Before Your Ancestors Had Turned the First Wheel (The Pilot)

(45 comments)

And she feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China

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It’s April 15th, 2017. Harry Styles is at number one with “Sign of the Times.” Lower in the charts, the remnants of the Sheeraning continue, along with Clean Bandit, Drake, and Martin Jensen. Since Sherlock, meanwhile… well, let’s start with UK news. It’s simpler. The UK triggered Article 50 and began the actual Brexit process, starting what was at the time a two year clock to departing the European Union. The new pound coin was released. And that’s basically it for major news. In the US, meanwhile… well, Donald Trump is inaugurated as President. He almost immediately commences with an attempt on his promised ban on Muslims entering the country, which immediately triggers a rash of lawsuits and protests. Less than a month later, Michael Flynn, his National Security Advisor, is forced to resign after it emerges that he lied about pre-election contacts with Russia. It emerges that another Trump advisor, Sebastian Gorka, is a member of a Hungarian Nazi group. Neil Gorsuch is nominated to the Supreme Court to take the seat that Mitch McConnell kept Obama from filling. The Dakota Access Pipeline protests are forcibly crushed. And that gaffe where the Oscars accidentally name the wrong film as Best Picture. Yeah. It’s been a big few months.

Thankfully, at last we have Doctor Who to distract us. The Pilot is a strange artifact. Its title is justified within the narrative, but clearly pulls a double duty, meta-referencing the common terminology for the first episode of a series, shot as a proof of concept for network approval. Moffat, in other words, is proclaiming a clean start. This is, of course, a partial lie. This is not a new beginning for the show, but rather an epilogue that’s marking time so Chibnall can finish saying “not all men” before casting Jodie Whittaker. But the mild perversity of that double duty is the point of the exercise here. Moffat has spoken in interviews of his idea of a mayfly Doctor, in which you do a bit of stunt casting for a Doctor who regenerates at the end of their first story. (He sort of did this with John Hurt, but that’s beside the point.) Here we get a mayfly series—a from first principles revamp of Doctor Who that starts with its expiration date already marked on the calendar. 

Indeed, the ways in which it’s not a fresh start are easy to rattle off. The knowing cuts to images of River and Susan on the Doctor’s desk, the presence of Nardole, and the fact that a key emotional beat requires the audience to recognize Clara’s theme in the music all point to this still being made for people who have been watching the series. Or, you know, the fucking Movellans. But the game that Moffat is playing here depends on an internal sincerity to the exercise in spite of the still existent debt to the past. Simply put, you can’t sell an episode winkingly called The Pilot without actually presenting a decisive new direction somewhere in the mix. But, of course, Moffat is long past actually having the capacity to radically reinvent his technique. He’s stuck finding new ideas in the margins of the space he’s meticulously explored. And so, tasked to reinvent a series he’s already comprehensively remade in his own image, he decides to channel his predecessor and write a Russell T Davies script.

It’s an inspired choice, as desperate gambits go. For one thing, Davies had been gone long enough for his standards to feel new again. More than that, it had been long enough that Moffat could do things that felt like Davies standards but that Davies never quite did. For all the whinging about the “gay agenda” from fans who were waiting around for the sobriquet “SJW” to be coined, Davies had been surprisingly coy about letting main characters be queer, with the only exception being Jack, whose queerness was couched in a defensive layer of comedy and seemed largely to overwhelm him. (Note also how the degree to which Jack was attracted to men depended wildly on the series; on Doctor Who he was generally into women with occasional acknowledgments of same sex attraction; on Torchwood he was almost exclusively paired with men, while having the comedy aspects of his character almost entirely neglected.) And so with Bill we get a first: a queer character whose queerness is an incidental detail, acknowledged but never feeling like the point of the character.

