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25 April 2017 @ 09:08 pm
The Pilot  
Season openers and companion introductions are always a little insubstantial. They generally have a lot of ground to cover, in introducing (or re-introducing) characters while at the same time wanting to keep things fairly fast-paced and not too serious. In general I would say that Doctor Who has erred on the side of "light and fast-paced" with a focus on the companion's reaction to adventure. The Pilot clearly chose to go a little slower than usual in its introduction of Bill. It spends a lot of time establishing her relationship to the Doctor in the absence of any peril or adventure and only then brings the sci-fi plot of the episode forward.

On the whole I thought it did a good job of introducing Bill. I'm not as super-excited about her as a lot of people are, I got a sense of the script trying a little too hard to be funny in places. An "Educating Rita" relationship between Doctor and companion is an excellent idea but there is a fine line between portraying someone as bright, but uneducated, and being a little condescending towards your character and I'm not sure the script always got this right. That said I thought it was interesting that, while the show made much of how like the Doctor Clara was, in manner Bill is much more like the Doctor - in particular her tendency to gabble when either she is trying to deflect a line of questioning or she is simply nervous. She also has some of Capaldi's awkwardness of manner. I thought the monologue about serving her crush chips was great and very Doctorish in a lot of ways*.

A big deal was made in the pre-publicity for The Pilot that Bill would be a lesbian and, paradoxically, that big deal would not be made of this in the show. I was a little bemused in advance about how this could be achieved. Let's face it, Doctor Who is not the kind of show in which people discuss their sexuality a great deal (albeit this has been more common in NuWho than in Classic Who). How, I wondered, does one casually throw a mention of sexuality into a Doctor Who story? The answer, in retrospect, was obvious. I liked that the plot was driven by Bill's romantic interest.

That said the plot itself felt like it had some glaring holes in it. It is always difficult with a science fantastical show like Doctor Who to discuss what is, and isn't, realistic within the world of the show. However Heather, as the Pilot's, ability to cross time and space in sequence with the order of events as experienced by Bill and not in strict temporal order seemed... unlikely. The plot was also, as "Deb from Philadelphia" in the Verity podcast pointed out, something of a "greatest hits" of a number of things we have seen several times before in NuWho - all the more so when you throw "Educating Rita" into the mix. There were some lovely moments but on a story level, I wasn't particularly excited by this.

The set up shown, of the Doctor semi-fixed in a contemporary university is, hopefully, a chance for the show to be a little different this season. This is certainly a very different Doctor in lots of ways from the one we saw in seasons 8 and 9. One of my favourite moments in the story was the realisation that he had gone back in time to provide Bill with missing photos of her mother. This is a very different person from the one who had to read out cue cards, supplied by Clara, in order to interact appropriately with distressed humans. Nardole may have commented on his obliviousness to Bill's distress at the end, but this still seemed like a Doctor who had come a long way in his understanding of, or at least his willingness to deal with (I was never entirely convinced that the Doctor was oblivious to the feelings of those around him) the emotions of everyone else.

I've no strong feelings about Nardole. I like his dynamic with the Doctor which is so different to the typical Doctor Companion dynamic, but he was very much in the background here.

Overall I liked this. I thought it was a little slow at the start, but the new Tardis team and the university setting (albeit, as Tame Layman pointed out, university's don't work like that - though universities remain quixotic enough that it's not beyond the realms of possibility) have promise. As a long time fan, I'm rarely particularly excited by season openers, especially when they are designed (as this one clearly was) as a jumping on point, I'm too keen to get on with the story, but this one did its job.

*and yes there was a fat joke, but surely Bill as a character is allowed to be awkward about her attitude to weight - it's not like most people don't have an awkward relationship to weight.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/443915.html.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on April 25th, 2017 08:30 pm (UTC)
I also liked it but found it slow and questioned the Pilot's travelling abilities. I'm glad Bill turned out to be a character rather than a collection of minority attributes. She passed the school playground test I often set new companions: if I was at school with her, would she bully me for liking Doctor Who? (This was why I could never warm to Ace or Rose: they reminded me too much of the kids who used to bully me.)

Agreed about the Doctor. I've felt he's been particularly Tom Bakerish lately, although not slavishly so. I like him a lot more than I did back in his first season and am genuinely upset that he's leaving just as he seems to have nailed the part. Another season or two like this and he could have become my favourite new series Doctor.

Edited at 2017-04-25 08:30 pm (UTC)
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 27th, 2017 06:16 pm (UTC)
I feel oddly like he hasn't had enough time, even though he's had as long as all the other NuWho doctors, but 12 more than 10 or 11 still feels like a work in progress. I'm not sure if that is praise or criticism.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on April 27th, 2017 06:20 pm (UTC)
I know what you mean. I think Capaldi has developed his interpretation of the role a lot, albeit of somewhat necessity as he arguably started too unlikeable.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on April 25th, 2017 08:55 pm (UTC)
I would also like to know if, now we have a lesbian companion, can we please have an asexual/celibate Doctor? Or is that too risky, weird and deviant for a modern audience? (Note the photo of River Song. Whatever ambiguity Moffat left in the past about their relationship maybe possibly not being straightforwardly romantic has long vanished.)

(I also wondered if the photo of Susan was foreshadowing Something Important.)
Delia: Mailchainmailmaiden on April 26th, 2017 08:26 pm (UTC)
...can we please have an asexual/celibate Doctor?

This! A thousand times this!

I loved the fact classic Who didn't add romantic/sexual relationships into the mix. The fact the reboot seems to feel they have to throw them in and all the angst which they seem to feel must come with them, is precisely why I just never quite feel I can warm to it in the same way. Given the fact they seem to keep pairing the Doctor with humans many centuries younger than him I just can't help thinking they've turned him into a an intergalactic paedo :-(
louisedennislouisedennis on April 27th, 2017 06:19 pm (UTC)
See also vampires (or whinypires as, I understand, Sluggy Freelance has named them).

I strongly suspect that this is because "tumultuous romantic relationships" are vaguely considered a requirement for popular drama at some level.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 27th, 2017 06:18 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure about "weird and deviant" but I suspect there is a feeling that you need romance to keep the audience hooked, and preferably angsty, largely unrequited, angst - happily married people are as dramatically dull as the asexual (at least from the perspective of TV bigwigs).
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on April 27th, 2017 06:24 pm (UTC)
Weird and deviant is me venting. You are probably right, I just feel that in an era of identity politics, and in a fandom that puts a high regard on identity politics, the things I identify with are still marginalized or even derided. I'm not asexual, but I do feel that 'celibate' currently describes me better - describes how I feel and how I live my life better - than 'hetereosexual' even though the latter is also a true description.