The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 2 – “Smile” – Psychological Horror Meets Classic “Doctor Who” Themes

   “Smile” continues the great writing the Series started out with, but this time giving a more “Twilight Zone” feel combined with Classic “Doctor Who” ideas of new life and the resolution of conflict. It is fantastic and my non-spoiler thoughts are that the only thing that bring it down are the references to modern day like Emojis and selfies, that did take me out of the story when they happened.

    The episode was directed by Lawrence Gough and written by Frank Cottrell-Boyce.

    The story involves the Doctor taking Bill to one of the first human colonies, that when they arrive at is completely empty except for Robots who control the facility. From here the mystery unfolds surrounds the complex and the robots known as the Vardy.

The Pros: The Premise – The premise of robots that kill you if you aren’t happy is fascinating as well as the fact that they can be tricked by a smile. It felt very “Twilight Zone” and “Black Mirror” esque, which I appreciated.

The Vardy – The Vardy are natives to the planet the colonists inhabit and are sentient machines. Their goal is to help humanity how humanity believes to best but also to be respected as when they are turned on they go full defense mode too. It takes a factory reset done by the Doctor to leave their future and how they interpret their relationship to humanity to be in the future.

Bill – Bill is very much the tourist in this as her request to the Doctor is to go to the future and to somewhere happy. This brings her to one of the first human colonies and her realizing that she enjoys the mystery and adventure like the Doctor. She also discovers she likes helping people but that things are more complicated than they appear to be as she is on neither the Vardy’s or humanity’s side in the conflict, so in turn can’t condemn the Doctor, she just realizes what his role is.

The Doctor – The Doctor is the one who is always seeking help and also doesn’t want to be tied down to one location. He is on Earth guarding the Vault, and that is why Nardole is there to hold the Doctor to that promise…which the Doctor abandons to travel with Bill. Both of these actions reveal the childishness and also the maturity and heroism of the Doctor. He is complicated and as we discover at the end of the episode, he can’t solve everything and something there isn’t an answer…he can do what he can to save lives but after he leaves it is up to the people left behind.

The Doctor and the TARDIS’s Role – The sign on the TARDIS says “Advice and Assistance Obtainable Immediately” and part of the reason why it is a police box is because the Doctor is sent where he is needed. This is something we get early on as he describes to Bill that the travel to locations is like a dance between himself and the TARDIS. This is also why he was on Earth as he is protecting a mysterious “Vault,” which more than likely is for humanity’s protection.

Okay: The Colonists – We don’t get to know any of the colonists as they are only reacting to the Vardy. This was a shame as we know humanity was escaping from Earth where they nearly destroyed themselves. That could have been explored if we’d been given a colonist for Bill and the Doctor to play off of.

The Cons: Modern Lingo and References – From the Vardy being called emoji-bots and Bill taking selfies…these things weren’t needed and took me out of the episode. We get what they look like and we get that Bill is a tourist in the future…but it could have been done better.

       The idea of this episode if it had been explored more fully (as in gone full “Black Mirror”) could have turned this into something akin to “Blink” or “Listen.” Because it didn’t it manages to stay solidly good though as so much of the future is still left up in the air. The Vardy have been rebooted and have no memory of what they did, but they still destroyed the colonists under the simple command of making them happy. The Doctor accepts this though and the fact that there isn’t a happy ending boosts the episode immensely.

Final Score: 8.5/ 10

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 1 – “The Pilot” – Horror Meets Wonder With a Great New Companion

   I’m worried about how the rest of the Series 10 and Capaldi’s run as 12 will go. Moffat and Gatiss ran “Sherlock” into the ground and there is enough time for him to do the same for “Doctor Who,” as for “Sherlock” it only took about 1 1/2 Seasons to do so. Right now he’s starting out strong though! I really enjoyed “The Pilot,” it captures all the beautiful adventure, horror and wonder that comes with the best of “Doctor Who” and sci. fi. time travel exploration. So, before I get into further depth, this one is worth checking out.

   The episode was directed by Lawrence Gough and written by Steven Moffat.

    The episode involves the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) lecturing at a college as a Professor until Bill (Pearl Mackie) a fish and chips cook is pulled into his life when he notices her at all of his lectures listening. She is soon thrown into the unknown though when her crush is taken over by a mysterious puddle, pulling her and the Doctor together as they try and stop the alien from taking away Bill.

The Pros: The World – The world is fantastic as we get to see the Doctor take up the role of professor, a role he clearly enjoys as both 1 and 10 have both done it at different times in the human world as have other incarnations in the extended universe of the Doctor. This love of knowledge and sharing it is part of what makes the series so inspiring and great and it is on display by having it all take place a college with a woman (Bill) who is not even a student sitting on lectures because of her desire to learn.

Nardole – Nardole is still with us after we picked him up at “The Husbands of River Song,” and through the last special too. Matt Lucas is great at being the awkward loaf who is fearful but can find courage (helps the Doctor trap some Daleks in the episode) and calls out the Doctor on his blind spots. He’s very much the Doctor’s assistant in this so I’m curious to see if his role will be explored further, I’m not quite sure why he’s sticking around.

Bill – Bill is an amazing companion (don’t mess this up Moffat!). She is down to Earth, has a desire to learn and doesn’t let lack of money stop her, she is alone in many ways and that loneliness ties to the Doctor in how they connect as their desire to learn and for connection is key. It is her reaching out to her crush that leads to the alien targeting her. She is strong and stands her ground too when the Doctor attempts to wipe her mind as she helps realize how messed up that is and that the adventure was her first happy memory in a long time.

The Doctor – The Doctor has gone from not just the protector of humanity but also helping them learn about time travel as the lecture we see him doing at the beginning is him teaching about the meaning of TARDIS. In this way he is helping humanity thrive and become the force they are in the future. His arc is realizing that his past mind wipes were him being selfish, leading to him not wiping Bill’s mind and choosing her to be his companion as she helps him see things differently and realize and correct his older bad habits.

Okay: The Antagonist – The antagonist is the weakest part. It is sentient oil puddle that is also a space ship as it takes Bill’s crush as the Pilot and tries to take Bill as the passenger. It can some how warp through time and track the TARDIS and what it actually is is never fully explained. I liked the play on Ring type horror it did with anything it mimicked being wet and dripping water but felt it needed to be explored more. It could have easily been tied to the Waters of Mars, which would have really made it a horror story.

  This is a strong start to Series 10 and I’m really hoping it stays that way as Gallifrey and Clara being ruined last season almost made me stop watching the show. Gallifrey needed a good story tied to it and Clara’s choice to die should have been respected. She had so many great good-byes that got canceled out. I don’t want Bill or the 12th Doctor to suffer the same fate. They deserve better and hopefully Moffat can end as strong as he started.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10 Antagonist is the weakest part.