After over a year without The Doctor — save for the 2016 Christmas special — Doctor Who 10×01 finally aired. Series 10 marks the last for both Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffat, but it’s the first for Pearl Mackie’s Bill Potts. And let it be known: We’re already in love. So, despite the massive pressure of setting up Capaldi’s eventual departure and introducing a new character, Moffat delivered. Big time. Doctor Who 10×01 was the perfect mixture of soul-crushing drama and quippy Doctor humor, complete with that special blend of wonder that comes along with the introduction of a new companion. Welcome back, Doctor. And welcome to the insanity, Bill. I’d say buckle up, but…Well. I don’t think a TARDIS has seat belts.
Doctor Who 10×01, in short.
“This is the gateway to everything that ever was. That ever can be.”
The Doctor invited non-student Bill Potts to his office to ask her why she’d been attending his lectures. After that was all cleared up (not really, honestly), The Doctor became Bill’s personal tutor. But then Bill went out for some drinks, had an instant connection with a girl, and the rest turned into your typical Doctor Who history. Mystery, danger, heartbreak. You name it. Smartly enough, when The Girl — whose name we learned was Heather — showed Bill a mysterious puddle that reflected her face back all wrong, she knew The Doctor was the only person she could tell.
And, when Heather was lost to that puddle, it was The Doctor who helped Bill get to the bottom of things. As The Doctor does.
The thing about Doctor Who 10×01, though, is that it wasn’t about The Doctor saving anyone. Heather couldn’t be saved; she was already dead, in case the image of her vacant eyes staring out of the puddle wasn’t enough to make that obvious. Bill went from instant chemistry to heartbreak in far less (relative) time than typically happens for The Doctor’s companions; and despite an ending that featured the always-hopeful moment when a new companion realizes she’s about to go on the journey of a lifetime, you could probably say that Doctor Who 10×01 was kind of tragic.
Except that it wasn’t. Doctor Who‘s series 10 opener was, in short, magical. It was a new beginning for The Doctor and a chance for a girl with an all-too-ordinary life to get her chance to take on the extraordinary. The mystery of the puddle, complete with its heartbreaking ending, was just the kind of Doctor Who story we’ve been missing all this time.
And there were even Daleks!
But even the Daleks weren’t the focus here: Doctor Who 10×01 was all about introducing us to Bill Potts, brand new love of our lives.
No, I don’t know how else to say this: I love Bill. Even from her first, awkward moments of sitting in The Doctor’s empty office, there was something about Pearl Mackie’s character that screamed, “you’re going to love me.” Once she began telling her completely off-topic, rambling (kind of Doctor-like, no?) tale about fattening a girl with the extra chips, I found myself wondering where in TARDIS I was going to fit her into my list of favorite companions. No one will ever be Rose Tyler, but could she live up to a Donna Noble? A (totally underrated) Martha Jones?
Seeing Bill’s average life play out, juxtaposed with The Doctor’s lectures about time and space, it was almost like remembering Rose’s boring life working in a shop. And at the end of Doctor Who 10×01, when The Doctor was about to wipe Bill’s memory,I had a horrible flashback to Donna’s awful end. Bill, however, was different. She was able to convince The Doctor to keep her memory intact; and after arguing with the pictures of his companions, he even decided to bring her into his world.
Time…and relative dimension in space. It means ‘what the hell.’
What the hell indeed.
Of course, it wasn’t just the lack of a memory wipe that made Bill different from the icons that came before her. She had an open mind right from the start, even offering her own wild lizard brain theory. After all, Bill knew all about sci-fi and had seen plenty of movies — enough to know about memory wipes, in fact. Somehow, though, she had the same perplexed reaction to The Doctor doing his thing as everyone else does.
Bill was introduced as a beautiful mix of contradictions, at once noticing too much — container full of sonic screwdrivers in an otherwise “normal” professor’s office, anyone? The familiar reflection in the never-before-seen photos of her mother? And how about that English on the front of The Doctor’s “box?” — and not noticing enough at all.