But we’re losing the forest for the trees here. The big Davies aspect to her and the story at large is the dynamic of the Doctor enchanting the life of a perfectly ordinary person. Moffat’s previous two companions had not been ordinary people. This is true not only in the sense of both of them having baroque backstories, but in terms of who they are as people. In Amy’s case, this was largely the Doctor’s doing, while with Clara it was much more rooted in her own basic pathologies. They both have one foot out of the world before the TARDIS even lands. But Bill is aggressively quotidian, her initial state defined in terms of lack of accomplishment, of means, and of upward trajectory. She serves chips at a school she wishes she could afford to go to. 

The parallels with Rose are obvious and instructive, but they only tell part of the story. Rose was always designed as a fish out of water within the sci-fi genre. She was designed to ask the questions a sci-fi skeptical audience like the one Davies assumed he’d be dealing with in 2005 might ask. Bill, on the other hand, is heavily clued into the genre, and repeats the trick Moffat used with Clara of offering slightly wrong versions of the stock comments and questions that the viewer already knows the answer to. (“It’s smaller on the outside,” etc.) Likewise, she’s allowed to get ahead of the plot, anticipating the Doctor’s attempt at a memory wipe instead of requiring the exposition. 

Which is the key difference. Daves approach was rooted in a sense of Doctor Who as a show, if not with no history, at least with a history that had to be consciously and deliberately reintroduced as he went. Moffat, on the other hand, is using those approaches to refresh a show that’s gotten consideably long in the tooth. Indeed, much like the title, there’s a real extent he’s using these tropes not for their content so much as for the degree to which they are recognizable signifiers of a new start for Doctor Who. 

But it’s easy to go too far in this direction too. There is a sense of newness to this, and not just because for the first time since 2012 we’re outside of the long shadow of Clara. (Well, sort of; as mentioned, her theme gets a symbolic run-out here, and she’s still got a cameo left to do because Capaldi can never really be out of her shadow.) The Doctor is, without explanation, tossed into a new status quo and with a companion we still don’t entirely understand why he’s with or indeed why isn’t still a disembodied head inside a giant robot. Moffat wisely makes use of the gap between seasons, making it feel like we’ve missed a year. 

But more to the point, there’s a sense of newness to Bill. Some of this is simply that she’s a queer woman of color. But this is more than just hollow representation for the sake of it. Moffat admitted in interviews leading up to Series Ten that he’d naively assumed that deciding he would do color-blind casting would result in diversity. And so with Bill he decided up front that he was going to hire a woman of color, and directed Andy Pryor accordingly. Pryor, of course, being Pryor absolutely nailed it with Pearl Mackie. 

But this gave rise to a second good decision. The biggest problem with color-blind casting is what Moffat observed: that it tends to end up pretty white. But a second problem is that the roles that do go to people of color are generic and end up erasing their race. There’s something to be said for equality and the idea that minorities can play any role, but there’s also something to be said for the idea that people of color have meaningfully different experiences in life that art about them should try to capture. And it’s a lot harder to do that, obviously, with a character who’s designed to be generic and then, in an act of deliberate arbitrariness, made black.

But that’s not Bill. The series does not become about her race any more than it does her lesbianism, but she is nevertheless a character whose blackness is allowed to matter. The desires that motivate her to want to fly away on the TARDIS certainly aren’t unique to black women—a sense of stuckness, isolation, and lack of prospects. But Bill’s status as a black woman with a white foster mother who barely knows her (complete with not having grasped her sexuality) gives reasons why she feels this way. 

It is also, given what we’ve said about Clara’s long shadow, worth noting the ways in which Bill is a markedly different character and person. Clara brimmed with confidence and hyper-competence, defined from the start as the perfect companion. Bill is not that. Bill, in fact, lacks confidence, and is someone who has to learn how to be a companion, even if she does possess basic aptitude. But she’s in no way a reversion to the John Nathan-Turner “be able to run and scream at the same time and ask ‘what do we do now Doctor’ with conviction” paradigm either. For one thing, she’s driven by an intense curiosity that, though it doesn’t make her a Doctor analogue, still makes for a significant similarity between them, and one that lets her have a lot of agency despite lacking Clara’s hyper-competence. She’s also allowed to grow in ways Clara was not; because Clara’s skill extended from her flaws, character development for Clara was generally a matter of going deeper in rather than of growing. Bill, however, gets to grow. Her story is that of someone who wants more out of her life, gets it, and so has to learn to be the person that having it requires.

