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Who Review: World Enough and Time

The Doctor believes Missy really wants to shed her evil ways and become good, so he devises a test for her. The TARDIS picks up a distress call, and responds. Wherever they end up, the Missy will be “The Doctor” and lead Bill and Nardole in figuring out the problem, solving it, and saving lives, just as he would. Bill is not too thrilled about this plan. She doesn’t trust Missy and is afraid it’ll backfire. The Doctor assures her he will be monitoring the situation, and will intervene if things go awry. They land on a colony ship in distress. Missy, Bill, and Nardole determine that the ship is trying to pull away from the event horizon of a black hole, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone around. Then they are confronted by what seems to be sole survivor of a miles-long ship that was carrying hundreds of people. And he’s pointing a gun at them. The Doctor intervenes, but that doesn’t improve things. In fact, a shot is fired, and someone dies. They are taken to the lower part of the ship where they will be “repaired.” However, the ship is so long, there is a significant time difference between the two ends. But that’s not the only surprise waiting at the bottom of the ship. It seems the crew didn’t all die. At least not in the traditional sense. They too were repaired. And the ship isn’t from Earth, as they at first thought, but from a planet very like Earth–its twin, one could say. For both the Doctor and Missy, the past is about to catch up with them…

SPOILER ALERT!! My comments may (and likely will) contain spoilers for those that haven’t seen the episode. If you want to stay spoiler-free, please watch the story before you continue reading!

The spoiler-free version of my review is as follows:

OH MY GOODNESS!! You… wh… huh?? Ha! Awwww!!! What?! Oh my! In other words, you will really want to watch this episode, and probably the next one too since it’s part one of a two-parter.

Now the spoilery version:

All season we’ve been promised the return of the Mondasian Cybermen–the original Cybermen from 1966–and John Simm as The Master. Steven Moffat decided to keep us waiting the whole season for the realization of his promise. And what a way to do it! I’ve said before in my reviews that Steven Moffat was by far the best writer of the Russell T. Davies era, but his writing suffered when he took on show-running duties. Some of his stories have been good, but others have been below par. His plots have tried too hard to be clever, and at times his attempts to be unconventional or surprising have resulted in stories that, to some degree, lack credulity. In this story, however, he gives us a Cyberman origins story (itself a daring move to make) that I can buy. On top of that, he throws in at least one twist that caught us all by surprise: Bill getting shot and turned into one of the first Cybermen.

There were other potential plot surprises: the return of the Mondasian Cybermen, and the return of the John Simm Master. If we had not known about these months ago, they would have been truly amazing surprises. The Master’s disguise as Razor is one of his best yet (some of his Classic Series disguises were quite… um… not impressive), and it took me a while before I started getting suspicious. Of course, if I hadn’t been expecting John Simm, I probably wouldn’t have been looking for him under the make-up, and that would have been a surprise of “Earthshock” proportions.

For his final finale, Moffat also took the opportunity to resolve an old issue among Whovians: “Doctor Who.” We know that’s the name of the show, but the title character has always been called “The Doctor,” except for a couple of instances where he is referred to as “Doctor Who.” The one that springs to mind most vividly is in the First Doctor story “The War Machines,” when WOTAN, the computer, says “Doctor Who is required.” So, which is it? Missy solves the problem for us: “Doctor Who” is his real name, or at least the name he originally chose. But it was too “on-the-nose” in the mystery department, so he shortened it to “The Doctor.” I think that’s as good an explanation as any, and probably better than most.

As we’ve come to expect with NuWho, the effects, scenery, costumes are all top-notch. I liked that the Twelfth Doctor’s sonic screwdriver doubles as a marker pen (watch for that in the shops in time for Christmas). The fact he carries a screwdriver around with him, not a gun, is so typically Doctor Who, so it only makes sense that there’s a pen hidden inside, not a knife. We aren’t told if the blue guy on the ship is of the same race as the blue people we met in “Oxygen,” but knowing Moffat’s penchant for arcs and self-referencing, I wouldn’t be surprised.

