The Premiere was standard Doctor Who with some cute and clever quips, traditional Whovian humor, and a vague barely-explained horror premise turned sweet in the end. The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) is now working at a University with the freedom to teach about whatever he wants while Nardole (Matt Lucas) seems to be acting as a sort of butler.
Bill: “One time, you were going to lecture on quantum physics…you talked about poetry.”
The Doctor:“ Poetry…Physics…Same thing.”
Enter Bill (Pearl Mackie), a humble curious girl with a face what is “always making expressions when I’m trying to be enigmatic.” And she’s right. She is a personable girl who wears her heart on her sleeve. It’s a refreshing change from mysterious Clara. When I say curious, I mean it’s one of her qualities, not that she is personally very peculiar. In fact, she seems very normal in an everyman sort of way. The thing that catches the Doctor’s eye is the fact that, while most people frown when they don’t understand something, Bill smiles. But she isn’t a student; she’s a lunch lady who sneaks into his unpredictable lectures, sparking intrigue in the old Timelord. He summons her to his office (Which looks oddly like a set for a play. Is that some kind of clue?) and decides to become her personal tutor. Their dynamic has a promising playfulness to it. She seems to be more like Donna than any of the other companions so far.
Bill: “Can I ask you a personal question?”
He looks at her with a slightly alarmed expression, “No.”
Bill, undaunted, “Can I anyway?”
The Doctor, resignedly, “Yes.”
We are then given a sped up montage of what seems to be a year of their lives as they are now teacher and student and follow a routine of daily lessons. Time passes and Bill meets a pretty girl (Stephanie Hyam) with a golden star defect in one eye. In a strange conversation, Bill tries to comfort a distressed looking Heather (star-eye girl) and ends up following her behind a construction fence to a puddle that is not a puddle. And yes, the puddle is an alien–or maybe an alien ship? So long story short, the puddle swallows Heather and now it’s following Bill around shaped like a creepy, waterlogged, drowned Heather. Bill runs to the Doctor for help and is introduced to the TARDIS. Her reaction is admittedly unique and slightly cringe-worthy…in a good way. They proceed to try to outrun Puddle-Heather but no matter how far in time or space they travel, she’s always right there. They figure out that Heather made a promise to never leave just seconds before being absorbed by the puddle and that’s what’s making her follow Bill around.
The Doctor: “Never underestimate a crush.”
Heather is the pilot for this strange water being/ship but she’s still retained part of herself and in particular, her last conscious thought. They share a moment where Heather shows Bill exciting possibilities and invites her to come along. Bill wisely pulls away and lets her go, releasing her from the promise. But there seems to be an unspoken suggestion that we may see more of liquid Heather in the future. There’s another very cool moment when the Doctor decides he’s going to take her memories away and she convinces him to let her keep them. It’s touching and says a lot about the kind of person she is and also how emotionally receptive the Doctor has become.
But if I were to give this review a title it would have to be, “Ooooh. She’s a lesbian!” Because that does seem to be nearly the entire point of this episode. I can see them providing some hints or background when introducing Bill or even a few throughout the episode but it was more like, “In case you’ve forgotten in the last ten seconds. Here’s a reminder: she likes girls.” Each one would have been sufficient and made you say, “Oooh. She’s a lesbian.” and accept it as part of her character. But altogether they seem to have become the show waving its rainbow flag and shouting, “See! We did it! We gave you a gay companion! You can clap now.”
And I have to say, as a season premiere, it lacked a lot. It really didn’t set up much of anything (except that she’s a lesbian. Oh, you’re tired of me talking about that? Yeah. That’s sort of my point.) This premiere sort of felt like when you see your teacher at the grocery store. It’s sort of weird and uncomfortable and there seems to be lacking about twenty-two people. It’s not your teacher’s fault. She hadn’t changed, really. But even so, your roles are confusing and awkward. This episode does not get a standing ovation from me. Just some light chuckles and knowing smiles. (Mostly for the sky being made of lemon drops. 10 points for your house and a virtual fist bump for anyone who can tell me where that’s from.)
HIGH POINTS: Always love to see the TARDIS portrayed as an actual character. There were a couple of very funny scenes spread out through this episode and some really sweet moments (the box of pictures anyone?)
LOW POINTS: I feel like it was a let-down as a premiere. It lacked something. I think it was the complexity we’re used to seeing unravel in Doctor Who episodes. That multi-layered universe where you always know there are a million things in play. I never felt drawn into the story and there aren’t any nagging questions to be answered that make me want to come back for the next one. I mean it’s Doctor Who so it’s bound to be good, right? But I don’t want to just have faith. I want to see it.