And the presence of Bill has knock-on effects for Capaldi’s Doctor. Opposite the beautifully flawed Clara, Capaldi’s Doctor was naturally pulled towards his own dramatic flaws. There was a default expectation that he would be edgy, dangerous, and difficult. Capaldi played this masterfully, but his portrayal of the character has always been pushing away from that instinct and towards the goofy dad vibe that was first emphatically nailed at the start of The Magician’s Apprentice. With Bill, his foster student, he has a natural path into a sort of magical grandfather role that’s very much a new default position for his Doctor.

We haven’t managed to talk much about the episode yet, which isn’t that surprising—it’s an even bigger throwaway than Deep Breath, with an aggressive sense of low stakes and smallness that befits Bill as a character. There are a few spots where its minimalism trips into undercooking, most obviously around Bill and Heather’s relationship, which isn’t really set up enough before the quasi-malevolent liquid spaceship interferes to quite sell what it needs to do later in the season. And the actual question of how the spaceship works will give Tat Wood plenty of fuel for the “Things That Don’t Make Sense” section. (Speaking of which, I need to review Volume 9…) But most of this isn’t a problem for what this episode is doing, which is taking a very simple idea (the aliens have possessed Bill’s girlfriend) and using it as a stage to introduce a new relationship. And that relationship is the point.

And so the table is set for this strange micro-era. After a bevy of worrisome signs for the series, at the dawn of Moffat’s last season things looked good and steady, with a solid setup that feels like it has at least a season in it. And we knew going into it that it didn’t need more than that. Now it’s time to see what this new storytelling engine can do.

Comments

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mx_mond 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Bill is a black working-class lesbian prone to crushes at first sight and who, when we meet her, proceeds to tell us a story about on such crush in a very mundane situation. I'm convinced Moffat's RTD inspirations in series 10 include Letita Wright's character from Cucumber/Banana.

In the Polish fandom, series 10 seemed to be the Capaldi series for people who disliked the Capaldi era or indeed the larger portion of the Moffat era. In that light, drawing from RTD seemed like a canny move.

The love story at the core of The Pilot is also representative of what to me is one of the biggest strengths of this series, namely: that Bill is much more emotionally open than Amy or Clara. It's another refreshing change and probably also helped more people connect to the companion and the series.

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Chris C 6 months, 3 weeks ago

The episode is structured a bit like a miniature The Time of the Doctor. The Doctor's Alan Moore-ish "imagine your whole timeline laid out around you like a city, buildings made of frozen moments" monologue does some lifting for a series that's nominally a fresh start but is nonetheless saturated in the past.

Lawrence Gough puts in a great directorial turn here. It's brimming with stylistic confidence in a mostly unflashy way, and makes a new play for "most ambitious TARDIS reveal shot".

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taiey 6 months, 3 weeks ago

The series really did need any mention of Heather specifically at some point in the middle there. Her appearance in the finale was a strange mix of "I predicted this after the first episode" and "this was in no way built up to sufficiently".
And still... and still. If it works, it works because we love Bill so very much.

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Sean Dillon 6 months, 3 weeks ago

And you want to travel with her, and you want to travel blind
And you know that you can trust her
For she's touched your perfect body with her mind

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Tom B 6 months, 3 weeks ago

The professor/ magical grandfather role had a dry run in Listen. There it was a breath of fresh air from all the "Am I a good man?" claptrap that was building up that season. I guessed at the time that Moffat decided to not go that way since that direction wouldn't be compatible with the angst he wanted the Doctor going through that year, and by the next year he and Capaldi decided to to with aging Rock God for a persona next. He eventually decided to come back to it for Capaldi's 3rd season.

