The Pilot – review

Bill and Heather (Doctor Who The Pilot)So, that’s season 10 underway with The Pilot, and I’ve been surprised at how the feedback has been largely positive (maybe I don’t frequent the more extreme parts of the web;-) and how few negative comments there have been. I liked a lot of it, but there are elements that didn’t work for me. Does that matter? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Let’s compare notes, and don’t read on if you haven’t watched…

The story

It’s a new beginning of sorts, with the Doctor teaching in Bristol, Bill the canteen worker taken on as an unofficial student and various odd things going on. Nardole is part of the Doctor’s entourage and the TARDIS is parked in the office with an Out of Order sign.

Conveniently (for the story) a girl called Heather (Stephanie Hyam) with a birth defect (we assume) in the shape of a star in her eye finds a mysterious puddle and meets Bill. Bill is smitten (do people still say that) but before romance can bloom her new friend vanishes and things get strange. After a chunk of build up, Bill’s world gets strange with a phantom presence in the shower and Heather now able to reform from puddles of water. The Doctor helps by racing to the TARDIS but the strange version of Heather can follow over any distance and across time. Even an encounter with Daleks isn’t enough to sort the problem out and it needs an emotional moment for Bill to process her feelings for Heather and for the changeling Heather to move on. Cue a return to Bristol.

Of course the Doctor decides to give Bill a chance and she is now part of the team. Roll the credits!

The good and the other

Lots to like, from the more mellow Peter Capaldi, the comfortable relationship between the Doctor and Nardole and also the great performance by Stephanie Hyam as Heather while she is still human. We have a mysterious vault in which the Doctor has placed something and this looks like the series arc (or course something else may appear later). The Doctor’s desk has photos of River and Susan and the way this works into the story near the end is nice. I also liked the Remembrance of the Daleks touch with the scorch marks in the ground around the puddle.

Did The Pilot work as a story? Who’s story was it? Heather’s? Bill’s? The Doctor was moderately indifferent to the threat of Heather+ once his vault was OK, and was even prepared to destroy her/it. And Bill, while the centre of attention is oddly written. She sees a mysterious vault and never mentions it. Suddenly a box of photos of her mother arrives and in one she sees the Doctor in a mirror. She never mentions it. Really?

Then there’s the puddle / super liquid alien. This pool can travel up pipes to a particular bathroom without an obvious map. It can pop to Australia in minutes, hunting Bill by some unknown means. It can then either follow the TARDIS trail or some other magic and appear on a planet millions of light years away and far in the future. Really?

If the science (and yes Doctor Who is more fantasy than science fiction) isn’t important to everyone, I have some problems with the pacing. No sooner do we hear Bill mention the lack of photos of her mother than the box appears. Are the Daleks really the hottest place around? Not sure. The Movellans were fine, but why use the Daleks at all. Is this just the quick tour of Doctor Who for new viewers coming into play?

Finally, for now, the driver of the plot was the bond between Heather and Bill. I would have liked some time to have seen this develop and not have the story rush from meeting to disappearance to conclusion.

Anyway, enough from me, what were your thoughts? Am I too negative? Let me know!

4 Comments Add yours

  1. David Raid says:

    I agree with all of your thoughts. It was a semi decent episode, as good as we’ve come to expect from Moffat run DW.
    As usual, the show is trying too hard to be Doctor Who, trying to cram concepts into the story without necessity or any plausible foundation for how they can even occur.
    Here’s hoping Chibnall doesn’t fall into that trap and follows the Big Finish approach of writing awesome stories that simply happen to be within the DW universe and be grounded within its lore and peoples.
    Moffat cannot do grounded, his attempts to do so always feel cheap, unearned, cocky and over the top. Sadly, he was the cool guy with the flashy car (Blink and Silence In The Library) that we were all taken in by. We didn’t realise how empty he was underneath it.


  2. David Raid says:

    Heather was also very much a plot device rather than a human being. We can count on one hand the things we actually found out about her and was any thought given to her friends or family? She was a human being with a history and a web of interactions, all of which would be affected by her sudden disappearance..
    I hope we see some sign of that in the next Earth bound episode, but I highly doubt it. Her purpose is fulfilled, her character goes back in the box.


    1. Tony Jones says:

      Agree completely – entirely underused, and a shame as Stephanie Hyam seems quite talented


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