But what about Bill? Is that it for her? Is she now a Cyberman, i.e., for all intents and purposes, dead? Or will the Doctor do something to bring her back? As much as I’ve enjoyed Bill as a companion, as well as Pearl Mackie’s outstanding performance, I want to say that I hope not. I really do hope this is it for Bill. It was heartbreaking to see her get shot, and to be betrayed by Razor after all the time she spent with him while waiting for the Doctor. I think it would undermine the drama, and ruin the tone of the finale if she were to suddenly be brought back. And please… PLEASE… once she’s gone, let her be gone. All those Danny and Clara reappearances after their demises became really quite annoying in the last two seasons. Let them go, Steven. Kill your darlings and let them go.

This was an excellent episode of Doctor Who. I want to say “Must-See,” but it has a context. For the Whovians who know the show’s history, yes, this is “Must-See.” For everyone else, I would encourage you watch it. And I hope I can say the same for part two, “The Doctor Falls.” We’ll have to wait and see…

What did you think?

Who Review: The Eaters of Light

The TARDIS lands in second century Aberdeen, where Bill wants to prove a theory to the Doctor. The history books talk of the disappearance of the ninth Roman legion, but Bill is convinced they just vanished, or left. The Doctor counters that they were annihilated in battle, even though no physical evidence of their existence has ever been found. However, the missing legion soon comes to light. The Doctor and Nardole find their shriveled remains scattered across a field near the woods. Death by light deprivation. Meanwhile, Bill manages to find the remnants of the army: a small group of frightened teenagers living in underground caves. They rescue her from the mysterious monster that has been tormenting them, driving them into hiding. That strange creature with glowing tentacles wiped out almost the entire legion. And now it’s coming for them. The Scottish Picts are also living in fear. It was they that set the monster on the marauding Romans, but that monster is now loose, and, as the Doctor and Nardole explain to them, unless that monster is sent back to where it belongs, the sun, the stars, and life on Earth is doomed.

SPOILER ALERT!! My comments may (and likely will) contain spoilers for those that haven’t seen the episode. If you want to stay spoiler-free, please watch the story before you continue reading!

The big story with Episode 10 of Season 10 is that it was written by Classic Series writer Rona Monro–not only one of the few women to write for the Classic Series, but the woman who wrote the last story of the Classic Series, “Survival.” We’ve had Classic Series Doctors, companions, monsters, and directors, returning to the New Series, but Rona is the first returning writer. I don’t know why there’s been such a hesitation over the last 12 years to bring back Classic Series writers. Maybe they’ve all moved on and are not interested (some of them have, sadly, moved on permanently and are not able), or maybe the New Series production team didn’t think the Classic writers could handle the new style and new format. Whatever the reason, it’s nice to see a familiar name, and I hope this is the start of a trend. There were some talented writers emerging in the late 80s, some of whom plied their skill post-TV Who in the Virgin and BBC book ranges. I think they would do well with the New Series. We’ll see.

That said, I was hoping “The Eaters of Light” would be the knock-out, best episode of the season. It’s good, very good, in fact. For a start, it’s an interesting premise for a story: settling a historical argument. After all, Bill just has to produce a Roman soldier to show they lived, and the Doctor just has to find a battlefield littered with bodies. And so they go their separate ways, not a care that they might be walking into danger. Which, of course, they are. The Doctor and Nardole end up with the native Picts, while Bill ends up with the Roman invaders. The Doctor had mentioned before that the Picts liked to tell stories of other worlds, and they created cairns believing them to be portals to those other worlds. Except one of them actually is, and the young Pict leader, Kar, was guarding the cairn, but opened it for the monster to get out and destroy the Romans. The Doctor isn’t shy about making sure she understands the stupidity of what she has done. And that stirs her resolve to make it right.