The Doctor having the somewhat different personas each season seems to match up with what Moffat did with Clara, having her being a plot cypher the first season, Slappy McSlapperson with a bunch of angst the second season, with one episode of Doctor-in-training, with that getting picked up the next season as they decided she couldn't spend another year slapping the Doctor around without (more) people wondering why the Doctor didn't just kick her out the TARDIS doors.

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TomeDeaf 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Truly insightful comment in the spirit of the Eruditorum - the sort of view one isn't going to find anywhere else on the Internet, 10/10

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Przemek 6 months ago

"Slappy McSlapperson with a bunch of angst the second season"

Uhhh... I'm not sure we watched the same season. For starters, for me Clara's emotions and behaviour seemed totally justified given how Twelve himself behaved in his first season.

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Tom B 6 months, 3 weeks ago

The professor/ magical grandfather role had a dry run in Listen. There it was a breath of fresh air from all the "Am I a good man?" claptrap that was building up that season. I guessed at the time that Moffat decided to not go that way since that direction wouldn't be compatible with the angst he wanted the Doctor going through that year, and by the next year he and Capaldi decided to to with aging Rock God for a persona next. He eventually decided to come back to it for Capaldi's 3rd season.

The Doctor having the somewhat different personas each season seems to match up with what Moffat did with Clara, having her being a plot cypher the first season, Slappy McSlapperson with a bunch of angst the second season, with one episode of Doctor-in-training, with that getting picked up the next season as they decided she couldn't spend another year slapping the Doctor around without (more) people wondering why the Doctor didn't just kick her out the TARDIS doors.

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AG 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Moffat set up an AMAZING core characterization for Bill in The Pilot: she smiles when she doesn't understand.

It's such a shame most of the writers for the rest of the season forgot about that. She's basically a generic character from Knock Knock on, the most egregious anonymization of Bill being Eaters of Light. I just kept waiting for her vibrant character to return, but I don't think really ever did, even in the finale episodes.

Seriously, you could do such a great multi-season show rooted in the concept of "the protagonist is someone who smiles when confronted with the unknown," and somehow most all of the subsequent writers couldn't be inspired by that character!? Especially as such a character being a DW companion????

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TomeDeaf 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I disagree that she's generic in Eaters. Its the first story since Oxygen to really remember that she's the Doctor's student (apart from terrible lip service paid to the idea in Lie of the Land re: the essay on free will) - she's curious about history and trying to make a point and the whole thing starts because of, essentially, an academic disagreement. Then there's the foregrounding of her queerness in her scenes with Lucius and the Roman soldiers. I also like her twigging how the translation circuits work, although this does feel like it ought to be earlier in the season (pre hearing lots of people presumably talk in other languages in Extremis and Pyramid). In fact I think Eaters was originally meant to be earlier in the season, but was pushed back, though I could be wrong about that.

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AG 6 months, 3 weeks ago

The moments in Eaters that you point out seem like a use of an on-paper description of Bill, though, not a natural extension of the Bill as executed in earlier episodes, as opposed to "take story with generic nondescript companion in it + add a conversation that references said companion being queer." I didn't feel that anything Bill did was uniquely Bill, versus how you could vividly imagine how a Clara/Amy/Donna/Rose/etc. version of the same plot points would go.

Strong character writing is when you can toss a hypothetical ball into the room and know how the characters would react. Bill didn't get the same kind of distinct character writing in Eaters as Nardole or Twelve did.

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TomeDeaf 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Fair enough, that's not really what I get out of it (especially not the plot being kickstarted by a teacher-student discussion). I think she's even more generic in Empress, tbh, as though Gatiss only picks up on the line about sci-fi on Netflix and decides to make "she references SFfilms" the extent of her characterisation.

