The episode started in The Doctor’s study in Cardiff University. Many ‘kisses to the past’ were featured in this scene: a mug full of The Doctor’s previous models of sonic screwdrivers, and framed pictures of River Song and Susan Foreman (The Doctor’s Granddaughter). There was also a sign hung on The TARDIS saying ‘out of order’, which could be a reference to the scene in the William Hartnell story The War Machines. We were off to a great start.
We were also introduced to Bill, the Doctor’s new companion played by Pearl Mackie. Much hype was made of Bill being the first full time gay assistant. Thankfully this was played down as a usual relationship, without any fuss made about it, which many fans would see as the right thing to do. It was very soon when we realised that Bill and The Doctor clicked immediately.
Bill’s relationship with the Doctor started out as very Teacher/Student, which I think will appeal to the younger fans in secondary school or even the fans in University like Bill. It was a very interesting look at the relationship between The Doctor and his companion, which reminded me of the dynamic between Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor and Sophie Aldred’s Ace.
Bill is a fantastic character, funny and quick. The episode is shown largely through her eyes, and her reaction to the situations feel very real. She’s got a hint of geekiness, she is quick to question, and quick to understand the brave new world she was entering. She can also be menacing as seen in one of the scenes when she faces the monster in her own home.
Another character that is interesting was Heather. Heather is a girl with a deformed iris that makes her look like she has a star in her eye. She seems sad, but still mysterious, and can be seen as alien and human at the same time, showing great contrast as well as playing on the similarities. The character can also be seen as a very intimidating protagonist, as seen in the bathroom scene.
Nardole is very well portrayed by the brilliant Matt Lucas. Many fans had mixed feelings towards this ‘comedy butler’ character, and why The Doctor needs him, but I am ready to give him a chance as in this episode he seems almost mysterious, as if he’s hiding something. And one of the questions that will hopefully be answered in the new series is what exactly is that door, and what is Nardole and The Doctor’s mission on Earth?
The plot is fairly basic, which is basically Bill and The Doctor meeting, and being chased across time and space by a mysterious water-monster that copies everything that people say to it (similar to the protagonist in Russell T. Davies’ 2008 episode Midnight).
In terms of visuals, this episode is very strong, with only a few moments that might disappoint. In the scene when The Doctor explains the meaning of time and relative dimensions in space, there is an interesting use of camera work and CGI. The score is also excellent, written beautifully by Murray Gold and conducted excellently by Ben Foster and the BBC Wales Orchestra.
The only thing I was really disappointed about was the return of 1979’s Movellans. I felt they were either criminally underused in the episode or over-hyped in the trailers. I do hope we see a return for those characters.
All in all, The Pilot is a good episode, and a very encouraging start to the new series as a simple companion-introductory episode.