TV Review: ‘Doctor Who’ S10 EP01 “The Pilot”

Guess Who’s back…

Starring:  Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas

Written by:  Steven Moffat / Episodes directed by: Lawrence Gough / aired in the UK and U.S. :  15/04/2017

What’s it about?

Posing as a university lecturer, the Doctor’s path crosses with a promising new student and a mysterious threat…

Episode review

After an extended break, Doctor Who returns with its first full new series since 2015 (only Christmas special “The Return of Doctor Mysterio“ aired during 2016) uniting Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor with new companion Bill Potts, played by Pearl Mackie.

Doctor Who has always thrived on reinventing and refreshing itself and although this most successfully occurs with a change in lead actor – the Doctor regenerating into a new ‘version’ of himself – “The Pilot” feels, from the outset somewhat like a series with a renewed perspective.  Granted, series 9 of modern Who was generally strong but with the darkness surrounding the loss of Clara and the Doctor’s grappling with his own demons it’s welcome to see the show return to a lighter and purely adventurous tone.

Outgoing showrunner Steven Moffat (who departs along with Peter Capaldi this year) delivers a fairly simple script that’s in measures, fun, exciting, scary and peppers in just the right amount of detail to establish the lore and universe of Doctor Who for new viewers without bogging the episode down in its expansive and – in places – messy history (Moffat doesn’t forget the fans though by including some delightful Easter eggs).  Moffat’s basic ‘water monster’ plot is easy enough to follow – no ‘timey-wimey’ convolutions here – throwing in a number of behind-the-sofa scares amongst smatterings of cheeky humour and intrigue (what could be behind that mysterious vault beneath the university campus?).

Capaldi makes an assured return as the Doctor and once again excels in the role but it’s Pearl Mackie’s introduction that proves the most significant highlight in a wide-eyed and affable performance that keeps proceedings as grounded and believable as possible against the otherworldly alien-ness of the Doctor’s world.  Capaldi and Mackie hit it off right from the start, their dynamic solidified as Bill’s curiosity is rewarded with an invitation into the TARDIS (made all the more memorable by Bill’s longer than usual realisation of its true nature)…and a run-in with the Daleks for good measure!

Less fortunate is returning (from the 2015 and 2016 Christmas specials) companion Nardole, with Matt Lucas given little to do other than…well, just hang around really.  Yet, this episode is more about Bill and no doubt there will be more opportunities to explore Nardole as the series progresses and the relationship of the new TARDIS team develops.

If “The Pilot” is representative of the rest of the series then outgoing showrunner Steven Moffat should exit on a creative high, the closing ‘coming soon’ tease (classic Cybermen! Missy! John Simm! Regeneration!) certain to whet viewers’ appetites for the adventures that lie ahead.

The bottom line:  Doctor Who makes a welcome return with a promising new companion in a highly entertaining reintroduction to the series.

Doctor Who airs in the UK Saturday evenings on BBC One.  US viewers can catch it on BBC America.

Doctor Who S10 prem

Read for new worlds and new adventures: the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) with the newest member of the TARDIS crew, Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie).

What did you think of the ‘Doctor Who’ season premiere?  Share your thoughts below!

TV Review: ‘Doctor Who’ S9 EP1&2 “The Magician’s Apprentice” / “The Witch’s Familiar” – SEASON PREMIERE

Hey Missy…

This review contains SPOILERS

Starring:  Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald, Michelle Gomez as Missy, Julian Bleach as Davros, Nicholas Briggs as the Daleks (voice)

Written by:  Steven Moffat (the Daleks and Davros created by Terry Nation) / Episodes directed by:  Hettie MacDonald / aired in the UK and U.S. :  19/09/2015 & 26/09/2015

What are these episodes about?

As Missy returns, the Doctor is summoned by the Daleks’ dying creator, Davros…

Episodes review

Doctor Who has burst back onto television screens with an epic two-parter that delivers on the promise of head writer Steven Moffat that it would be as big and ambitious as a season finale.  Despite some great ideas (and a superb two-part finale), season eight had ultimately felt a little uneven – any fears that this new season would get off to a middling start are quickly allayed as “The Magician’s Apprentice” / “The Witch’s Familiar” proves a thrilling showcase of exceptional creative talent and strong storytelling.

At this point Peter Capaldi has fully settled into the role of the Doctor and continues to prove beyond worthy and more than capable.  Capaldi’s nuanced and captivating performance, combined with well-written dialogue, delivers a complex character who can be as funny as he is brooding and cantankerous with dashes of the maverick heroism that has formed part of each of the Time Lord’s previous incarnations.

Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor aside, Michelle Gomez was arguably season eight’s biggest revelation and once again delights as the Master’s regenerated female form, Missy.  Gomez is the perfect sparring partner for Capaldi and successfully melds elements of wacky humour and unhinged villainy (whether it be suspending aircraft in the sky or cold bloodedly vaporizing UNIT security men, she’s certainly a credible threat), peppered with subtle hints of the calculating charm and pure madcap evil of classic era Masters Roger Delgado and Anthony Ainley.

Jenna Coleman has some great moments as (the soon to be departing) Clara, particularly with Missy – from their tense meeting in “The Magician’s Apprentice” to venturing through the Dalek sewer/graveyard in “The Witch’s Familiar”.  Although separated from the Doctor for much of the story, there’s still a rapport evident between Coleman and Capaldi and their respective characters which we’ll no doubt get to see more of in upcoming episodes (Steven Moffat has after all cited this season as being the ‘glory days’ of the Doctor and Clara).  Coleman’s biggest moment though comes in “The Witch’s Familiar” as she gets to ‘be’ a Dalek, it’s not only fun and gives us an insight into how a Dalek ‘works’ but provides Clara with some decent dramatic beats.

Of course it’s always exciting to see the Daleks return (once again brought to terrifying life by the voice of Nicholas Briggs) and although they’ve made regular appearances throughout ‘new’ Who there’s always something new to add to the tapestry of Terry Nation’s iconic creations (those aforementioned scenes of Clara operating a Dalek casing for example). From a pure fan pleasing perspective, the design of the Dalek city on Skaro pays homage to the Doctor’s first encounter with the robotic Nazis in the original 1963 William Hartnell Dalek serial and we’re also treated to a mixture of classic and new Who Dalek designs.

The main crux of the story is what provides this season premiere with its riveting drama with the pleas of a dying Davros (and his younger self) placing the Doctor in a morally complex position that harkens back to “Genesis of the Daleks” (the all-time classic 1975 serial starring Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor).  Capaldi shares a series of standout scenes with Julian Bleach (returning as Davros, having previously appeared in 2008’s “The Stolen Earth” / “Journey’s End”) with some beautifully written dialogue and surprising twists coupled with great performances that deliver moments that are both moving and shocking.  Moffat’s final solution to the Doctor’s dilemma is simple, yet nothing short of genius.  But will the Doctor’s rescue of the young Davros and provoking within him sentiments of compassion change the evolution of the Daleks?  We all know that their creation is inevitable and it will be interesting to see how the Doctor’s next encounter with his eternal nemeses will play out.

The bottom line:  Doctor Who returns with a well-written, strongly performed and epically realised two-part premiere that sets the bar high for the rest of season nine.

Doctor Who airs in the UK Saturday evenings on BBC One.  US viewers can catch it on BBC America.

What did you think of the ‘Doctor Who’ season premiere?  Share your thoughts below!

Back in action: the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) return in the epic season premiere of the BBC's 'Doctor Who'.

Back in action: the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) return in the epic season premiere of the BBC’s ‘Doctor Who’.