When Bill first encounters a Roman soldier, she laments not learning Latin so she could speak to him. But then she discovers that he can understand her–she is speaking Latin though it all sounds to her like English. Then later, when Bill and the Doctor bring the Picts and the Romans together, Bill notes she can understand them both, and they can understand each other. Long-time Whovians are well aware of the TARDIS translation capability, and Bill figures out this strange telepathic power is somehow connected to the Doctor. The other eye-opening insight Bill gets is how much a common language levels the playing field. Indeed, when the Picts and the Romans all speak English (to her ears, at least), they sound much more their age. From that develops a plan for the two former belligerents to join forces against a common foe: the monster.

In the end, when they force the monster back through the portal, we expect the Doctor to volunteer as gatekeeper, keeping back the monsters. Of course, he would be there for a long time, but the TARDIS will take Bill home. After all, the Doctor can regenerate, and guarding humanity is what he does. But neither Bill, nor the Picts are having any of that. Indeed, the young Pict leader steps forward and claims it as her duty. The young Roman leader volunteers to stand with her. And indeed, all the Romans and Picts are ready to keep the monsters at bay. It’s all very heart-warming, though I’m not sure how that would work. The Doctor offered his services because, as a Time Lord, he has an infinitely greater life span than all those humans put together. I’m not sure how that suddenly became irrelevant. Granted, time slows down in the portal, so a couple of minutes becomes a couple of days. But that still means the humans will only be able to guard the gateway for a very limited time. Nevertheless, the Doctor is forced to accept the humans’ view of things, and he leaves them to get on with it.

I thought the crow noise was a nice touch. We are told early on how the crows in those days talk. They say “Doctor” and “Monster,” though we hear them say little else. The Doctor laments that the crows got fed up of humans not talking back to them, which is why in Bill’s time they just sound grumpy. By the end of the story, we know the real reason for the sound they make.

So, “Eaters of Light” is a good story, and fits in with the other good stories this season. But it’s not a classic or “Must-See.” Rona Munro lived up to the expectation of giving us a good story, with interesting, well-crafted characters, and a good plot. But it’s not exceptional, which is a bit of a disappointment. However, it’s good enough, I think, to consider bringing back other Classic show writers.

The end tag with Missy is interesting. Is she really remorseful? Was that tear a crocodile tear, or was it genuine? Could it be she’s softening, and truly desires a restoration of the friendship she used to have with the Doctor back in their Academy days? Is this something the John Simm Master will have to snap her out of? Whatever’s going on, Steven Moffat is setting us up for an explosive finale, which begins with the next episode…

Did you enjoy this episode? Are you excited for the next? Thoughts? Theories? Share!

Who Review: The Lie of the Land

As a result of events in the previous story (see “The Pyramid at the End of the World”), the world has been taken over by the Monks, and all the inhabitants of Earth have been brainwashed to believe that the Monks have always been there. Every significant event in the development of the human race was inspired and encouraged by the Monks. Without the Monks, mankind would have died out centuries ago. At least, that’s what people are being told to believe. And on the basis of this “truth,” the inhabitants of Earth are willing to subjugate themselves to their benevolent dictators. After all, isn’t that how it’s always been? “Truth” deniers are sent away to labor camp, or executed. Yet somehow, Bill has survived, holding out hope that the Doctor will save the day. That the images of the Doctor reinforcing the history of the world as told by the Monks is just a ruse, part of some grand scheme he has to bring them down and set the human race free. He can’t really be working for the Monks. Can he…? Bill is about to learn some very uncomfortable truths. And an unlikely ally will give her the secret to defeating the Monks. But will it be worth the price?

SPOILER ALERT!! My comments may (and likely will) contain spoilers for those that haven’t seen the episode. If you want to stay spoiler-free, please watch the story before you continue reading!

This episode is the third in the “Truth Monk” trilogy–which is what I expect this will be called. Last time, Bill ceded control of the Earth to the Monks in exchange for the Doctor’s eyesight, which enabled him to escape the exploding test lab. Throughout that story, the Doctor warned people not to relinquish control to the Monks. The price would be too heavy; whatever would happen to the world, it would be worth it not to give control over to the Monks. But Bill ignored him…

Now the world is under the Monk’s control. But they took a sneaky way in, by means of transmitters in every city that fill everyone’s minds with the idea that the Monks have been around from the beginning of time, even though they’d only been around for six months. Bill knew the truth, however. And to make sure she didn’t forget, she created an “imaginary friend” version of her deceased mother to talk to. In the tradition of the best Who writing, this seemingly daft, but touching tribute to Bill’s mum proved to be the Monk’s downfall.

