“Do you know any sci-fi?”
So here we are, the moment that the epic rewatch has been building up to – the start of Doctor Who’s tenth series, notable for being the final one for both Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor and showrunner Steven Moffat. And perhaps predictably, Episode One – The Pilot is a cracking piece of TV, a real return to form that hopefully will last across the entire series (I’m not holding my breath…) or at least the majority of it (that I feel more confident about).
Key to this is the arrival of Pearl Mackie’s new companion Bill, a welcome breath of real fresh air into the standard trope but more importantly, a distinct separation from what came just before. No offence to Jenna Coleman’s Clara but the character’s knowingness made it hard to ever warm to her and though on paper, the idea of her being more of an equal to the Doctor has legs, in reality it just became rather self-satisfyingly wearying.
The contrast with a more ‘human’ partner is where the show has often excelled (qv the emotional depth of Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble) and Mackie starts most promisingly here. Moffat’s dialogue keeps her dryly witty whilst being convincingly freaked-out at her introduction to the TARDIS. That she’s a lesbian and a POC is at once important and incidental – it would be magnificent to say that it doesn’t matter but we’re far away from that in this world we live in so it is undoubtedly significant. And what I particularly liked was how casually but firmly Bill’s relationship with the starry-eyed Heather was the defining point of this episode.
Matt Lucas’ Nardole was definitely in the background so it will be interesting to see how he is developed as a second companion, rumours abound about what he might get up to, and the seeds of what might drive this series were laid with the unexplained ‘thing in a vault’ that the Doctor has been protecting whilst working as a university lecturer.
Looking ahead, the return of John Simm as the Master, alongside Michelle Gomez’s Missy promises something most exciting indeed (possibly around regeneration?), Mike Bartlett’s debut as a Who writer comes with Episode 4 – Knock Knock which will hopefully be amazing, and my theatrically-inclined heart is hugely looking forward to Episode 5 – Oxygen which features Mimi Ndiweni, Kieran Bew, Justin Salinger, Peter Caulfield, and Katie Brayben among its cast members. I can’t help myself, I’m cautiously optimistic that this might be a good one guys!