This is not a reboot.
This is a reboot.
These two sentences are true. And false. Trulse if you like. Frue? Um, scrub that. Let me say true/false instead. Hmmm. Sorted.
The fact that this is a reboot (no, it isn’t) makes the title – The Pilot – into a play on words (or it would but since this is not a reboot, this is not a play on words).
I couldn’t help feeling, when watching this episode, that I had seen this all before. Not a bad thing, mind you. It was just incredibly familiar. Stavros Moffat doing his version of Russell Tyrannosaurus Davies’ Rose. It ain’t a reboot (yes, it is) but it works as one (yes, well, of course it works as a reboot because it is a reboot [no, it isn’t!] Is! [Isn’t!]). Davies never had a planet with lemon drop skies though…
Companion with family life? Yup? Council flat? Yup. Companion’s would-shoulda-coulda love life? Yup yup yup. Also note how the character Bill (short for Billie, hmmm, a technical yup there, and I bet the rookie Whovians crowed in delight about that) works in the canteen where she serves chips (As Rose did in School Reunion, as played by Billie Piper, yup squared!). Need I say more? Probably not but I will anyway.
There are differences. Bill is the almost complete opposite of Rose in that she is black, pretty, tall, adopted and a lesbian. Yes, the show’s first openly gay companion. Which I won’t discuss in detail since it isn’t an issue. She is gay, so what? It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make her character anything else but human just like you and me. Well, you. Miaow…
Not that some people won’t complain, they will. On Twitter some UKIP supporter whined that the BBC were ticking boxes. This whiner not realising that half of the audience watching the show is gay. Meh, it is not an issue, get over it, dudes.
Some lesbian Whovians have commented on the fact that ‘gay’ only applies to men. Gay women are lesbians. Both are true. And false. Any word, if used enough, can change meaning. ‘Gay’ once meant ‘happy’, ‘queer’ once meant ‘strange’, ‘lesbian’ was once used to describe the inhabitants of the island of Lesbos, and now ‘gay’ can be used to describe gay men and lesbians. Words evolve. Although, the next time someone tells you that Lesbians are not called ‘gay’, just tell them that unless you come from Lesbos, you can’t call yourself a Lesbian.
It starts off in an office. On Earth. Upon a desk are photographs of Susan, River and Adric (in a mankini). This is not the office of Professor Chronotis, no, this ain’t a remake of Shada. This is where physics lecturer, the Doctor, hangs out when not teaching. Yes, he teaches in a university now. University teaching is cool. But he has a problem, or not a problem but more of an issue, with one of the students who is attending his classes. Bill, who isn’t a student at all (this is not true, she is a student because the Doctor goes back in time to enroll her. She just doesn’t know it yet), has been attending his lessons despite not knowing that she is a student. I might need to draw a Venn diagram to explain all this.
Oh, and the desk has sonic screwdrivers on it. All the ones ever shown on the show. I wonder how many grey-bearded Whovians wet themselves with joy at that? Hands up if you had soggy Y-fronts!!!
Nardole, he is is back (semi-sarcastic yay, nah he is alright), opens the door to Ms Potts. He has a suspiciously robotic sounding arm. Another link to Rose with the fake arm reference. I wonder if anyone else got that? Don’t think he is an Auton though. Nardole is also an anagram of ‘Doctor’, is this a clue to the end of the series?
The Doctor sounds her out. He is curious about her. Odd thing but I have the feeling that he knows something about her. He seems to like her and thus he becomes her tutor. Not just ‘thus’ but I am not here to hold your hands through every bit of dialogue.
Bill mentions a girl she met in the uni canteen (refectory?) that she liked, but the girl also liked chips and so Bill plumped her. Or fatted her. Small tiny scene, loved it though.
Months pass and the relationship between the Doctor and Bill becomes one of, dare I say, friends. She mentions not having any photographs of her real mother and the next day a boxful of photographs suddenly turns up. With a photo that shows the Doctor doing an impression of the famous cover to The Killing Joke. If you get this reference, award yourself a chufty badge. If you don’t, congratulations, you have a life.
During these months, Bill follows the Doctor and Nardole to a weird vault. What is in the vault? The reason for the reboot (it isn’t a reboot!)? Big doors on the vault. Gallifreyan symbols on the doors? Maybe…
Bill, when not following members of the faculty, meets a girl during these months. Bill kinda falls for her. “What, she is a Lesbian? Damn it, I will write a letter to The Times!” Hah! Again, being a lesbian is fine, really. Love is love is love is love. And a crush is a crush. Besides her lips taste like cherry chap sticks, probably.
