Sunday, 16 April 2017
The Pilot - The Review
Series 10 kicks off with a slow-burner of an episode, that takes its time setting up the new companion, Bill, and setting the scene for what looks to be this year's story arc - that mysterious vault under the university where the Doctor and Nardole have based themselves for decades. We finally learn how the latter returned from the dead - he's got a robotic body.
The story title was for a long time "A Star In Her Eye", until someone pointed out the similarity to the well known "impersonate a celebrity singer" light entertainment show. The new title - The Pilot - was well chosen.
Apart from Christmas Specials and the opening episode of Class, we haven't seen much of the Doctor for quite some time. New viewers could easily jump on with this episode. The TARDIS is reintroduced, as it is seen travelling through both Space and Time, and Bill gets to do the "bigger on the inside" bit. The Doctor is in the middle of a mission, which we don't need to know all about quite yet. He has Nardole as his assistant, and now a new companion arrives. The Doctor looks at the photo of grand-daughter Susan on his desk as he invites Bill to become his special project. She is the new unearthly child, though thankfully Bill seems to be really ordinary. Nothing impossible about her, and she isn't going to turn out to be the Master's granny or anything like that - I hope.
My biggest worry going into this episode was Bill's quirkiness. I wasn't impressed by the introductory piece shown last Spring. She just seemed too stupid - annoyingly so. Apart from the "kitchen" comment about the TARDIS interior, she turned out to be quite endearing. I think I'm going to like her after all. Not at all sure about the appropriateness of the "perversion" dialogue for a family show. Says more about the writer than the character.
As for the plot, well it was a bit of a greatest hits package. I was reminded of a number of other stories as I watched. First of all, we have The Lodger - with a mysterious spaceship needing a pilot in someone who wants to travel. Heather's watery appearances reminded me of the Siren, from Curse of the Black Spot, as well as the transformed humans in The Waters of Mars. Like the Siren, Heather's motivation turned out to be the fault of over-literal programming. Bill had promised to go with her, and she was holding her to this vow. The Doctor's university life obviously puts one in mind of Prof. Chronotis in Shada as well.
Whilst accessible to new viewers, The Pilot also had lots of little references for the more established fans. As well as the photo of Susan on his desk, there was also one of River Song. He has a brace of older sonic screwdrivers on his desk as well. The Daleks made what may be their only appearance this year, in what was little more than a cameo, and they were seen in mid-skirmish with the Movellans. These were clearly Movellans from an earlier era than the ones seen in Destiny of the Daleks, from a time before they became totally robotic, judging from the shouts and screams they were making. The Doctor's attempt to mind wipe Bill was halted by her asking him how he would feel if it happened to him - and we heard a snatch of Clara's theme.
Overall, a strong start to the new series. Next week, Bill goes on her first proper TARDIS voyage as companion, and we get the Emojibots. The preview for this episode did kind of seem to give the game away as to the plot - even showing us the colony city being blown up.
We were also treated to a preview of the rest of the series - the highlight being our first glimpse of John Simm's Master - and hooray, he's got a little beard.