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Daibhid C 6 months, 3 weeks ago

The moments in Eaters that you point out seem like a use of an on-paper description of Bill, though, not a natural extension of the Bill as executed in earlier episodes

I have only a hazy idea of how episodic television is created, but might this be because Rona Munro only had how Bill is described on paper available at the time she was writing?

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AG 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Yes, it is very likely, since they didn't have a writer's room. My impression is that before Series 11, writers would independently pitch their episode ideas to the showrunner, never contacting any of the other writers. Any season arcs/continuity would stem from showrunner notes to them, or the showrunner's edits/rewrites of the episode.

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TomeDeaf 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Mind you, I was led to believe that Sarah Dollard was quite proactive about getting other S10 writers together and discussing Bill as a person, though I would have to go back and check the veracity of that.

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prandeamus 6 months, 3 weeks ago

There's something about this season that really appeals to me. It has some script clunkers, as any season will, but the characters make it work.

I like Bill (Pearl is excellent) and Nardole, with Matt Lucas playing an harmless drudge with flushes of badassery. Capaldi's characterisation is one I wish he could have started with. And Missy's fine, although that's a slow burn until the of the arc. The Pilot is fine, even if Heather is undeveloped. I love Extremis and the two-part finale, and TuaT. The only ones I really wouldn't rate are Pyramid and LotL.

I wonder if some of this is a kind of nostalgia, though? Knowing how the Chibnallypse will begin makes Season 10 shine even more brightly that did at the time.

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MattM 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I really liked series 10, felt fresh and exciting and should have done far better than it did. Felt a lot of this was down to the BBC just not pushing it at all. I wonder how Who would have done if 10 had been the start of the Capaldi era rather than 8. The fact it's a lot more fun and not so reliant on eating its own tail in terms of continuity helps a lot.

The big trip-up of series 10 is the monks of course. Half the problem is that the just look a bit rubbish - I feel like if they had looked cool and iconic it would at least have pushed some of those episodes up. As it is, they just look rubbish.

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TomeDeaf 6 months, 3 weeks ago

i like their faces (especially in some of the more nightmarish sequences in *Extremis*), but the robes kind of suck, especially as they have a faintly Orientalist whiff about them.

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prandeamus 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I'm not bothered by the look of the Monks, which fall within the usual parameters of a Doctor Who monster (to my eyes).

For me, Pyramid just didn't make sense in the way the representatives of the various powers behaved. It's been a while since I watched it, but that's what I remember thinking at the time.

My reasons for hating LotL are more emotional. The fakeout regeneration sequence was just wrong. Bill was unlikely to have a reference point for regeneration, and I just didn't get why the Doctor had to do it anyway. Maybe I just don't like "the Doctor seems to be acting evil" plotlines. At least in "The Invasion of Time" you have the fun of watching Tom Baker eating the scenery. That's the one I'll be most interested in reading El's thoughts.

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MattM 6 months, 3 weeks ago

The monk design was fine for a one-off but not a 'support the centre of the season in a three-parter' villain.

Agree about LotL. Very weak ending too. There was a really good idea in there somewhere which was completely squandered, which hurts more than just a generic okay story (like Eaters)

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Przemek 6 months ago

I thought they looked quite good, it's just that the two thirds of the story featuring them was rubbish. But I'm still a bit disappointed that the amazing fan theory regarding the Monks actually being the Mondasian Cybermen in disguise turned out to be wrong. I mean, come on! They even said that the rotting corpses look was not their true form!

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Benthesqid 6 months, 3 weeks ago

The thing that really struck me about Bill in this first episode was the answer she gives the Doctor when he asks why she's been sitting in on his lectures.

Or rather, the answer she entirely fails to give, instead going off on an unrelated topic, apparently trusting to the inertia of her speech to keep her going until she can assemble a suitably clever reply to the actual situation she's been presented with.

She doesn't quite manage it, and has to admit she was just stalling for time, but her basic instincts are solid- "Keep talking until I come up with an answer," is a pretty common tactic that the Doctor himself uses (especially Tennant, I feel).