The girl is called Heather. She seems nice. She is nice. She also has a star in her eye, a defect that is. In the other eye, she has another star, Elvis Presley. Bill likes Heather a lot, she is intrigued. A-huh-huh.
Hold on! Bill and Heather? Bill = William Hartnell. Heather = Heather Hartnell (Billy’s wife but you knew that already, right?). The sloshingly undercrackered greybeard Whovians must really be squealing with excitement now.
Heather asks Bill to look at something. Bill says yes, maybe she is hoping to be shown something naughty? Y’know, maybe a fart orchestra? But no. Heather takes Bill to, what in America would be called an empty lot, a playground for homeless people. Bits of rubbish around the edges, burn marks and a puddle. As first dates go, hardly one to remember.
What does Heather want to show Bill? It is a puddle. Yeah, woo-hoo not. Bill is told to look into the puddle. Nothing alien going on here. Just a puddle. Heather asks if Bill can see anything wrong with her reflection. “Yeah, man,” says Bill. “I need to comb my afro.” Bill doesn’t notice a thing (besides her afro) and when she turns around Heather has gone, flown the coop etc. But within the puddle, an effect-laden voice mentions finding a pilot. And that is the title explained. Huzzah! Everything alien going on here now.
I was wondering what the Big Bad would be. If it hadn’t turned up, I might have had to turn the show off and watch the Ferris Bueller TV series (Cthulhu bless DVD boxsets). I know what you are thinking. Yes, they made a TV series too. Cool or what?
Bill tells the Doctor about the puddle, as you do, and before she can finish talking he has made off like a Scottish Speedy Gonzalez. “¡Arriba arriba! ¡Andale ándale, hoots mon!” Bill follows him straight to the lot and finds him poking about with the puddle.
The Doctor notes scorch marks in a circle with the puddle towards one edge. He theorises that the puddle is intelligent spaceship fuel. In space, nobody can hear you call for a mechanic. No other water either. The only water in the empty lot is the puddle. Is the alien puddle called Puddle Song?
The Doctor sees what Bill didn’t. The reflection is not a reflection. The puddle is copying whatever looks into the puddle. So far this sounds more like a case for Torchwood or Mulder and Scully. Heather found out because when she looked into the puddle, her Elvis was in another in the other eye.
Bill goes back home to the flat worn out by all the puddle excitement. Someone is in the bathroom, Possibly her mother but judging by the background music probably not her mother. She enters the bathroom, nothing there. She pulls up the toilet seat, nothing there. She pulls aside the shower curtain, nothing there. Not even hair in the plug hole, just a yellowish eye. Yawn! Wait! An eye?!? Yikes! See Bill run. Run, Bill, run! A puddle is chasing you!
Bill arrives at the university, nightlit and misty with it. She hears something and sees a shadowy figure under a tree. Heather appears from the dark mistiness and tells Bill, “Tonight, Matthew, I will be possessed by an oily puddle.” If you remember the ITV show Stars in Their Eyes and that the original title for this episode was going to be A Star In Her Eye, then you will realise just how funny I am (not funny at all [I concur, also not a reboot]).
Bill barges into the Doctor’s office. The Doctor gives a quizzical look. She blabbers. The oily watery thing arrives and enters along the bottom of the door. “Crivens, a wee puddle!” cries the Doctor.
The wee puddle comes in and in an effect more impressive than the similar one in Terminator 2, Heather (all see-through and oddly attractive) raises up from the puddle. “Why do you never call? Don’t you like me any more,” she doesn’t say. “Puddle off,” cries out Bill (she doesn’t, I’m just being witty [no, you aren’t, so unfunny]).
The Doctor bundles Bill into the TARDIS which, like rocket scientists, Brad Pitt and men who own cars, don’t impress her much. She calls it a kitchen, a kitchen! Best bloomin’ kitchen in the universe, darling!
Nardole is there (no longer making mechanical noises with his arm), oddly nonchalent about her presence although he does ask the Doctor whether he should have her shot out of the TARDIS cannon. The Doctor assures Nardole that she is kosher, fine, not a problemo.
The Doctor whisks them off the vault. Sonic screwdriver out, scanning, no wifi signal. Damn. Heather appears. Uh-oh. Heather doesn’t seem interested in the vault, just Bill. Curious. Back into the TARDIS and off to Erinsborough, Australia, where Long Wet Sally finds them again. This is really getting bothersome now.
The Doctor is a cunning man though, he takes them gazillions of years into the future. This should fox the Soggy One. Erm, no. She finds them again. The Doctor reckons she can travel through time but doesn’t that seem a bit wrong? It is sentient spacerocket fuel, yes? So why would you fuel your spaceship with something that can travel through time? Unless you want to warm up your engine whilst still in bed, nuh-uh, I think not. Oily Heather must have waited for Bill to reappear and then found her when she detected her biodata (yes, a nod to the Whovians weaned on Faction Paradox, don’t thank me).
