A Doctor Who Community
Saturday 8:00 PM on BBC America (Returning December 2017)
The Doctor is back and a with new travelling companion!

At long last Dr Who made it back onto UK screens on Saturday night, for a new series, and I wasn’t disappointed.

I’m hoping, as this is to be Capaldi’s final series as the Doctor, that it’s going to be a good one. The last series had some great episodes which basically centred the story arc around the fact that Jenna Coleman’s character, Clara, was leaving. If they follow this formula then we could be in for a great series.

This episode was, fittingly, called the Pilot. This, as well as referring to the story itself, could be alluding to a fresh start for the show and there are a few reasons, mentioned later, that point to this.

The story was good. With only 50 minutes to tell the story, the show employed some of its standard, time jumps (No pun intended) where we have a series of small scenes that cover a number of months. Sometimes Dr Who gets it wrong and it looks disjointed, but I’m happy to say it used those jumps well in this episode.

Basically, the story centred around intelligent starship ‘engine oil’ finding someone to use as a ‘pilot’. That someone being a young student called Heather who ‘always wants to leave’. A perfect mindset for the oil to use. Unfortunately, this oily presence became attached to the Doctor’s new partner in crime, Billie Potts, due to a promise Heather made to Billie not to leave her. As the Doctor mentions, the power of a ‘crush’ shouldn’t be underestimated.

After numerous attempts to outrun ‘Heather’ though space and time fail, they eventually try to ‘decontaminate’ her by luring her to a battle raging in the original war between the Daleks and the Thals. Even a blast from a Dalek can’t stop Billie’s stalker. On a side note I hope this isn’t the only time we see Daleks this series. Dr Who without at least one Dalek story is like eating strawberries without cream in Summer! It can’t (and shouldn't) be done.

Ultimately, it’s up to Billie to realise that the simplest explanation was the right one. Simple human emotion, attraction and that one promise Heather made to Billie. She tells Heather that she has to let her go and the presence, after showing Billie what they could have experienced if she chose to go with her, leaves. I like the fact that, after everything the Doctor does to solve the mystery, it’s Billie who comes up with the answer as it cements her character as someone who is going to compliment the Time Lord and the partnership is going to be a two-way learning experience.

I was pleased that this episode was written so that the viewer didn’t guess the twists in the first five minutes (Which is what disappointed me slightly last series). With this episode, however, the twists were realised a couple of seconds before they were revealed which is, in my opinion, how it should be.

Yes, there are some anomalies in the story, such as how the oil can physically leave earth and travel to a planet at the other end of the universe, or can time travel to the Dalek home world, Skaro, to a battle between the Daleks and Thals. Unless it’s Tardis oil and the Doctor isn’t being truthful with us.

I think Billie Potts is going to be a great partner for the Doctor. She reminds me of a modern version of those stronger companions in the old series. Those who are independent, intelligent, eager to learn and who embrace the amazing things they inevitably see, but who are able to show the Doctor that, for all his decades of experience and knowledge, sometimes the simplest, most mundane explanations can be the answer to why something is happening. This builds on Clara’s character development from the last series. If you read back you’ll notice that I compared Clara to the one and only Sarah Jane in her strength of character. Clara also had the ability to have a separate life from her travels with the Doctor without pining for him and, indeed, was fully comfortable working for UNIT without him. It would be a backward step to go back to companions who rely on the Doctor.

It’s Billie’s curiosity and fascination that attracts the Doctor to her. He’s teaching at a university and is trying hard not to get personally involved with anyone. He has pictures of both River, and his granddaughter Susan, on his desk. This is a call back to the first Doctor, William Hartnell and, possibly, also the fact that this incarnation is the result of him being given another twelve regenerations. It’s also not lost on me that this also ties in with this episode being called ‘The Pilot’ and the fact that Hartnell played only one series before his Doctor regenerated. It could all be coincidence, but it’s fun to speculate, isn’t it?

Anyway. The Doctor sees the chance to tutor, and pass on his knowledge to, Billie. Why her? Well, she attends his lectures even though she isn’t a student and serves chips in the canteen but, when she points out lots of people who aren’t students go to his lectures, he tells her he’s noticed that when he’s explaining something difficult, unlike the others, she doesn’t frown. She smiles. That’s everything to a teacher and so, seeing her potential, he starts to tutor her. Judging by her marks, she is a smart cookie.

She is also, the producers say, the show’s first openly gay companion. This is unmistakable when we hear the hilarious story of how Billie flirted with a girl (that she describes as beautiful and could be a model) attending the university and how she kept giving her extra chips at the canteen until she realised the girl had ended up putting on a lot of weight. I’m not sure how Billie’s line ‘I fatted her!’ will go down but, in the true sense of the show however, this all goes over the Doctor’s head. He’s not worried about Billie’s orientation and is just interested in that spark of curiosity that will make her a brilliant student. This is what Dr Who tries to teach us all the time. It doesn’t matter who you are, it’s your potential and what you can make of yourself that counts.