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AG 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Yeah, that's another case where I was just completely charmed by the vivid and specific traits Moffat had imbued Bill's character with...and then those traits were never followed up on in subsequent episodes.
Perhaps one of the things that stands out is that this episode, Smile, and Thin Ice allow for self-paced conversations between Bill and Twelve to take center stage. Other episodes are more concerned with action. Twelve-Clara consistently found space to let the two be themselves with each other, and we lose that space in series 10 after the initial episodes. Maybe they just lost the balance between Bill and Nardole, and then later Missy.

(There's also a joke here for how Moffat's taken the "Keep talking until I come up with an answer" approach himself to plotting.)

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Rodolfo Piskorski 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I really like this season, especially now with the crapfest that was Season 11.

I didn't really see the point of Nardole and some episodes were kinda meh, but some were just brilliant. I think one of those meh episodes could have use Missy as a villain. She could have escaped and created some serious mayhem before being put back in the box. The last episodes would have felt much more intriguing.

Bill is amazing. I am especially struck by how amazing she is when compared to the bland "companions" of season 11. I guffawed at some of the dialogue between Bill and 13's companions that some people wrote on Gallifrey Base for a laugh. The thing about Bill is that I liked her immediately. And I hated both Amy and Clara at the start and ended up being heartbroken when they left. Imagine how amazing Bill could be if she had stayed around.

By the way, is no one going to mention the ugly look of having the two black companions lasting only 1 season?

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TomeDeaf 6 months, 3 weeks ago

It's... unfortunate, yeah. As is "the two major black characters in the Capaldi years both get turned into Cybermen".

Still, once Ryan and Yaz return in S12 that streak will have ended, at least.

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Tom B 6 months, 3 weeks ago

At least RTD had black characters return for appearance later after spending their one season as a companion (Mickey, Martha). One even got to go over to Torchwood for some episodes.

Also, Chibnall might have kept Ryan and Yaz around, but his first story as showrunner he fridged the black woman who looks from the story that she could have been a regular.

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Christopher Brown 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I'm not a Gallifrey Base member - any samples of that dialogue?? That sounds hilarious.

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Rodolfo Piskorski 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I now feel I might have oversold it. It's just that my imagination made it sound perfect and hilarious. We were in a thread discussing whether it would have been better to have kept Bill over Series 11, and someone wrote:

"More importantly, 'Bill' inhabited a different kind of television programme/universe from the one we are now watching. I'm still trying to work out whether I like the kind of television Doctor Who now is, compared with the TV version I liked 2005-2017. Maybe I do, maybe I don't. But I do know that Bill wouldn't work in this one."

We were talking precisely about the lack of naturalistic reactions from the Yaz and Ryan, so someone added:

"I can imagine her looking at the new ones in disbelief and saying “are you lot robots? Don’t you think what we’ve found out is a bit weird? No one’s going to say anything?! Don’t let us disturb your sleep, Yaz!”

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Rodolfo Piskorski 6 months, 3 weeks ago

This is also one of the my favourite episodes because it features Cardiff so much. I walk by most of these locations every day.

Also, I hope El will pick up the thematic links between Cardiff and Thin Ice, as I asked her on Twitter! =)

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Elizabeth Sandifer 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Remind me.

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Rodolfo Piskorski 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Hey, thanks for asking.

This was our interaction on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/animalwordspro/status/1040736248762122242

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John Biles 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I love Bill as a character, so even though this episode has a pretty thin plot, she's good enough, with Capaldi backing her up, to carry it.
It was especially refreshing for Moffat to create a companion who is just an ordinary person, and not half-human and half plot device.

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mx_mond 6 months, 2 weeks ago

All right, I'll bite: what do you think was plot-device-y about Amy and Clara (to a larger extent than every character in fiction being a plot device).

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AG 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Clara's is more obvious, which is that Eleven's interest in her is in unravelling the mystery of how she exists as different people across time.
Eleven also had an obligation to Amy, for leaving her behind for years, and he was playing a long con with her false copy in series six, and then she's the mother of his wife. Half of the time Amy is referred to by the Girl Who Waited title.