Yes, this is another great piece of Who story telling. It’s a shame Peter Capaldi couldn’t have had two previous seasons as good as this. Season nine was good, but not as consistent, and it suffered from Clara, “the impossible girl who we now totally understand but don’t know what to do with.” (Don’t get me wrong, Jenna Coleman was great, but they should have left the reveal about the “impossible girl” until the end of her time on the show, i.e., last season.) Brilliant writing, and two phenomenally good actors firing on all cylinders, is making this season one of the best of the Moffat era, at least as good as Season Seven–Matt Smith’s last, oddly enough.

I don’t know about you, but I’m warming to Nardole a lot. At first I thought he would just be a plot device, or some useless comic relief. But I think his character truly compliments the TARDIS team. Matt Lucas plays him with just the right amount of comedy: enough to bring a smile, but not too much that it detracts from the drama. And he’s not simply the Curly of the trio. He’s smart, and actually offers ideas and encouragement to the team. In this episode, he makes use of an electronic tracer he found in the TARDIS to help him and Bill find the Doctor. Of course, it turns out this was all part of the Doctor’s scheme to escape from the Monks, so the Doctor may well have told him where to find it. Even so, Nardole sold the idea to Bill as if it was his own, and in his lovably charming way, convinced her to go along with the plan.

And then we have Missy, the monster in the vault. Bill’s reaction to her is great, because she does look like a harmless woman. But I think she becomes convinced listening to Missy talk, especially when she reveals how to stop the Monks. I’m not a fan of the Missy-Master, but I have to hand it to Michelle Gomez for really selling the character as extremely dangerous without having to argue the case; just by the way she talks, and her mannerisms. Superbly done. But the tears at the end, when she and the Doctor are talking–is she really beginning to regret her past? It’s hard to believe, but maybe she does start to turn good, which is where the John Simm Master comes in…? We’ll have to wait and see, I guess. 🙂

Two thumbs-up from me for this story. I hope the season continues on this roll.

What did you think?

By the way, have you noticed the retro posters I’ve been using for each New Who story over the past few years? They’re designed by Stuart Manning, a freelance graphic designer based in London. The “Truth Monks” poster used in this story, and featured above, was actually commissioned from Stuart by BBC Worldwide! For my indie writer friends, Stuart also does cover artwork. His is top-quality work (as you can see), so I imagine he doesn’t come cheap. But I bet your books would look awesome with one of his designs. Worth an inquiry…)

Who Review: The Pyramid at the End of the World

The world is in crisis. A 5,000 year old pyramid has suddenly appeared in the Asian desert, at a disputed border where Russian, Chinese, and American troops are stationed. The Secretary General of the United Nations calls upon the Doctor to find out who is in control of the pyramid, and what they want. It doesn’t take long for the Doctor to get some answers. The monks from the Vatican vault, the ones who have been running a simulation of the planet in preparation for an attack (see “Extremis”), have come to set a countdown to doomsday. The Doctor, Bill, and the leaders of the Russian, Chinese, and American military enter the pyramid, where the monks invite them to glimpse the Earth in a year, according to their model. They see a picture of desolation; all living organisms wiped out. And, the monks explain, it will be by their own hands, their own doing. But the monks can prevent it happening. All they want is for those in authority to ask for help, to consent to the monks intervening, and to do so with pure motive. The Doctor smells a rat, a devil’s deal. No-one knows what this “consent” will entail. And yet there seems to be no other choice. With the world powers ready to cede control to the monks, the Doctor has to find out what will bring about the Earth’s demise and stop it, before it’s too late…

SPOILER ALERT!! My comments may (and likely will) contain spoilers for those that haven’t seen the episode. If you want to stay spoiler-free, please watch the story before you continue reading!

