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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Doctor Who: The Not Really Pilot Episode

Clever play on words, there, Moffat. Very clever.

So setting aside the Christmas Special, it's been quite a while since we've had any Doctor Who, hasn't it?

I have to admit, when the promotional materials were released for the new series, I did not like Bill at all. (And before you get started, don't. Martha's still my favourite companion of the new series, and I still have not forgiven Russel Davies for her puppy-dog fixation on the Tenth Doctor and unending jealousy of Rose). Bill came off incredibly gobby and was asking the absolute stultifyingly dumbest questions in her promotional video.

It was not a good first impression. So in a way, Pilot acts as an audition for Bill as a character. Naturally, Pearl Mackie already has the job, so we've got her like it or not, but is Bill really going to work as a character?

Naturally, the best way to do this is to have the Twelfth Doctor first make her an offer, then spend every scene afterwards trying to drive her away. Capaldi does this in fine form, managing to effortlessly out-do Matt Smith's cranky exile behaviour from his first face-to-face meeting with Clara.

Of course, it's not all him driving her away. Some of it's rescuing her from a rather creative monster. Some of it's evocative of Nine's "red bicycle when you were twelve" moment, with the box of pictures.
What's wrong with your faaaaace
Bill does pass his shit-test, happily, and redeems herself from the awful promotional videos. The scene from the promo more or less still appears, but it's been incredibly cut down, leaving out Bill's terrible lines. She also has some notable character traits: she's got an eye for detail; she's very down to earth, but at the same time says some rather poetic lines; her mind works incrementally and logically, as evidenced by her progression of assumption about the TARDIS first being a 'knock-through', then a lift, then going around the University.

But visually, she's a little jarring. (No, not that, stop it.) I can't seem to figure out what time period this season is set in because of her. The Doctor references "texting and vlogging", but Bill's entire wardrobe is a throwback to the late 80s, with high-waisted jeans, denim jackets with badges sewn into them, and glaring colours, with what I suspect to be a Siouxsie and the Banshees shirt. These are outfits you'd expect to see around Seven/Ace's period, not 30 years later, and everyone else around her seems to be dressed from the correct time period.
Overly Attached Space Girlfriend
The episode's not without its problems, but they're few and far between: the line "It hasn't rained in a week" seconds after they walk past a stream of runoff water from the University rooftops; Bill's lines from the promotional video (which I'm still holding against them); the "kitchen" reference -- in what way does the TARDIS console room look like a kitchen?

Oh, and can we please blow Nardole out the nearest airlock? I'm not a fan of Matt Lucas, and his character is annoying me. You could have given half of Nardole's lines to Bill and left out the other half and the episode could have had more time to breathe.

I'm very interested in finding out what the mystery of the season is, and I'm sure it's related to the vault in the University basement. We know Missy will show up again, John Simm's Master is rumoured to return, Nardol is still there for some reason, and the Doctor's sworn not to leave the University while he's guarding the vault and he's been there for at least 50 years so far. He's got a lock on the basement door set to "friends only" and an alert set to his psychic paper.

All in all, definitely worth a watch, and a good start for the new series. I'm just glad we've got a proper screwdriver again, and this one's a beauty:
Welcome back, proper screwdriver. 

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