Rating: 7 out of 10.
Super-intelligent space oil. You know you are watching Doctor Who.
If ‘The Pilot’ was meant to act as a reboot for Doctor Who, then it works perfectly. This has to be the lowest key of Moffat’s series premieres, but that is not a criticism. In fact, it works perfectly and is up there with the best companion entries – if not the best.
The threat of the episode almost takes second place, what matters is the relationship between Bill and the Doctor and Bill’s character development. More than that, the Doctor seems to be the secondary character.
One of the criticisms of Moffat during his Doctor Who run as head-writer has been that his companions have been a mystery to solve, rather than someone that the Doctor took an interest in. At least from the opening episode, there is no mystery to Bill whatsoever.
The pre-title sequence is the meeting of Bill, Nardole and the Doctor with the latter being introduced to the series by playing Beethoven’s Fifth on the electric guitar. Straight away, Bill is shown to be witty – describing a crush as “like a model, but with talking and thinking”. Later in the episode, she describes the Doctor’s running as “Like a penguin with his arse on fire”. Once again, Murray Gold provides the series’ incidental music (where is the Series 9 Soundtrack?) and Bill’s theme is quite similar to Donna. I’m looking forward to seeing her character theme develop over the next eleven episodes.
The Doctor seems to be on a self-initiated exile at St Luke’s University, having made a promise to someone not to interfere. Pretty soon, we find out that he is protecting – or guarding – something hidden inside a vault. As Bill points out, a university is an unusual place to hide something. It’s possible that Nardole’s specific role in the series that Matt Lucas has spoken about, is protecting this vault.
Bill And Heather
Before the series was broadcast, Bill was announced as being gay and this was key in the opening episode, and it is her love interest that the episode revolves around. The main threat of the episode came through ‘The Pilot’, a mysterious puddle that Bill’s love interest Heather notices something unusual. Like in The Lodger, this puddle is a spaceship, hiding as an everyday object that is looking for a pilot to escape.
Originally, it was believed that the episode would be called ‘A Star In Her Eye’ and this would have referred to Heather whose iris defect looks like a star in her eye. She’s a mysterious character, lost somehow and scared. She’s a character who wants to leave and notices a mysterious puddle through which shows your reflection the correct way round, or the wrong way.
The most important and iconic scene of a companion is when they enter the TARDIS for the first time. Bill’s scene is similar to Rose’s. Both times, the Doctor and the companion are running from a monster, and both times, the companion get confused why the Doctor feels so safe.
It doesn’t stand up to Moffat’s previous – I think Victorian Clara’s or Amy Pond’s entrance into the TARDIS are magnificently written, but it is enjoyable.
Highlight Of The Episode
There are two moments that I remember from the episode distinctive. One is the Doctor’s Christmas present. One of the themes of the episode is getting over loss. The Doctor’s loss being related to Clara, River and longer back, his grand-daughter Susan. Bill’s loss, her mother who had died when she was a baby, The one thing Bill didn’t have were photographs of her mother, but obviously, the Doctor with all of time and space to travel through is able to travel back to give Bill her greatest Christmas present.
The other moment is found at the end of the episode and comes when Bill asks the Doctor how he would feel about having his mind wiped. This relates to the events in Hell Bent and bearing in mind the episode was meant to be a relaunch, could have been a false step. However, in dialogue, it is left open-handed whereas the only reference to Clara was her theme.