Last time, Bill’s attempt at a date was thwarted by the Pope. This time, it’s the Secretary General of the UN, who needs Bill to help him find the Doctor. A fun piece of continuity, and not inappropriate since this episode continues on from the last. It’s not a “part 2” however, since the last episode didn’t really end on a cliff-hanger. Unless you count the Doctor vowing to fight back against the monks as a “cliff-hanger.” Though he doesn’t take the fight to them in this story; they bring the fight to Earth, and the Doctor has to deal with it. So, let’s call it a new story, intimately connected to the previous story. Maybe part two of a duology (though I think the next episode is connected too, so part two of a trilogy!) You don’t have to have seen “Extremis” to follow along, but it helps.

I have to say, I was a little wary at first. When Doctor Who brings in world leaders, the military, and global politics, you can almost smell a message in the air. And it’s usually a message of the “why can’t we all get along?” and “love wins” variety. In itself, that’s not a bad thing, but it gets to be predictable, and invokes stereotypes (American aggression being the most popular), and can be hopelessly simplistic. However, this story doesn’t do that. It’s not the military leaders who vote for a show of strength, but the Doctor. It’s on his command that they send missiles and war planes. All to no avail, of course. And faced with the prospect of a desolate Earth, it’s the leaders who agree to accept the monks’ offer, despite the Doctor’s protests. However, they give the Doctor time to find the cause of the impending disaster and prevent it. But if he doesn’t find it soon, they will consent.

This situation creates another ticking clock, so we have both the countdown to “midnight”–doomsday hour–and the countdown to the leaders’ submission. The Doctor races against the odds to find a laboratory in Yorkshire where a lab worker recovering from a rough night makes a critical error with a decimal point, creating a lethal bacteria, resulting in a shutdown of the lab to try to contain the disaster. However, the air vent system is due to go off in twenty minutes, which will release the bacteria into the atmosphere. Another ticking clock. This is how you build tension. Three ticking clocks. And let’s not forget, the Doctor is working blind. Literally. And that will prove to be his downfall. He successfully plants a bomb that will destroy the virus. But he can’t escape from the air controlled environment without entering a number sequence into the lock. And to enter the correct sequence, he needs to be able to see the numbers. He has a little over a minute to escape before he goes down with the bacteria.

This is how you turn a story where you think you know what’s going to happen into a story where everything you thought was going to happen gets turned on its head. And right when you think the Doctor’s going to save the world at the last minute, he doesn’t. Bill does. And she does it by doing exactly what the Doctor has been saying all along no-one should do. And she does it for love, for the Doctor. Which sets us up nicely for the aftermath of Bill’s actions, which I presume we’ll see in next week’s thrilling adventure.

Another good episode of Doctor Who, worth watching, even if I’ve given away most of the plot (sorry–but good storytelling is worth talking about). And though there is a resolution to the story, it’s one that leaves us with a lot of questions. What will happen to planet Earth now? And what will become of Nardole, who clearly is suffering from having inhaled some of the bacteria? Will the Doctor regret getting Nardole’s lungs “on the cheap”? Is this the cost alluded to by the Doctor last time with regard to getting his sight back? And who are these menacing monks who want to wipe out life on Earth and take over? I guess we’ll have to wait to find out…

Did you enjoy this story? What did you like best or least? Let’s talk…

Who Review: Extremis

Deep in the Vatican vaults lies an ancient text, in an ancient language lost to the ages. Called “Veritas,” it’s a dangerous text. Those in times past who could read it have taken their own lives, a mortal sin in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church. What could be so terrible that people would put their souls in jeopardy, would prefer hell, than to go on living after discovering what the text says? In more recent times, a team of people managed to translate this short document. And one by one, they all killed themselves afterwards. But before the last man ended his life, he emailed the translation. Now the deadliest written work known to mankind is out in the public. And the Vatican is scared. So scared, they call upon the Doctor. Can the Doctor read the text, discover its secret, and save the world? How can the Doctor refuse? There is, of course, the fact that he’s blind. To the Doctor, not being able to see is a mere hindrance when the stakes are so high. But he doesn’t yet realize how devastating the truth is, and the price he may have to pay to save the universe…

SPOILER ALERT!! My comments may (and likely will) contain spoilers for those that haven’t seen the episode. If you want to stay spoiler-free, please watch the story before you continue reading!

