Doctor Who used to be my favourite television programme. Every Saturday evening my dad, my sister and I would sit down in front of the TV and watch David Tennant fighting aliens on some strange alien planet or talking to William Shakespeare in Elizabethan England, and I would love each and every episode, then go into school Monday morning and discuss it with my friends during morning registration. It was a simpler time.
I have vivid memories of the first episode I ever watched, the one when they meet Queen Victoria and fight werewolves, and of hiding behind the sofa and being reluctant to go upstairs on my own afterwards.
I watched it avidly for many years, catching up on Christopher Eccleston’s turn as the Doctor on DVDs bought weekly from Woolworths, through the end of David Tennant’s era, all the way through Matt Smith’s and into Peter Capaldi’s time. But halfway through Matt Smith’s second or third series, I started to feel a sense of disillusionment with the show.
It started to feel a bit repetitive and overly reliant on big bombastic moments of realisation; every new revelation raised the stakes- this girl is the most important person in all of the history of the universe!- to an extent that a sense of diminishing returns was inevitable. I missed the smaller scale stand-alone episodes that had always been my favourites: when the Doctor and his companion travelled to a specific moment in time or space, had to solve the mystery and deal with an interesting moral dilemma then jumped in the TARDIS again, reappearing next week in a new creatively inspired location in space-time.
This is a long introduction, but what this means is that I went into the new episode of Doctor Who this week with minimal expectations. I haven’t actually seen the last few episodes of the previous series, but based on the trailers I was excited for the fresh start this series seemed to promise. And I wasn’t disappointed.
I love Bill Potts. So much. I could probably end this review here and that would be all that’s necessary.
The episode concept itself is simple but engaging, an unexplained mystery surrounding a puddle with an unusual reflection and a girl with a star in her eye, that serves perfectly to introduce Bill to the world of the Doctor. I like what we’ve seen of their dynamic so far; it’s a breath of fresh air in that there’s no complicated emotional history between them, and she’s his student in a mentor/mentee relationship that’s a welcome throwback to the past.
He initially tries to keep her at arm’s length, understandably so given his previous losses, but at the end of the day the Doctor needs a companion to keep him light and grounded- Bill eventually proves the catalyst for the Doctor to throw caution to the winds and restore his sense of adventure, which is the essence of Doctor Who.
I’m looking forward to next week’s episode, eager to get online and see what other people thought, wanting to text my friends and go over what just happened…For the first time in a long while I’m excited about Doctor Who. And it’s fantastic.
Observations (and spoilers):
- “The Pilot” ahaha, I get it
- I must admit to shedding a tear when we got a hint of Clara’s theme
- Did I mention I love Bill? Also the fact that she’s a lesbian and that’s just a part of her character, no issue or questions about it
- I liked how they just casually dropped in the Daleks and the Time War (that was the Time War?) as a backdrop to a story about letting go of a crush. Well played.
- The whole travelling to random places to try and test the limits of the alien water thing was good, as it gave a semi-organic way to introduce Bill to the whole “It travels in space AND time??” concept.
- I loved how the Doctor made the effort to give Bill the photos of her mum she never had, it’s a nice little gesture to show he cares about her