“DOCTOR WHO” IS BACK, “DOCTOR WHO” IS BACK, “DOCTOR WHO” IS BACK, “DOCTOR WHO” IS BACK, “DOCTOR WHO” IS BACK, “DOCTOR WHO” IS BACK, “DOCTOR WHO” IS BACK!!!!!!!
Ok….. calm down…
Deep breaths……. ok….
It’s been a minute since we’ve had some new “Doctor Who” to talk about. We had the 2016 Christmas Special but that has been it since December 2015. It’s certainly not the longest dry spell Whovians have had to endure (16 year drought anyone?) but it still wasn’t pleasant. It feels great to get to dive into a new season with a new companion and get back to getting a regular fix of The Doctor and his adventures. The big question is – was it worth the wait? And the answer is – Mostly…..
Before we get into it, there will be some mild SPOILERS in this review.
The episode opens inside a college office and Nardole ushers in Bill, our soon to be new companion. As she waits to be seen, we get a slow pan around the office which is chock full of nods to Who history. On the desk are pictures of River Song and Susan Foreman (The Doctors Granddaughter from waaayyyy back in the First Doctor era), there is a pencil cup on the desk that’s full of past incarnations of the Sonic Screwdriver, and most importantly – the TARDIS sits disused in the corner with an out of order sign on the door. The way the TARDIS looked in the office, instantly reminded me of the Third Doctor era, when, after the events of the War Games serial, the Doctor is forcibly regenerated and banished to earth. I also noticed a wood carving of a black bird which may be a nod to the episode “The Raven” from last season in which …… things happen.
Soon after Bill enters, the Doctor makes his first appearance in full Twelfth Doctor fashion, sporting his guitar, Sonic Sunglasses, and the now classic hoodie / suit jacket combo. Right from the get go, it feels like Capaldi hasn’t missed a step in the time off as he falls right back into the Twelfth Doctor persona. When the Doctor realizes he’s no longer alone in his office, he comes out of a side room and begins to interview Bill asking her why she comes to his lectures when she’s not even a student at the university they’re at. During their conversation, we are told that the Doctor has been teaching at whatever university this is for upwards of 50 years despite never really being on staff or having an official class listing, he just sort of goes to “class” and rambles on in true Doctor Who fashion and students show up to listen.
I got the feeling from this scene that the Doctor wanted to stay in one place a while and rest after the events that the 2015 and 2016 Christmas specials book-ended, which was the 24 years that the Doctor and River spent together before her fateful trip to the library (although that theory may fall apart based on the end of the episode). I also got the feeling that he has pegged Bill to be his new travelling companion without even realizing it. Over the course of the scene, the Doctor tells Bill he is going to be her tutor and when Bill asks why, the Doctor simply says that when ever she doesn’t understand something, she smiles. That sounds to me like a perfect trait for a new companion.
As we watch Bill and the Doctor begin their student / teacher relationship, I really enjoyed their interactions together. There was great dialogue and good character moments. While this may be a bit of a “run of the mill” episode of “Doctor Who” as far as story goes, I found myself laughing a lot and even having to pause a few times to just soak in a line or a joke. It’s definitely great to have new “Doctor Who” back on TV.
Where this episode did fall apart though, is when it dealt with it’s alien threat – a puddle of semi-sentient space oil that got left as a stain on the pavement by some long gone alien ship. Bill runs into a girl named Heather in a bar and they have a bit of a moment. Later on in the episode, they meet again and Heather asks Bill to come with her to look at this odd puddle. As they look into it, they each see their own faces but something is “off” about their reflections and it is eventually revealed that the puddle is mimicking them instead of just showing their reflections. Heather keeps going back to the puddle and get’s absorbed by it. There are a few shots from “inside” the puddle and we can hear the puddles “voice” describing Heather as “The Pilot” and Bill as the “Passenger”. It seems that when Heather was absorbed by the puddle, the consciousness of the two merged and the desire of the puddle to get back to it’s ship got mixed up with Heather’s desire to be with Bill. Then from there, “Puddle Heather” follows Bill around like the killer in a slasher movie, which makes for a rather tense scene in Bill’s apartment and some cool scenes as Bill continues to run away, eventually enlisting the help of the Doctor.
For the most part, that sub plot of the episode was rather underdeveloped and the resolution to it was confusing at best. I’ve had to ponder it a lot in the 12ish hours it’s been since I watched the episode just to make some sort of sense out of it. Whether it’s just that this particular story point was neglected to focus on the introduction of Bill and getting her set up as the new companion or if it was just another typical Moffat-ian story that’s great in theory but crap in practice, this part of the episode definitely fell flat.
Something else that wasn’t really covered very well was the vault that the Doctor and Nardole are protecting. It’s clearly Gallifreian in origin but we don’t find out anything else about it. At the end of the episode, when Bill looks at the TARDIS and the Doctor realizes what she want’s to do, he says that he can’t go, that he’s in disguise, he has a promise to keep, and no one can know about him. I honestly can’t remember anything relating to this from the past two Christmas specials so I think that whatever that promise is, whatever his mission is and how it relates to that vault will be the story arc of this season.
Overall, this was a good but not great episode of “Doctor Who”. We get some fairly standard Who moments that come with the introduction of a new companion but they are twisted just enough to make them fresh. The “Monster of the Week” was lackluster and confusing after showing great promise but it’s a Moffat episode and lately his episodes have been much more “Death in Heaven” than “Blink” in quality. Bill seems like she will be an adept companion and it I am intrigued by the Gallifreian vault that the Doctor is protecting. I’m hoping we have a great season ahead of us.
Until next time, Thank You for reading and when in doubt….