Billie isn’t the first LGBTQ character on Dr Who since it’s reboot back in 2005. We’ve had Captain Jack Harkness who could be described as a homo-romantic bisexual man, who was a very charming and flirtatious sort character who would flirt with any gender from many different races, but who eventually had a strong romantic relationship with Ianto from Torchwood. We’ve had the Silurian detective Madame Vastra who was very happily married to her Human maid/crime-fighting partner Jenny. And we also had that ongoing tease from Clara, who appeared to have first-hand knowledge that Jane Austen was a ‘phenomenal kisser’!

Dr Who is a bit of a diversity champion, not just for LGBTQ and race, but also showing disability in a strong, positive way and I like that about Dr Who. Everyone is equal on this show. We even know that Time Lords can now regenerate to different genders, the most famous being The Master who regenerated into Missy, unfortunately for the Doctor, the only thing that didn’t change was the erratic, spontaneous evil personality. But then again, this is what we love about the Master/Missy – the fact that he/she acts like an over the top James Bond villain one minute but is then capable of such shocking, murderous evil in the next, you feel ashamed that you laughed at his/her antics! Both John Simm and Michelle Gomez are experts at lulling you into thinking this is a laughable character then making you realise you completely underestimated how evil they are. But, at the core, they are one and the same regardless of gender.

In terms of Billie, this was a very strong opening performance by Pearl Mackie, who plays Billie as optimistic, fun and eager. She also pulls off the emotional parts well too such as when she looks at the photos of her Mum that she didn’t think she had (Although she does notice that the Doctor has taken some of those photos). This makes me think we will have an episode where Billie meets her Mum (Tissues at the ready people! Dr Who does those episodes very emotionally). The final moments between Billie and ‘Heather’ were also quite moving when you think of it as something that could have been but ultimately wasn’t to be. I’ve not seen Pearl before so I have no benchmark, but if this episode is anything to go by we have a brilliant young actor we need to watch. British TV can be very stuck in its ways which means we eventually lose a lot of fantastic new talent to the much bigger word of California and American TV. I hope we can hold onto Pearl for as long as possible.

Capaldi has really settled into the character now and has made the role his own. It’s a shame that it’s his last outing as the Doctor but, as mentioned earlier, I’m hoping this will mean a great final series for him. Matt Lucas is on hand as fan favourite Nardole, bridging the gap between the often emotionally aloof Doctor and those around him, with a dose of humour (He sets the security of the entrance, to where the Doctor has his vault, with a Facebook style ‘Friends Only’ setting!) and an emotional awareness when asking Billie if she is all right - ‘He never notices the tears’.

A couple of things I did notice prompt thought:

Heather is fairly unique with an iris ‘defect’ that makes it appear that she has a star in her eye. Add that to the ‘do you think we’ll see her again’ type comments and she may well make a reappearance in future episodes.

There is also that ‘vault’ that the Doctor and Nardole are securing. What's in there? I think this vault is going to be the main story arc.

I did notice on Twitter that we have a lot of new foes in this series. One thing that is noticeable is that the Ice Warriors appear to have undergone another change and are more humanoid in appearance, similar to their first appearances, rather than being a ‘battle suit’ as show in the Matt Smith years.

We got a preview of what's to come and we saw a regeneration. As we also saw Missy and the Master (In the form of John Simm from the David Tennant years) I believe this regeneration is going to be Missy changing back to her male incarnation. John Simm was brilliant as the Master and so this could be interesting.

All in all it looks like a pretty good series and I’m looking forward to seeing where it heads.

Comments (12)
Sort: Latest | Popular
Apr 24, 2017
It was great to see the Movellans back as the Doctor's "friends" shooting at the Daleks. It's a shame we didn't get to see more of them as they looked much "harder" than their original counterparts from Destiny of the Daleks. They managed to keep the basic look, white jump suits, silver dreadlocks and even the pink guns, and yet make them not seem anywhere near as "Eighties Camp" as they did in their only previous appearance.

Hopefully we'll get to see a bit more of them now they've been visually redeemed, since Destiny of the Daleks did imply they'd been stuck in battle gridlock, and was the reason the Daleks revived Davros, so there's a big back-story there to fill. Though I suspect, like the Macra in Gridlock, this was possibly just a "blink and you miss it" nod to the past.
Apr 21, 2017
Her name is Bill. Not Billie. Did you even watch this episode? She is not referred to as Billie at any point in the episode, nor has anyone involved in the show referred to the character as Billie. Bill Potts. Her name is Bill Potts.
Apr 30, 2017
I'm going by the fact that the BBC Dr Who producers and writers originally named her Billie Potts. The fact that her name is shortened doesn't come into it. If you prefer the shortened name fine. I prefer the name given by the people who created her character.
Apr 30, 2017
What is your source for that? Ever since the character was announced I've only ever seen her referred to by the BBC as Bill.
Apr 30, 2017
Like I literally just googled it to be sure, and when I searched "Billie Potts Dr Who", it asked me if I meant "Bill Potts Dr Who" so I think you're wrong and don't want to correct yourself so you're saying that Moffat or one of the producers referred to her as Billie, which they didn't, so just correct your post so you don't look like such a knob.
Apr 18, 2017
I liked Starry Eye girl. She gave off a Ksenia Solo aura of beauty.
Apr 19, 2017
She is quite an intriguing character. I'd like to see her again myself. She doesn't seem like a one off extra so I'm hoping.
Follow this Show