Most people, when they don’t understand something, they frown. You…smile.
Bill saw the beauty in Heather’s “defect,” and rather than being turned off by The Doctor’s eccentricity, she quickly took a liking to him, too. This new character introduced in Doctor Who 10×01 was instantly relatable, yet far too good for us all. She was at once familiar and a completely new phenomenon.
The first openly gay companion.
Before Doctor Who 10×01 aired, the news of Bill’s sexual orientation was already out there. It was met with a certain combination of celebration and “ok but what about Captain Jack.” I, for one, waited to meet Bill before deciding how to feel on the whole thing. After all, had Doctor Who introduced this aspect of the character in any disrespectful or cheap way, it wouldn’t have been a cause for excitement. But if it was handled well? That’s a completely different story.
Here’s the amazing thing: Bill’s status just doesn’t matter. Whovians were promised this would be the case — that there wouldn’t be any huge revelations and the information would be out there pretty quickly — and, thankfully, that promise was kept.
Men aren’t where I keep my eye, actually.
Maybe I should be a little bit more clear here: It matters that Bill doesn’t “keep her eye” on men, but it only matters to the extent that representation matters. Aside from that, Bill is just another person. She’s remarkable in so many ways. This just isn’t one of them. There’s never a moment where either The Doctor or Bill makes any kind of big deal about the fact that she falls in love with women. (And won’t be falling hopelessly in love with The Doctor, thank God. Enough of that.)
This isn’t a coming out story. Or a tale of “The Other.” It’s just a story about The Doctor finding yet another human with which to explore everything time and space have to offer.
Doctor Who is following in the footsteps of other recent sci-fi successes and openly, respectfully letting a major part of society in. Because love is love, even if it tends to end badly when The Doctor is involved.
What I’m saying here is if I didn’t love Bill already based on her wit, her charm, her bravery, her imagination, and the way she so easily clicked with The Doctor? I’d still have a special place in my heart for her because of how many viewers to whom her very existence can now give a voice.
- Can we talk about just how good the dialogue was in Doctor Who 10×01? Every time The Doctor gave Bill a seemingly cryptic, yet perfectly sound explanation for something, I felt all warm and fuzzy.
- “Did you build it from a kit?” “No, it came like that.”
- “Poetry, Physics. Same thing.” Same. Let’s stop trying to create a war between art and science.
- Pearl Mackie and Peter Capaldi deserve more time together. I happened to like Clara — I know quite a lot of Whovians didn’t — but after seeing Doctor Who 10×01, I really wish we’d been introduced to Bill much sooner. Someone get in the TARDIS and fix this. Now.
- “The passage of time is an illusion, and life is the magician. Because life only lets you see one day at a time.” Speaking of time.
- If your heart wasn’t instantly on fire when Bill’s foster mom randomly “found” those pictures of her dead mother, just after she’d confided in The Doctor that she didn’t have many but didn’t know how else to “know” her, please teach me your ways.
- It’s been a while since my Doctor Who reaction has been of the “wtf” variety, yet in a good way. It’s amazing what happens when a writer stops trying to complicate the already complicated flow of time and just gives us a good story. Also. Those shots of dead Heather? Delightfully creepy. More, please.
- “Why’d you run like that?” “Like what?” “Like a penguin with his arse on fire.” No, really. I. Loved. The. Banter.
- Daleks. DALEKS. I love Daleks. And was that seriously the Time War? I think that was the Time War. If I’m wrong, don’t tell me.
- Bill even asked to use the toilet on the TARDIS. Tv series always act like people never go. She’s so normal…yet not.
- “What, in the end, is everyone looking for? We’re looking for someone who’s looking for us.” Beautiful.
So, what did you think of Doctor Who 10×01? Are you in love with Bill Potts as we are?
Make sure to let us know, and tune in for more Doctor Who on BBC America. Here’s hoping Doctor Who 10×01 was just the beginning of Peter Capaldi’s best season yet. It’s always great to go out with a bang.
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