Steven Moffat gives us an interesting brain-twister of an episode as we hit the mid-way point of New Who Series 10. It is, in fact, two story strands that join up at the end. The first reveals the mystery of the vault that the Doctor’s guarding in the basement of St. Luke’s University. At some unspecified time in the past, the Doctor is called upon to execute a fellow Time Lord convicted of capital offenses. That Time Lord is Missy. And the execution device will stop her hearts, stop brain activity, and rob her of the ability to regenerate. But she’s a Time Lord, and one who has been known to cheat death on numerous occasions, so the Doctor takes an oath to guard her body for 1,000 years–just to be sure. Of course, the Doctor has done some rewiring, so the device doesn’t kill Missy. However, the Doctor, true to his oath, puts Missy in the vault, where she remains.

The second strand is the main plot of this episode: the mysterious “Veritas” text, and why it is causing people to kill themselves. The premise isn’t new to sci-fi, but this is an interesting setting for it, with an interesting twist. What if reality as we know it isn’t real, but a simulation, and because we don’t know any better, we carry on as if it’s reality? Now–what would we do if we found out the truth, and were given a way to demonstrate that it’s true? Many people, thinks Moffat, would be driven to rebel by killing themselves. Some would carry on regardless. And some, like the Doctor, would fight back. Especially when they discover the purpose of the simulation.

Why the Vatican? At first I wondered if Moffat was getting all Da Vinci Code, and maybe Dan Brown’s novel was partly influential. But, to be honest, the Roman Catholic Church sets itself up for this by the very nature of its own bureaucracy and secrecy. I don’t take this as a slam against my faith because, as a Christian of the Reformed persuasion, the Roman Catholic Church doesn’t represent my beliefs. There is no secrecy to the gospel. And the Doctor’s quip that religion is like the Vatican vault, where “the layout is designed to confuse the uninitiated,” is perhaps true of Roman Catholic tradition, dogma, and ritual, but that’s not Biblical Christianity. Suffice to say, I took no offense from the “religion” content in the story.

I think Moffat did a good job here. There’s credible, witty, and thoughful dialog, a strong plot, and plenty to keep the viewer intrigued. I also like the way he made the Vault reveal seem gratuitous, until the end when it’s clear the Doctor’s going to need Missy’s help. I thought he pulled those strands together well, though the next few stories will tell how well they hold. He threw in a couple of things that might come back later as significant (something Moffat likes to do). For instance, when the Doctor hooks himself up to the box that temporarily restores his sight, he refers to it as “borrowed” tech from the future, for which he will have to pay somehow–permanent blindness, loss of regenerative power, or something else… He also brought back the sonic sunglasses, only this time they are of practical value, so no complaints from me.

As far as acting and special effects go, I couldn’t fault this episode. Pearl Mackie continues to impress with her portrayal of Bill. Certainly one of the best New Series leading ladies so far, by my reckoning. I’d be very surprised if the offers aren’t pouring in when she’s finished with Who. Peter Capaldi and Matt Lucas also continue to deliver solid, believable performances. I even appreciate Nardole’s comic interjections, partly because there’s a gravity to them. He’s not funny to make light, but because he’s scared and genuinely concerned for his friends. It’s a very human reaction, and it adds depth to his character.

“Extremis” is not Moffat’s best, but it’s a very good addition to a great season so far. Worth watching.

