What I’m enjoying so far about Season 10 – even though it is only up to episode two – is how low-key the stories have been; how the stories have been allowed to unfold; how relaxed the characters are with each other. It’s been more about the relationship between the two of them than the situations they find themselves in. Well, specifically Bill and The Doctor. Nardole has been a bit of a sulky git, but he seems to be there to remind the Doctor of this season’s over-arching plot and little more. More of that later . . .
So, The Doctor and Bill turn up at an Earth Colony to find it empty of people. It’s full of cute little robots that are, naturally, not what they seem. We’ve learned what that entails in the opening sequence, but Our Intrepid Heroes no nothing . . . not until they find the bones, anyway.
I’m not going to going into detailed plot stuff, I’d rather talk about Bill. I don’t think I’ve taken to a character so quickly as I have will Bill. I mean, I love Donna, but wasn’t keen on her performance in ‘The Runaway Bride’. I liked her story arc and she turned into something wonderful very quickly, but Bill. She’s been amazing from the word go.
I think what I like most is her self-reliance. She’s not some starstruck kid, she’s intelligent, warm and witty because of who she is, not because of a reaction to the Doctor. I like that when she’s in a bind, she thinks her way out of it rather than defer to The Doctor. She’s not a lap dog. She does not sprain her ankle.
That is fantastically refreshing. And she asks some brilliants questions that really ought to have been answered before in it’s 50 years run . . .
If this episode suffered from anything, it was an over familiar plot. The ‘machine gone wrong’ trope has appeared rather too often in recent years – think Mummy on the Orient Express, Curse of the Black Spot, The Girl Who Waited, the gorgeous clockwork robots from The Girl In The Fireplace and even last weeks ‘malfunctioning engine oil’. Throw in a bit of Vashta Nerada, a good dollop of ‘The Happiness Control’ (sans evil Bertie Basset) and a bit of Jurassic Park and you’re pretty much there.
Oh. And The Ark In Space. Wrap all the above in The Ark in Space.
But for all that, and the fact that only the Doctor and Bill were in it for about 30 of the 40 minute running time, this is a great episode. It’s most dialogue and wandering around a deserted city, but it is never less than engaging and often brilliant!
Frank Cottrell Boyce’s last episode was the less than well received “In The Forest of The Night”, an episode that dared to do something different and was, for my money, beautifully written and performed. True, there was some extremely shoddy science and a couple of scenes where the suspension of disbelief needed some sort of zimmer frame, but in general, the audacity and elegance of the writing was a thing of beauty.
With “Smile”, if he needed redeeming, he utterly redeemed himself. All of the elegance was there, all of the audacity, but this time wrapped in something more recognisably Doctor Who.
So yeah. I really, really enjoyed it.
Best line, though?
“Why are you Scottish?”
“I’m not Scottish, I’m just cross.”
And lots of planets have a north . . .
<SPOILERY BIT POSSIBLY>
A couple of things. Partly referring to last week’s episode. I read that David Bradley may be making a comeback for a couple of episodes, playing the William Hartnell Doctor as he did so beautifully in “An Adventure In Space and Time”. This would be awesome and I decided to have a quick look at wiki for William Hartnell. Interested to note that Hartnell’s wife was called Heather… Bill and Heather? Well, that’s familiar…
And did anyone notice that Bill was given a locket with a person in it? Is that foreshadowing the Chameleon Arch?
And what is in the Vault? And that oath was a little extreme, wasn’t it?