Doctor Who: The Pilot

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The Twelfth Doctor returns for one last ride on >Doctor Who

Season 10 Episodes 1 & 2, “The Pilot” and “Smile.”

A certain formula must be followed with the introduction of any new companion: who is she, what makes her unique, and why does she want to follow the Doctor?

For Bill, the answers are refreshing. Beloved as Amy, Rory, River, and Clara are, they represent a key problem in Steven Moffat’s era of >Doctor Who

— it is inherently white.

Doctor Who Season 10 Episode 1 (courtesy of BBC America)
Doctor Who Season 10 Episode 1 (courtesy of BBC America)

Progress of any kind was slow and painful through seasons 6 through 9, which saw the further addition of LGBTQ+ characters into the show with Madame Vastra and her wife, Jenny, as well as Clara Oswald and River Song, who were fluid in their sexualities (neither were given definitive labels of bi or pansexual, though either apply) and their choice of partners.

However, the issue of the obvious whiteness of the show remained.

With Bill Potts, things are changing. A gay woman of colour as a companion shouldn’t be a big deal, but after the last few seasons (and during the odd time we live in), it feels like a big deal. Particularly since Bill is the first black companion to lead the show since Freema Ageyman’s Martha Jones took on the Tenth Doctor in Season 3.

So, who is Bill Potts? And what is she like as a companion? To nail that down, let’s explore the big new companion moments that come with “The Pilot” and “Smile.”

Doctor Who Season 10 Episode 1 Image>
Doctor Who Season 10 Episode 1 Image

It’s Bigger on the Inside

The defining moment of any new companion is their first time aboard the TARDIS. For Donna, it was sheer audacity at being stuck in a box on her wedding day. For Clara, it was the opportunity to remark that the TARDIS is, in fact, smaller on the outside. For Bill? Well, Bill just wants to know where the toilet is.

(I love Bill.)

After 55 years, >Doctor Who

still finds new ways to introduce newcomers to the TARDIS, and for Bill it’s all about the logistics: Where’s the steering wheel? Why don’t the seats reach the console so you can sit and drive? She asks questions others just haven’t, but viewers always have. And the Doctor, always slightly baffled by the questions humans ask, answers them obligingly.

He’s An Alien

Does he have high blood pressure? Why two hearts? Is he from space? Bill feels her way through her new normal by trying to get to know the Doctor, with surprisingly revealing results.

Twelve hides nuggets of truth in his flippant replies — yes, he’s from a planet in space, yes, he has two hearts, and yes, he does have high blood pressure. There’s a lightness to Twelve that is clearly due to the liberation and freedom of his role in being the last of the Time Lords, and that lightness leads him to saying “yes” more often than he says “no.”

With Bill in particular, the Doctor seems more than willing to take her on adventures, even if he does later pull the tried-and-true “stay in the TARDIS” on her. This likely stems from the fact that he’s been a Professor at the University Bill works at for over 50 years.

The Doctor has clearly learned to be more comfortable staying in one place (Eleven barely lasted two weeks with Amy and Rory in their flat, but Twelve happily spent 24 with River on Darillium), but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been yearning to travel. In fact, since it’s been at least 74 years since he lost Clara, it’s fair to say that the Doctor is a little lonely.

Doctor Who S10 Ep1
Doctor Who S10 Ep1

That’s the crux of Bill and the Doctor’s relationship two episodes in — they’re both lonely. Bill is constantly reaching out to the world around her for any kind of connection, whether it be with the girl she sneaks extra fries to, or Hannah, the girl she loses.

She is sociable and goes out to clubs, but it doesn’t seem like she has much holding her to her life on Earth.

For the Doctor, it’s much the same. His only companion is Nardole, who he re-built out of the fear of being alone after River’s death. He keeps reminders of the people he loves on his desk: Susan, his granddaughter, and River, his wife. Both are gone from him now, but unlike his past selves, he chooses to remember them.

Remembrance is a theme with Twelve, and a harsh one at that. He began his reincarnation with absolutely no clue who he was at all, and was forced to forget who Clara is in order to protect her. He tries to take Bill’s memories of him to protect her (and his secret vault).

He holds on to his granddaughter and wife instead of pushing the past away and choosing to forget them. I have a feeling this isn’t the last we’ll see of the Doctor’s struggle with the morality of having the power to destroy memories with a mere touch.

But Why Her?

So, why Bill? She has all the classic characteristics of a companion: adventurous, eager, stubborn, compassionate, clever. He only takes the best, after all.

But Bill is has her own wonderful personality that makes her one of the best. She’s both reluctant and reckless at the same time, and brave in a way that is almost blind. She is totally comfortable in who she is and even what she wears — it takes a chill chick to rock high-waisted mom jeans and peace-sign earrings, and she does it effortlessly.

Bill is happy and earnest in a way that is endearing and a little heartbreaking. She wants to get to know the Doctor and what makes him tick.

It says everything about Bill that she concludes the Doctor to be not a hero or a madman, but a bit of an outer space help line for anyone who needs him. She sees the good in people more than she sees the bad. Bill isn’t a jaded woman. She’s just excited to be out in the universe and meeting new people.

Stray Thoughts:

  • Do you think the heart eyes emoji survived humanity’s journey into space? I hope so, because I love that thing.
  • Okay, so what the hell is in the vault? I can’t even begin to puzzle that one out, but I’d love to know why the Doctor made a deal to guard it.
  • The Doctor told Bill to “Come along” and I’m sure millions of Whovians around the world heard Eleven say, “Come along, Pond” just like I did. Right? Right, guys?
  • Bill deserves a girlfriend. Get Bill a girlfriend 2k17. Make it so.

What did you think of these episodes of >Doctor Who

? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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>Doctor Who

airs Saturdays at 9/8c on BBC/BBC America.

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Brittany Rae

Brittany Rae

Brittany is a writer and avid TV blogger hailing the infamous year of 1989. She trained at Vancouver Film School in screenwriting for television and film, and has gone on to become a graphic designer and blogger in her free time. When she’s not watching the Food Network, she’s trying to consume every bit of sci-fi television she can get her hands on (current favorites include The 100, Person of Interest, and Doctor Who). She’s always up for female-led dramas and, of course, a literal interpretation of the phrase “Netflix and chill."

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