Bill Potts works in the university cafeteria, and though she’s not taking his classes, she attends lectures by a mysteriously tenured professor known only as the Doctor. He’s as likely to lecture on poetry as on physics, and seems to know a little bit about everything – a lot, actually. He’s also very observant, and knows that Bill isn’t one of his students, and offers to tutor her anyway.
Bill catches the eye of a fellow student named Heather, though their conversations never seem to go where expected. Heather is preoccupied with a puddle of standing water which has the audacity to exist in a fenced-in concrete area where there has been no rain for days. Bill relates this to the Doctor, who is suddenly very curious about the puddle, and the scorch marks surrounding it on the concrete: the telltale sign of a recently landed spacecraft. The next time Bill sees Heather, the girl is drenched in an unending torrent of water, has dead eyes, can only repeat what Bill says, and seems to be following her obsessively. Bill races into the Doctor’s office to get away from her, and the Doctor (with Nardole still in tow) whisks her away in the TARDIS. But wherever they go in time and space, whether it’s sunny Sydney or the hell of the Dalek-Movellan war, Heather follows…and won’t give up until Bill joins or rejects her.
written by Steven Moffat
directed by Lawrence Gough
music by Murray Gold
Notes: This is the first (and only) screen appearance of the Movellans since their only other appearance in 1979’s Destiny Of The Daleks; they are primarily a background detail here, and not central to the plot, just like the Daleks that show up without being the central threat. The Doctor seems to have an abundance of his retired sonic screwdrivers on hand – score one product placement for Character Options and Underground Toys – and has framed photos of River Song and Susan on his desk.
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: One last time, Steven Moffat kicks off a new season of Doctor Who with a clear indication that there’s a story already in progress of which the audience is largely unaware. The Doctor is now a lecturing professor at a university, and has been for something like 50 years, but there’s clearly a larger game playing out here, something involving Nardole and a vault somewhere on the school’s campus grounds. Of course, we’ll find out later what all of this means. It’s not the main thrust of this story.
The Pilot gives us a new companion in the form of Bill Potts, and it’s Bill around whom everything revolves – literally. Even the Doctor doesn’t seem to be up to much until Bill arrives on the scene and off-handedly mentions a puddle. She’s the engine of the story, she’s why everything is happening, and everyone else is just along for the ride…and the pacing of that ride rules out any kind of explanation as to what this creature is that happens to be powerful enough to follow a TARDIS through time.
Pearl Mackie makes a huge impression with her first outing, enough that I found myself wishing that Capaldi had gotten more time with Bill than with Clara. Her unflinching enthusiasm for the incredible situation she’s gotten herself into is infectious, and she sparks well off of Capaldi; future episodes will tell how well she mixes things up with Matt Lucas, but one can’t help but suspect that’ll be a fun combination as well.
The appearance of the Movellans is a lovely little throwaway reference that isn’t even remarked upon – no one even so much as says “Ah, Movellans!”, they’re just there for longtime fans to spot and cheer on, and for the uninitiated (or just those who have forgotten), they’re cannon fodder anyway. This has become my favorite flavor of Doctor Who continuity callback in the Moffat era – the incidental kind that leaves little room to mess things up.
The Pilot – its title a sly nod to the fact that every new companion introduction is a soft reboot of sorts, a new pilot – is a promising start for Moffat’s last season in the producer’s chair.