Smile – there is new Doctor Who on a weekly basis right now. Episode two of series ten was an off world, first trip to the future for Bill and the Doctor. It included emoji speaking robots, snark, and Peter Capaldi smiling awkwardly.
Things I enjoyed about “Smile”:
Bill! (Okay, I think this might be a weekly thing that I’m happy about). But I specifically enjoyed her questioning nature in the early part of this episode – questions about the locations of the chairs in the TARDIS and question mundane things that as fans we probably have asked about at some point or another.
I like the equip about the English language having devolved into emojis and a number of the emoji jokes made me giggle.
The location of this episode and the scenery was gorgeous! *inset heart eyes emoji*
That Frank Cottrell Boyce named the Vardy after Canadian scientist Andrew Vardy from Memorial University in Newfoundland who specializes in swam robotics.
Things I wasn’t so keen on:
The human reactions to the robots – the immediate desire to kill everything felt a bit off.
The ending of the episode and the giant reset button which fixed everything seemed like an easy way out.
This episode felt a bit unoriginal – it reminded me a lot of the vardy reminded me a lot of the vashta nerada and the plot reminded me of the nanogenes from “Doctor Dances” that simply misunderstand how the human race. There were also a number of similarities between this episode and New Earth in terms of early Doctor/companion adventures.
So anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that I’m a Doctor Who fan. And anyone who has spent any time with me in the last month probably knows I was mildly very excited about the fact that Doctor Who was coming back to television after a year long hiatus. Andrew witnessed me jumping up and down in excitement over this fact more than once in the past week.
Last night “The Pilot”, the first episode of series ten aired. I’m still on a bit of high from watching it – so much squee. So my initial reactions are definitely coloured by that, which I think is fine – it’s okay just to love something and not analyze it to death.
Things I loved about the episode:
Bill Potts! I am thoroughly enjoying her character so far and I love that they didn’t skirt around her sexuality but also that her queerness was presented as normal, as part of her, and in a conversational way. It was obvious in the second line of her dialogue that she liked women however it was done tastefully.
The episode also reminded me a lot of Douglas Adam’s work — both in the never completed Doctor Who script “Shada” and in framing of his novel Dirk Gently. Basically – both of those works open with a professor who has been teaching at a university for over fifty years, and no one quite knows what his actual job is – just like this episode opened. I’m all for more Adam’s references.
Bill reaction to the idea that the Doctor was going to wipe her mind was so spot on. It linked back to Clara’s reaction and vocal discussion of her own free will. It also reminded me a lot of Donna and the tenth Doctor’s decision to wipe her mind without her consent. Bill has spark and she challenged the Doctor, stood her ground, and outright ignored him at times. I hope the intensity, curiosity, and personality of her character continues.
I also loved that Bill made numerous sci-fi references early on the episode, she made her interest apparent even before she knew about the Tardis.
Nardole was given a back seat in this episode which I think was a really smart decision allowing for this episode to focus more on the relationship between Bill and the Doctor.
Things that fell a bit flat for me:
The “puddle monster” was a very typical of Moffat’s monster. It’s an ordinary thing made scary. And it was scary initially but by end of the episode the dripping girl chasing Bill around felt a bit like a bad horror movie.
I’m not a huge fan of the tutor/student relationship setup that was used to frame the episode. The idea that Bill was bright enough to attend class but stuck in a job shoveling chips seems like a lazy plot device. I feel like this has the potential to bring in a very unbalanced power relationship into the mix.
The River Song and Susan photographs on the Doctor’s desk felt a bit forced/fan service to me – especially since they were referenced multiple times.
Overall I really liked enjoyed this episode and I’m super excited to see how Bill’s character develops over the season. I also think that this episode would serve as a good introduction to anyone looking to watch Doctor Who for the first time. The basics of how the TARDIS work are explained, it’s not tied directly to previous plot lines, and you get a fresh entry point to the series with Bill.