Doctor Who Season 10 Episode 1: The Pilot

Nardole (Matt Lucas) brings Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) into the Doctor’s (Peter Capaldi) large university office. The TARDIS is in the corner; on his desk are pictures of River Song and his granddaughter Susan. There is a cup full of the previous Doctors’ sonic screwdrivers. In the background, Bill hears an electric guitar playing Beethoven’s Fifth. In walks the Doctor, he asks her why she is attending his lectures. Bill denies it at first but the Doctor tells her he has seen her. The Doctor asks her why she is attending. Bill works at the university canteen and she met a student there who she thought was a model; she liked her and gave her extra chips. One day she noticed she was fat, Bill is sure she ‘fatted’ her up. The Doctor asks what does this have to do with her attending his lectures. She likes his lectures and they are popular because he can give lectures on quantum physics and poetry together. She asks him why he is singling her out when she isn’t the only one who shouldn’t be at his lectures. He points out when someone doesn’t understand what he is talking about they frown, Bill smiles. The Doctor offers to be her personal tutor. She has to meet him at 6:00 p.m. every weekday, and he warns her not be late because time is important to him. Bill asks what to call him, he says the Doctor, Bill asks Doctor What?

The Doctor is giving a lecture on time and relativity to a crowded lecture hall while we see a montage of Bill’s day. Heather (Stephanie Hyam) who will be important in this story attends. Bill and Heather meet each other at a club, and time seems to stop for both of them. Later, Bill sees the Doctor and Nardole skulking about; she follows them to a tunnel. In the tunnel is a vault, the vault looks like it is Gallifreyan. The Doctor and Nardole look like they are trying to open it or are running tests on it, I’m not sure. Bill is able to sneak off without detection. Outside the tunnel, Bill sees Heather sitting on a bench looking preoccupied. Bill tells her it looks like she has a star in her eye, in a prickly manner Heather says it’s a defect and she plans to have it fixed. Bill asks her what is wrong; Heather asks Bill can she show her something. Bill answers affirmatively and they walk over to a puddle in an abandoned lot. On the way there, Bill asks Heather how she likes it here at the university and Heather responds she doesn’t, everywhere she goes she wants to leave. When they get to the puddle Heather asks Bill if she notices something wrong with the puddle. At first, Bill just sees her face but then notices something isn’t right. When she looks up, Heather has walked away. Beneath the puddle, we hear a voice say, “Pilot is located. Link is established.”

Time is passing and it is the Christmas season. Bill buys the Doctor a rug. He hadn’t gotten her anything but she says that is okay because the rug was cheap. As they sit down at the table wearing the traditional paper crowns, Bill asks if he is going anywhere. He answers that he doesn’t go anywhere for Christmas. Bill doubts that and responds with something her mother use to say, “You can smell the wind in their clothes”; except Bill’s mom died when she was a baby, so she never heard her say it. It is just something she has made up in her mind. She sadly looks at the pictures on the Doctor’s desk and says she doesn’t have any pictures of her mom but maybe pictures aren’t that important. Bill goes home and exchanges gifts with Moira (Jennifer Hennessy), her foster mom. She gave Moira a scarf while Moira gave her hard cold cash. They don’t appear to be especially close. Moira found a box of pictures of Bill’s mom. She was surprised they had any. Bill looks at the pictures of her beautiful mom and starts weeping. It is a cathartic cry. She stumbles upon one picture that has the Doctor’s reflection in the mirror, with a camera in his hand taking a picture of Bill’s mom.

It is the beginning of the new school term. Bill walks into the Doctor’s office and notices the rug under the TARDIS. She thinks it is strange since the Doctor had told her they had to use a crane to get the TARDIS in. Later on in the day, she runs into Heather. She is acting strange. She invites Bill to look at the puddle again. Bill asks her not to leave this time, and Heather responds she won’t leave her. When Bill gets to the puddle, Heather is gone again. Heather has a great excuse this time; she is under the puddle. The puddle says, “Pilot engaged.”