The Doctor’s final gambit, he takes them to a ship/space station/branch of IKEA where there is a battle between the Daleks and, wait for it, wait for it, the Movellans. Yes, them! Was I the only one to punch the air when we saw them? Yes? Oh, alright…
A Dalek goes to shoot Bill but Heather takes it. The Dalek tries to exterminate Heather, to put the Skaro whammy on her but it just ain’t doing a thing. “SOR-RY! THIS DOES NOT US-UAL-LY HAP-PEN TO ME! LET ME TRY A-GAIN IN A FEW RELS!” Dalek gets puddled. Nice.
Heather assumes the Dalek’s appearance but it really isn’t fooling anyone so it quickly turns back into her normal dripping waif look.
The Doctor tells Bill that the puddle possessed Heather like a demon or a bad curry. Why? Because it found someone, like the puddle, who simply wanted to leave. Heather fancied Bill and so the puddle confused love with navigation and voila! Instant Bill-addicted puddle monster. Same old story of girl meets girl, girl becomes possessed by sentient puddle, puddly girl stalks girl; a classic story as old as time.
Bill convinces Heather, in a maelstrom of CGI gimmickiness, that she should let her go. And so she does. Heather melts away and that is the problem solved. Hurray, now to go back home for tea and crumpet.
If the Puddle Girl travels through time, and there is no proof or reason why this is true, then end of story. But if she merely waited millions of years, does this not mean that she isn’t as gone as we might assume? If the Dalek/Movellan war is set before the lemony planet scene, then what happens is this: Bill persuades Puddle Heather to let her go, then millions of years later, Puddle Heather goes back on her word and starts stalking Bill again which is why the TARDIS gang saw her on that planet. This could be what really happened, right?
Anyway, back in the Doctor’s office he tries to wipe Bill’s memory of all who he is and what happened but he can’t. He tells her to get away as fast as she can. And like the gingerbread man, she is gone.
No sooner has she gone outside then she sees the Doctor, with TARDIS, behind him like the best ever time ship ever. He changed his mind (why?) and this is where it starts for good: Bill and the Doctor’s excellent adventures!
Trailer of the upcoming episodes which I won’t discuss until the episodes happen. No spoiler warning needed.
Episode one and this is a good jumping-on point for rookie Whovians. All you need to know is mentioned, except for the bits which aren’t mentioned. All we know is that at St Luke’s University is a man called the Doctor. Doctor what though? He has been teaching for fifty or so years which Bill accepts quite easily to my amusement. There is a vault (on the grounds of the uni?) and something is in the vault which must be protected, guarded, against alien threats maybe.
Yes, The Pilot echoes other episodes of the show but this is not a problem. You’d be hard-pressed to find any story after 1965 which doesn’t riff on things previously shown or done or alluded to. All TV shows are like this and when you have one that has lasted for other fifty years, well, it is to be expected.
Oh! Oh! Oh! Bill said that the Doctor has been there for fifty years, yes? Could he have been there since 1963? Is this a vault containing something akin to the Hand of Omega? The Foot of Rassilon? The Spleen of the Other? The Lung of Lungbarrow? I dunno but I cannot wait to find out.
Some snarky fans have complained that the Puddle Heather is too similar to the waterthing in Waters of Mars but, how can i say this, Heather isn’t water! She is oil! If the snarky fans had compared her to the gloop monster which killed Tasha Yar in Star Trek: TNG, then they might have had a point. Meh.
So the acting. Was that alright? Yeah, pretty much.
I’ll skim over the other actors of the piece. This is really Pearl Mackie and Peter Capaldi (or P-Mac and P-Cap as a few of the more street Whovians have renamed them. Urgh!).
Pearl was alright. Understated acting, naturalistic, loved it. The character of Bill is a delight. First ever person to point out that the TARDIS acronym only works in English. As all planets have a north, they also all have an English language which is why all the aliens on the show speak English.
No complaints about Pearl Mackie yet. She plays all her scenes well, from the nightclub and the blossoming of love to the Dalek IKEA and the puddle monster, all fine.
Peter? He is always good. He reacts to Pearl’s performance in a way that, I think, he never did with Ms Coleman. I wonder why? Peter Capaldi is always the best thing on the screen. Always. But in this story, he allows Pearl to bloom and strut her stuff. Which is a good thing.
Is this a good story? Hell yes! Should you watch it? Hell yes! Should you watch the TV version of Ferris Bueller? Probably not; stick to the film.
Loved this story. Can’t wait for the next.