companion.

In short, the series starts off with a technically weaker-than-average episode, yet that somehow makes me very, very excited for the series coming.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
8
Plot Rating:
7
Acting Rating:
10
Replay Rating:
8
Effects Rating:
8
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: traves8853Review Date: 4/16/17 9:28 am
3 out of 4 found this review helpful.

It wasn't perfect but it was better than Listen, Kill the Moon, Let's Kill Hitler, The Wedding of River Song, Death in Heaven, Hell Bent, A good Man Goes to War and soooooooo many others.

They had to introduce a companion so it was never gonna be brilliant and Bill’s sexuality was alluded to rather than overtly stated which was a nice touch, I think they handled that well.

On the other hand, the chase sequence was a mid-episode lull and the Movellians felt wasted but it was nice to see them anyway. Then there was the gratuitous 'shut up' stuff and the resolution was a bit weak – which for me was possibly the worst bit - but weirdly a lot of people seem to have a problem with the fact it had a puddle in it?

The chase scene was resolution delaying for a resolution that was undermined by the setting up of this mystery as some kind of a threat when really it was just misunderstood but I didn't feel cheated because there was plenty else to like.

It looked great, the music was unobtrusive for a change and the plot hung together reasonably well if a little contrived. None of that was a great problem and I really quite enjoyed it. A number of people have commented on how it felt like an RTD episode and not having Clara around was like a breath of fresh air. I agree.