Bill walks into the Doctor’s office crestfallen. He asks her what’s wrong. She explains the puddle making your face look wrong when you look in it. While she is still talking, the Doctor bolts out of the room. She runs after him. When she catches up with him, he is at the puddle. Bill: “Why do you run like that?” Doctor: “Like what?” Bill: “Like a penguin with its arse on fire.” Doctor: “Ergonomics.” The Doctor looks at the puddle and figures out what is happening. The reflection is too symmetrical. Because of the defect in Heather’s eye, she couldn’t see that. Bill asks if it isn’t a reflection, why it moves like one. The Doctor realizes the puddle isn’t reflecting; it’s mimicking. He takes a sample and tells Bill to take the day off and do student things. After they leave the puddle says, “Passenger selected, pursuit engaged.”

The sound of running water greets Bill when she enters her apartment. Her phone rings and it is Moira, she is at the pub with some friends. Bill asks if anyone is staying at the apartment but Moira says no. Bill investigates using an umbrella as a weapon. She goes into the bathroom but it is empty, but the floor is wet. She looks in the shower but it is also empty. She looks down the drain and sees Heather’s star eye. Bill flees the apartment and heads towards the Doctor’s office. Before she gets there, she sees Heather, dripping wet. When she gets closer, Heather looks like she has drowned. Heather mimics everything Bill says and then she jumps towards Bill.

Bill makes it to the Doctor’s office and tries to block his door with a chair. She babbles about what is happening, and Heather liquefies and flows under the door and becomes solid again. The Doctor takes Bill inside the TARDIS. Bill asks why they are going inside this box. The Doctor tells her no one can get in. Bill asks how, it is only made of wood and has windows. The box is dark and then suddenly the box lights up (and the full orchestral music pipes in) and Bill notices that it isn’t just a box. The Doctor in full Doctor mode welcomes Bill into the TARDIS.

Trying to get her head around what she is seeing, Bill asks, “Is this a knock-through?” The Doctor says no. She says because of all the shiny metal it looks like a posh kitchen. The Doctor is taken aback by that. As he starts talking about time and space, Bill asks can she use the toilet. He gives her directions and Nardole walks in. He is surprised to see a human there and the Doctor tells him it’s all right, she is going to use the toilet. Nardole advises her to give it a minute. Heather is banging on the TARDIS door so the Doctor decides to move it. Bill is surprised it can move; now she thinks it is a lift. The Doctor has taken them to the vault, he is afraid that is what Heather is after. Bill doesn’t think so. Looking back inside the TARDIS, Bill finally says, “It looks bigger on the inside than it does on the outside.” The Doctor and Nardole wonder why it took her so long to say it. Heather shows up and the Doctor agrees; Heather is after them.

They jump back in the TARDIS and show up in Australia. Bill is shaken up and goes to the bathroom at the beachfront restaurant where they materialized. In the bathroom, Bill asks the Doctor some questions. Bill: “Are you from space?” Doctor: “No, of course not. Nobody’s from space. I’m from a planet like everyone else.” The Doctor explains he isn’t from this planet. Bill wonders how he gave the TARDIS an English name when he is from another planet. Before they can continue, the mirror turns wet and Heather’s head is materializing from the mirror. They run back into the TARDIS.

Since Heather travelled to Australia, so quickly the Doctor decides to put some distance between them and her. He leaves earth and goes 23 million years in the future to another planet. The Doctor hypotheses what is happening. The liquid in the puddle could be part of the alien craft that landed on Earth. The puddle might be an intelligent shape-shifting liquid. Because Heather felt like she always wants to leave, the puddle saw what it needed, someone to be the pilot. While they are talking, Bill walks over to a puddle, sees Heather’s reflection, and instead of running, allows it to grab hold of her face. The Doctor and Nardole save her and get her back inside the TARDIS. The Doctor comes up with a solution, basic sterilization. Nardole loves the idea until he hears the rest of the plan. They are going to run through the deadliest fire in the universe, they will find it in the middle of a warzone. The Doctor tells them not to worry, they are about to meet some old friends of his. If you want to call them ‘friends’.

