Doctor Who: The Pilot Recap
Synopsis 10×01: The Doctor is back and hiding out. But after making a new friend, will adventure come calling once again?
So finally, here it is: ‘The Pilot,’ an ironic name for a final season. After the Doctor loses his memory, and in the process his Impossible Clara, we find him lecturing at a University. Where? Who knows.But in his lectures he sees a smiling face: Bill’s face. She smiles at the unexpected and the unknowable, making her the perfect pupil for the Doctor. So even though she doesn’t actually attend the school (she serves chips in the canteen), she becomes his private student. He’s grooming her for something. Perhaps it’s to protect whatever is hiding behind the vault door below the school. (We don’t find out much about that vault in this episode.) It’s certainly not for adventures in time and space since the Tardis is ostensibly “out of order.”
The Doctor isn’t the only alien on campus. There’s spaceship oil sitting in a puddle on a roof somewhere. And Bill’s cute new friend Heather keeps staring into it. Why? Because Heather has a distinct pupil defect that she doesn’t see in the puddle: her right pupil has a star-shape in it. Except when she looks into the puddle, the star is gone. Why?
Throughout Bill’s lessons with the Doctor she mentions Heather and her eye only once. But when Heather goes missing, the Doctor runs to adventure. So the Big Bad of ‘The Pilot’ is a puddle, yes? But only Doctor Who could make a puddle the most terrifying thing in the universe. See, this is no ordinary puddle. This is spaceship oil residue, leftover from some launch that we never see. It mimics and mirrors the images looking into it. So it creates symmetry from faces, which is why Heather’s eye doesn’t have its signature star.
We never learn the name of the race or the purpose of the launch. This has become a regular part of Moffat’s Who. Remember ‘Listen,’ when the Doctor spent the whole episode finding an alien that Clara tells him doesn’t exist? This is like that, but much better. Because this Big Bad is scary, and much more. After Heather goes missing, she winds up finding Bill over and over again. Heather, having been dragged into the puddle and drowned by it, chases Bill across continents, time, and space. But what for?
Heather promised that she wouldn’t leave. That’s all. Heather is The Pilot. Or maybe she’s the shuttle? Her body is being used by the aliens to travel once more in liquid form, solidifying as Heather play-acting as Hamlet’s Ophelia. But Heather last words to anyone was to promise Bill she would not leave without her. So she travels to Australia, the ends of the Earth, and to a Dalek war zone to find her. As the Doctor says, never underestimate a crush.
Were those words for Bill? Or a reminder to himself of the time that he traveled across time and space to save his “crush.” (There’s so much more I could say about the Moffat-Twelve-Clara relationship. I see you, Whouffle shippers. But that’s for another time.)
Bill, beautiful, lovely, human Bill, just wants love and companionship. She’s compassionate towards her dead drowned friend, and through Heather’s star-shaped eye sees the universe as the Doctor might. But as we know, the Doctor can’t let humans see as he sees. Not unless it’s Craig and it’s an emergency. (Can James Corden please come back and play with Bill and Twelve?)
What comes with great sight also comes with a mind-wipe and Bill knows it. And her beautiful, compassionate human reaction: “Think about how you would feel if someone erased your memories?” Clara reference part 2 complete in all it’s subtlety.
So instead of a mindwipe, Bill gets a second chance in space. She’s a companion now, and a much needed one. After Clara’s departure, the Doctor needs a mate who can make him laugh and see the universe for all its glory. Clara always tried too hard to be the Doctor. But there can’t be two Doctors. The Doctor thrives best when there’s a human to help him see the world as new again, and to help remind him why the protecting the human race. Bill is already a refreshing fave, and I can’t wait for more of her.
‘The Pilot’ Highlights:
- Bill is a foster child and I’m very curious to know more about her relationship to her foster mother. There are some tensions and lots of love. But it’s still early days and I hope that gets explored more.
- Bill as a lesbian is a great choice. I am so sick of the Doctor as a love interest, or trapped in a love triangle. I just hope that Moffat will do this aspect justice, since he seems to have a problem writing women.
- Plenty of Classic Who references for the ultimate Whovians. On the Doctor’s ink desk are photos of River, Susan Foreman (aka his granddaughter for the First Doctor), and a pencil holder filled with old screwdrivers.
- This episode had the perfect amount of fright and fun for a Doctor Who episode. I literally jumped in my seat several times at Heather. And Bill lends Heather’s arc the perfect amount of heart.
- Nardole (Matt Luca) is back!