Doctor Who Review: ‘Pilot’ Introduces New Companion, New Glorious Sense of Adventure

Photo Credit: BBC America

Doctor Who Series 10 Premiere ‘Pilot’ Plot Summary:

The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) is now a lecturer at a university. He takes a canteen worker named Bill (Pearl Mackie) under his wing after discovering she’s been crashing his lectures. Pearl finds herself attracted to a mysterious woman who may be an alien.

“Pilot” is a fresh start.

While it’s no secret that Peter Capaldi (along with show runner Stephen Moffat) will be exiting Who, the series was dire in need of a fresh start, a turning of the page. The saga with Clara (Jenna Coleman) had plenty of bright spots, but there were too many twists, turns, and that whole thing with Danny Pink made things unnecessarily dramatic and complicated (mostly for the sake of being dramatic and complicated).

Now with Clara in the rearview (and River Song too), we meet The Doctor once again — this time as a lecturer dropping knowledge about time, reality, and life to the students of an unknown university. There he meets Bill, a canteen worker whose eagerness and sense of adventure, pique the interest of The Doctor. As luck, and this series, would have it — trouble finds The Doctor, his new friend, and his now manservant Nardoole (Matt Lucas).

If you’re a Whovian, you’ll find this above plot description, is a classic Who episode wrapped in modern clothes. It’s the classic, “here’s the new companion, and here’s how The Doctor” convinces them to join him.” There’s the requisite “it’s bigger on the inside” jokes, the awestruck eyes and agape jaw of the companion once they time travel, and there’s the villain of the episode.

Luckily, the absolutely electric chemistry between Mackie and Capaldi (and Lucas to a limited extent) carry a standard Who episode and make it great. The sense of fun that’s been so desperately lacking from the past year or so from the series returned with gusto. Capaldi’s Doctor, like the series, is invigorated by the genuine and honest desire for knowledge and adventure that exudes from Mackie’s Bill. The two work together like they’ve been doing this for ages, and they operate more naturally than Capaldi and Coleman did in their first season plus together.

Mackie steals the show. Bill is a wildly likable character, despite us knowing next to nothing about her except that her mother passed, she works in the University canteen, and she’s a lesbian. That’s literally all we know, and yet there’s something about her that’s so enchanting.

There’s been a lot made of Bill’s sexuality, which we just mentioned. Honestly, the series dealt with it the way they’ve dealt with sexuality in the past — it’s part of who the character is. It doesn’t define them nor is it handled as a piece of shock value. She’s as attracted to women as Clara or Amy were attracted to Danny, and Rory respectively.

“Pilot” should give Whovians light years of hope about this new season of Doctor Who. While the specter of Capaldi’s Doctor’s demise hangs over the season, we still should have hope that this will be an exciting series filled with the fun and adventure.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site’s podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites