First, I should introduce myself: I’ve been watching Doctor Who for what feels longer than it actually is. Four years, maybe five. Eleven is my favorite Doctor, with Mr. Capaldi a close second. Amy is my favorite companion; Donna is close behind. I’ve had many issues with the previous seasons, Clara being the majority of them. And lastly, and more importantly, I’m very hopeful about this newest season.
My mom once asked me why do I stick with a show when there is a different Doctor every three or so years, to which I replied, I don’t know. It just works. This is what I was thinking by the end of the season 10 premiere. I don’t know, it just works. (Which may or not be a good thing, but I’m hopeful.)
“The Pilot,” isn’t anything special. We’re introduced to Bill (Pearl Mackie), a curious, adventurous, and compassionate woman. She has a big heart, and lives a boring life: the perfect combination that acts like a “Doctor magnet.” Despite not attending the university, she attends the Doctor’s lectures—who’s traveling has taken a backseat, or so it seems—where he took notice of her excitement for learning. He takes her in as his pupil, thus beginning their Doctor/Companion relationship, keeping it on the ground. No time travel, no world saving, no visiting planets, just text books and lectures.
The main conflict of the episode revolves around Bill and Heather, which falls kind of flat. Without the proper development necessary for the two’s relationship, the final interaction between them feels highly undeserved. Dare I say it, borders uninteresting. It’s important to note, here, that Bill is the show’s first gay companion. (Aside from Captain Jack, but he never made it to main companion status.) And since the main conflict of this episode centers on her relationship, or desire for a romantic relationship, with Heather, Bill’s sexuality was very much a plot point. Which is fine. Because this is exposition, an introduction. And like what I said, I am hopeful.
Pearl Mackie brings something special to the table. She’s fun, she’s curious and confident, she won’t be pushed around, and she would be able to knock some sense into the Doctor when needed. For the past few companions, their relationships have felt like two people discovering the world together. This one is distinctly mentor/pupil.
While the plot was not necessarily strong, “The Pilot” never lost the Doctor Who sense of wonder. Despite knowing the Doctor’s history and the universe of the show, we still continue to discover the world around us. The show always succeeds in making us feel comfortable and confused. This was not lost.
Previous companion introductions have all felt like this: quiet, small, and magical. When Bill first enters the TARDIS, the Doctor tells her she will always be safe inside it. It leads one to wonder of a time when she won’t be. There wasn’t much in “The Pilot” that seems to allude to episodes to come. There’s a vault at the center of the university with which the Doctor is concerned. The episode ends with the Doctor saying that time changed his mind, which led him to invite Bill to travel with him. (Leads one to wonder what happened between her leaving him behind, and him standing outside beside the TARDIS.)
But allusions weren’t the point of this episode. It served its purpose of an introduction to Bill, and while there is not enough character development for it to be completely satisfying, there’s enough to keep me watching. “The Pilot” is not a perfect episode, but in typical Doctor Who fashion, it’s bizarre, and it’s curious.
3 out of 5 TARDIS’s