Saturday, April 22, 2017

Doctor Who 10.01: "The Pilot"

“Scared is good. Scared is rational. She wasn’t human anymore.”
-The Doctor

“The Pilot” was the long-awaited premiere of the tenth season of “Doctor Who,” the last season that will star Peter Capaldi (tear) and be helmed by Stephen Moffat (hooray!). The episode was a mostly satisfying (in that she at least sort of felt like a fully-formed human being) introduction to new companion Bill. The plot however, was your typical Moffat thin but twisty special. I had trouble paying attention to it in the middle, as per usual. It seems complicated on the surface, but when you look deeper, there’s just not much there. When I watch “Doctor Who,” I like to feel connected to the characters and fully immersed in the world, and that’s just not at all what Stephen Moffat brings to the table. I’ll watch the rest of this season because I’m a big fan of Peter Capaldi, and the new companion seems cool, but I’m anxiously awaiting what Chris Chibnall will do with the franchise next season.

The episode starts off by introducing us to Bill Potts, who is escorted by Nardole into the Doctor’s office at the university where he has been teaching. She awkwardly looks around the office until she hears the Doctor playing his guitar. She then coughs to make her presence known, and the Doctor greets her. She’s a lunch lady at the university who serves chips in the canteen, but she always comes to the Doctor’s lectures, and he wants to know why. She tells this long drawn out story of how she served extra chips to a hot student who liked his lectures and accidentally made her fat. The Doctor, not really caring about this story, says he likes that Bill always smiles when she doesn’t understand something instead of frowning, and he offers to be her personal tutor. As we see in some montages of Bill’s day to day life following this meeting, her foster mother is rather skeptical of the arrangement, thinking that the Doctor must want something more for the tutoring. Bill assures her that this isn’t the case, though.

Also in the montage (where the Doctor is giving a pretty sounding lecture that ends in him explaining the acronym TARDIS), we see Bill’s attention turn from the chips eater to another woman named Heather. Heather has a defect in one of her irises that looks like a star. Bill thinks that’s really cool, but Heather hates it and wants to get it fixed. Bill loves the university and has always wanted to go there, even if she can only be there as a lunch lady, but Heather hates it and always feels like she needs to leave and go somewhere else. We never really find out why – Heather isn’t exactly a fully developed character. More of a plot device.

Anyway, after accidentally seeing the Doctor and Nardole working on the TARDIS, getting freaked out, and running away, Bill spots Heather sitting on a bench. Heather also looks a bit freaked out, so Bill asks her what’s going on. Heather shows Bill a puddle, which is unusual because it hasn’t rained in days. She tells Bill to look in the puddle, and Bill sees what at first appears to be a reflection of her face. Upon closer inspection, however, she realizes it doesn’t look quite right. Before she can get any answers, Heather runs away. Within the puddle, a voice says contact has been made with the Pilot.

Around the holidays, we learn a bit more of Bill’s backstory. Her mother died when she was a baby. She hated having her picture taken, so while Bill has been told she looks like her mother, she doesn’t really have any evidence of that. A few days later, her foster mother randomly finds a whole box of photographs of Bill’s mother. Bill looks through them and starts to realize what is going on when, in one of the photographs, she sees a reflection of the Doctor taking the picture. There’s too much drama with Heather going on to worry about that for too long, however. Bill sees her staring at the puddle again, and when Heather seems happier, Bill tries to chat her up, making her promise she won’t disappear on her again. Unfortunately for both of them, however, Heather does disappear. Into the puddle, where she is now officially its pilot.

Bill starts telling the Doctor about the puddle, and he’s concerned enough that he immediately jumps up and runs to investigate. At first, he starts explaining what’s going on. The puddle isn’t showing a reflection. Something inside it is mimicking Bill. Bill realizes this when she sees that in the puddle, the patch on her jacket is on the wrong side. Heather was able to recognize something is up right away because of the star in her eye. Anyway, the Doctor thinks better of drawing Bill too deeply into this world, and he tries to brush it all off as some sort of optical illusion. As he and Bill leave the puddle, the same sinister voice announces that the Passenger has been located and will be pursued.

And so the pursuit begins. Bill goes home to hear someone running water in the bathroom. When a phone call establishes that it’s not her foster mother, she starts investigating. The tub and she floor and the shower are somewhat wet, but nobody is there. Then Bill looks in the shower drain and sees Heather’s eye staring back at her. She immediately goes to the Doctor, although not before having a bit of a staring contest with a wet Heather outside the building. As Bill closes the door to the Doctor’s office, the water starts to seep in under the crack. The Doctor has no choice but to take Bill into the TARDIS. She’s not, to the Doctor’s chagrin, as freaked out by it all as you might think. She compares it to a really posh kitchen, and she wants to know where the toilet is. She starts realizing the stakes when the Doctor moves the TARDIS and they find themselves in another part of the University. The Doctor has a vault there, and he wants to make sure that’s not what the puddle is after. It soon becomes apparent, though, that the puddle is actually after Bill.

To test the puddle, the Doctor moves the TARDIS several times. First to Sydney, Australia (I was a bit jealous of that since it’s one of my favorite cities), then the opposite end of the universe 23 million years into the future. That jump gives the Doctor just enough time to theorize about what is going on. He thinks the puddle is a bit of liquid from a spaceship that can change into whatever is needed. Heather needed to get away, so the ship basically “ate” her and made her its pilot. She made a promise not to leave Bill, so now it’s after Bill. After everyone is safe back in the TARDIS, the Doctor decides that they need to try and decontaminate the puddle by taking it through a Dalek attack. So that introduces Bill to Daleks. And Heather briefly takes the form of a Dalek (even Daleks can’t disable her now). Bill asks Heather to let her go, and Heather seems to understand, but then she reaches out her hand and Bill grabs it. Bill can briefly see all over the universe, but she can also hear the Doctor’s voice saying it’s a trap. She and Heather say goodbye, and Bill lets go.

Back at the university, the Doctor wants to wipe Bill’s memory, because he had promised not to go Time Lording about anymore. He’s at the university on the down-low and nobody can know he’s there. Bill protests, saying this is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to her, and she wants to be able to remember it for at least one night before the Doctor does what he has to do. She asks the Doctor to think about how it would feel if someone tried to wipe his mind. This has happened to the Doctor before (Clara’s fault, if I recall correctly), so he lets her keep her memories, but she needs to leave immediately. Bill goes outside, happily remembering her brief tour around the universe. All of a sudden, the TARDIS materializes and the Doctor is standing behind her. He has changed his mind, and he’s ready for more adventures after all.

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