The old friends are Daleks. They are in the middle of a battle between them and another race. Heather shows up and the Doctor tricks a Dalek into shooting her. The Dalek’s blast is the deadliest fire in the universe. It isn’t that deadly for Heather. She mimics the Dalek and takes his physical form. The Doctor wonders why it wants Bill so much and Bill remembers the last thing Heather said before the puddle grabbed her, her promise not to leave Bill. Her last conscious thought is not to leave Bill. Her goal is to make Bill her passenger. Heather changes back to human form and reaches her hand out to Bill. Before the Doctor and Nardole can stop her, she touches Heather’s hand and sees the universe. It is an invitation to join Heather. Bill can hear the Doctor telling her that Heather isn’t human any longer and she’ll have to let her go. Bill says goodbye to Heather, and Heather says goodbye to Bill and liquefies back into a puddle.

“I saw it all for a moment.” Bill turns to look at the TARDIS back in the Doctor’s office. How can she forget all she saw? She was scared to go with Heather, the Doctor tells her scared is a good thing. The Doctor looks strangely at Bill; he would like to show her something. As he heads towards her, Bill quickly figures it out; the Doctor is going to wipe her memories. She tells him she knows what he is up to; she has seen this in movies. He explains he is there in disguise, no one can know why his is there at the university. Bill asks him to imagine how it would feel if someone did this to him. Clara’s theme music plays in the background and the Doctor tells her to go before he changes his mind. The Doctor looks at his pictures of Susan and River and tells them to shut up. Bill is outside thinking about what Heather showed her when she spots the Doctor outside with the TARDIS. He invites her to join him in the TARDIS. Bill asks him what changed his mind. The Doctor’s answer is time; he decided what the hell. Bill joins the Doctor for her new adventures.



After a long 16 months wait, with only two Christmas specials to fill the void, we finally get Season 10 of Doctor Who. There are some big changes since Season 9, the biggest being a new companion. The new companion is Bill Potts played by newcomer Pearl Mackie. Ms. Mackie has a limited filmography but she has done extensive stage work. Going by her work in this episode, she should have a great television career going forward. Bill is a breath of fresh air. As much as I liked Amy and Clara, it is nice not having another companion just like them. If you were going to compare her to previous companions, Rose and Donna would be the closest. She is working class as they were, and she isn’t a puzzle piece for the Doctor to figure out as Amy and Clara were. Bill is smart and inquisitive. She doesn’t take everything about the Doctor’s world face value. She has a joy about her that is infectious. Pearl Mackie and Peter Capaldi have wonderful chemistry together. She is a great addition to the cast.
The episode started slowly, but that was to allow us to learn about Bill. I liked that instead of her immediately being thrown into the TARDIS, she has a relationship with the Doctor for nearly a school year before the adventures begin. She had caught the Doctor’s eye during his lectures. He liked that instead of frowning when she was confused about something he said in the lectures, she smiled. Even though she works in the school cafeteria, serving fries to the students, she has a thirst for knowledge and the intellect to consume it. The Doctor becoming her private tutor reminded me of an old Michael Caine, Julie Walters’ movie, “Educating Rita”. It was about a disillusioned professor who gets new life tutoring a hairdresser. Of course, it isn’t just like the movie, but it reminded me of the movie in a small way.
The episode “The Pilot” serves as a pilot for anyone new to Doctor Who. It explains the premise of the show and introduces old concepts of the show that a new viewer wouldn’t know. Anytime you bring in a new companion or a new Doctor, the show has a chance to start anew. That is how you remain a fixture in pop culture for over 50 years.
The big overarching mystery this season is what is in the vault, and why is the Doctor protecting it? The Doctor has been lecturing at this university for over 50 years, so it must be important for the Doctor to hang around one place this long. It will be fun watching the interactions between the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole. The episode itself was fun, romantic, and exciting. After watching it twice, thinking, and writing about it, it really grew on me.

Grade: A-

Anthony (Kbear!) Nichols | Editor-in-Chief
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