Twelve is interested in Bill because of her personality (that she attends his lectures as a non-student, and smiles when she doesn't understand), not because of any Sci-fi plot events that surround her.

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AG 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Amy is also a plot device in Series 5 for the Cracks in her bedroom. Eleven is confident in her ability to remember at the end of Series 5 because he's been monitoring her reaction to them the entire Series, including from the first episode.

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TomeDeaf 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Is the Doctor a plot device too, given she gives him the moniker of "Raggedy Man" and he serves the function of getting her from A to B?

Or is this critique just a teeny bit gendered?

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AG 6 months, 2 weeks ago

The critique is rooted in "why does the Doctor take on these people as a companion?" Amy and Clara have plot-related reasons that are important to Eleven's interest in them. Bill does not, Twelve is interested in Bill's personality as demonstrated by her actions in a mundane setting. By this definition, Craig is also a plot device companion.

The opposite direction, "why do the companions find the Doctor interesting/join him in travelling" rarely have plot reasons, with the exception of River and Nardole. The companions find the Doctor interesting as a person, and travel with him for reasons unrelated to the season arc plottiness.

It's not a gendered critique.

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TomeDeaf 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Nah, Amy choosing to leave with the Doctor in the TARDIS is absolutely rooted in plot device - she's running away from her wedding because she doesn't feel ready. The arc of Amy growing and choosing Rory and building to their wedding is as much the season arc as "cracks". That's a plot, it just isn't a SF plot. And Eleven takes to Amelia Fairytale Pond long before any obligation, of course ... She's the first face his face saw, seared onto his hearts.

More broadly, though, I just think it's terribly reductive to describe characters as plot devices. Of course they are; they all are. That's what characters are and do, they create plot around them because of their actions and choices and where they are on the board. Bill not having a moniker like The Girl Who Waited or The Girl Who Died or The Boy Who Lived or The Oncoming Storm or Raggedy Man doesn't actually make her not a plot device, if that's how one wants to break plots down in terms of devices and cogs, anyway. She gets the Doctor involved in the monster of the week story which later ends up saving him in the season finale: that's a plot function. She drags him into the haunted house, thereby serving a plot function. None of this in anyway makes her not a character, much as Clara and Amy's backgrounds don't mean they're not characters either. Characters ARE devices within a plot. Perhaps what you mean is Moffat hides this more with Bill than he does with Clara and Amy? In which case I agree.

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AG 6 months, 2 weeks ago

My first comment in this thread was in response to mx_mond, who said "what do you think was plot-device-y about Amy and Clara (to a larger extent than every character in fiction being a plot device)".

So, yes, the point was the Bill might still be as plot device-y as the Doctor in some ways, but that Amy and Clara were a little more plot-device-y than the baseline that Bill is at.
For example, Amy was clearly more plot-device-y than Rory in the beginning. As per good writing, both Amy and Clara became less plot-device-y later, as they were fleshed out.

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Przemek 6 months ago

I love Bill, but I remember being uncertain about her when "The Pilot" aired. I liked her a lot, but I was worried that her "asking meta questions about sci-fi stories she's in" gimmick might eventually bite the writers in the ass: a character like Bill is openly inviting the viewers to notice the genre conventions and to question plot logic, which is really bad news for weaker stories. But apparently I didn't need to worry because most writers just turned her into a generic companion anyway.

I agree that this "new era of Who spanning a single season" concept felt liberatingly fresh at the time and proved to be a good idea. I think what made S10 merely "enjoyable" instead of "amazing" was how undercooked it ultimately felt. Both Heather and Missy needed way more screeen time than they got, the Monks trilogy was incoherent at best and Nardole's relationship with Missy was all over the place (he chastises the Doctor for not guarding her enough and then he lets her out?). A bit more creative control over the whole and we might not even have needed S11 to love S10.

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