Who Review: The Pilot

Bill Potts, canteen worker at St Luke’s University, has a curious mind and a tender heart. Both will get her into trouble when she encounters a girl with a star in her eye. The girl, Heather, is bothered about a puddle that shouldn’t be there, and what she sees inside. But the real trouble begins when the puddle starts following Bill. And who does Bill turn to for help? A professor at the university who has just agreed to take her on as a private student. But he’s no ordinary professor. His lectures are eccentric and popular, he has the strangest looking pens in a mug on his desk, and he has full-sized police telephone box in the corner. The professor, who likes to be called the Doctor, investigates the puddle and realizes something’s wrong. The puddle doesn’t reflect a mirror image; the reflection is the right way around. Something alien is at work, and when the Doctor invites Bill into the TARDIS for safety, she is introduced to a world beyond her imagination. If she survives the girl in the water, she might never want to leave…

SPOILER ALERT!! My comments may (and likely will) contain spoilers for those that haven’t seen the episode. If you want to stay spoiler-free, please watch the story before you continue reading!

The first episode of the Doctor Who re-boot’s tenth season is, in itself, a bit of a reboot. After saying goodbye to Clara and River Song, the Doctor and his companion-butler Nardole are on Earth, where the Doctor is posing as a university professor. Exactly what he’s a professor of is not mentioned, though Bill says he talked one time about poetry when he was supposed to be lecturing on physics, so I presume it’s something in the sciences. We are treated to a sample of the Doctor’s lecturing–a monologue on time and relative dimension in space, and how life is a series of pictures like frames in a movie. It sounded impressive, and makes sense within the impossible universe of Doctor Who. Mind you, Peter Capaldi could make the phone book sound fascinating.

The title is a bit of a play on both the plot and the purpose of the story. The puddle creature is looking for a pilot, someone to follow. And this episode of Doctor Who is like a pilot episode, introducing the newbie to the world of Who in a way that won’t bore–and, in fact, will please–the seasoned Whovian. There are lots of nods to Classic Who: the mug of sonic screwdrivers, the picture of his granddaughter, Susan, on his desk (next to one of River Song), the “Out of Order” sign on the TARDIS (last seen in the First Doctor story, “The War Machines”), the Movellans (from the Fourth Doctor story, “Destiny of the Daleks”), and there were probably others either I missed, or I’m not remembering. The scene with the Movellans was a particularly nice touch. When the Doctor told Bill and Nardole they were entering a war zone, and we heard the Daleks, my first thought was, of course, the Time War. But no–it’s the war between the Movellans and the Daleks, referenced in “Destiny of the Daleks.”

The basic plot of the story was, I think, a bit weak. The water creature was really just a shape-shifting blob that wants a friend, and while its modus operandi was a bit aggressive, its intentions weren’t malicious. Hence the tears when Bill had to let it go. But new companion stories always tend to be light on plot; the focus is on introducing the newcomer, and getting the newcomer acquainted with the Doctor’s world. This time around, Steven Moffat managed an increasingly difficult task: making it fresh and new. Bill is clearly astounded at the TARDIS, but at first she thinks it’s a “knock-through” (i.e., the wall against which the TARDIS stands has been “knocked-through” to allow the TARDIS interior to extend beyond the parameters of the room), and that the inside of the TARDIS looks like a kitchen. It takes a good while before she gets to “it’s bigger on the inside!” She even asks where the toilet is–a topic I don’t think has been broached before now.

Then there’s the question of why the Doctor is at a university in Bristol. I don’t doubt the mysterious vault has something to do with it. New Who usually has a running theme, or story arc, throughout the season. My guess is that vault will play a central role in season ten, and speculation will run rampant as to what’s inside. Something to do with his regeneration, which we know is happening at Christmas… or maybe sooner? Is it something he has to keep a close eye on (hence the lecturing job, so he can stay close by)? Will the fact he throws caution to the wind and takes Bill on board the TARDIS be a factor in whatever happens with that vault in future episodes? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

The performances are top-notch, as usual for New Who. Pearl Mackie is a relative unknown, even to British television viewers, but she gives a solidly genuine performance, owning every line. A very promising start, and, I daresay, a bright post-Who future on television if she keeps this up. I’m looking forward to seeing how her character develops over the next eleven weeks.

In all, this is a good start to the series, despite the story itself being far from one of Moffat’s best. As I said, we can forgive that since it was a great introduction to Bill Potts, and Doctor Who as a whole. Definitely one for the new Whovian to watch.