‘Doctor Who’ season 10 premiere recap: ‘The Pilot’ picks up a new passenger

It’s the beginning of the end for “Doctor Who” star Peter Capaldi and showrunner Steven Moffat, who will depart from the long-running series at the end of the year. So it’s a bit of clever irony that the season 10 premiere is titled “The Pilot.” It’s fitting because as one journey through time and space ends, another begins. This truly was the first adventure for Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie), the new companion for the time-traveling hero the Doctor (Capaldi), and it was as fraught with danger as all of the Doctor’s adventures are. But in the end it looks like the pilot has found himself a new passenger.

Written by Moffat and directed by Lawrence Gough, “The Pilot” premiered on April 15. Here are the top five moments from the new episode.

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Bill Proves Herself Immediately
The episode began with Bill entering the Doctor’s office — or really, the professor’s office. The Doctor has been teaching classes at a university for an indeterminate amount of time — years, or decades maybe — and he noticed Bill’s presence at his lectures. Bill wasn’t even enrolled in his classes, but the Doctor noticed that when she was confused by something she would smile instead of frown, and that’s the ticket: curiosity. It’s a dangerous quality in a person (after all, some say it killed the cat), but it may be the most important quality in a Doctor’s companion. But she’s more than just curious. She’s whip-smart and picks up on things quicker than the Doctor expects her to. He tutored her privately and she aced her tests. And at the end of their first adventure, when he prepared to secretly wipe her memory, she called him on it and asked him not to. He reluctantly agreed, and despite his fears of bringing another human along for the ride — companion journeys often end in heartbreak — he opened his TARDIS doors to her for continued adventures.

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It Must Have Been Something in the Water
The Doctor and Bill stumbled on their first adventure together, and it started as an innocent looking puddle of water. It turned out to be alien water — because of course it did. Or not even water really, but a liquid substance with its own intelligence. It was first discovered by Heather (Stephanie Hyam), a young woman whom Bill had a crush on and who had a crush right back. But then Heather disappeared and the liquid substance assumed her form, chasing Bill and the Doctor relentlessly across time and space with seemingly malevolent intent. But like the best “Doctor Who” adventures, the true answer was rooted in emotions. Heather had a longing to get away, and the alien substance fed off of that desire. And before Heather was consumed by the liquid Bill had made her promise not to leave, so its pursuit of Bill across the stars was not an act of predation but of affection. During a poignant scene in the episode’s climax, Bill held hands with the creature and was able to see the vast universe before her, but Bill had to say goodbye and leave Heather — or what used to be Heather — for good.

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What is the Doctor Hiding From?
Though mostly a standalone episode, “The Pilot” gave us what may be our first hints of what’s to come in Capaldi’s farewell season. Why is the Doctor teaching university classes anyway? Shouldn’t he be off saving the galaxy from Daleks and Cybermen and various other intergalactic fiends? “I’m here for a reason,” he revealed to Bill when he attempted to wipe her memory. “I am in disguise. I have promises to keep. No one can know about me.” What has he promised, and to whom? A promise from the Doctor is serious business indeed; last season he spent literally billions of years in purgatory for a chance to save his previous companion, Clara. For him, the ends of the Earth are just the beginning when he feels obligated to something — or someone.

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What’s in the Basement?
The Doctor’s secret probably has something to do with a mysterious vault beneath the university. Bill followed the Doctor and Nardole there early in the episode, and when she caught sight of them they were working on the strange door — keeping it locked tight, or perhaps trying to get inside? Later, when the liquid creature began chasing them their first stop was the vault, which the Doctor was relieved to find still secure. Bill asked him what was inside and the Doctor answered in his usual cryptic manner, “Something I don’t want anyone being too curious about.”

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Getting to Know Nardole
Bill isn’t the Doctor’s only new companion. We first met Nardole (Matt Lucas), an alien from Mendorax Dellora, in the 2015 Christmas special, when he was helping the Doctor’s wife River Song retrieve an invaluable diamond — long story. He was decapitated, but survived on a cyborg’s body — longer story — and afterwards the Doctor was able to fashion a new cybernetic body for him. Now he’s assisting the Doctor full time. When Bill first met Nardole his body made mechanical noises and he seemed to have a screw loose — literally. Lucas is best known as a comedian from “Little Britain,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Bridesmaids” and various other film and TV projects, and he brings a unique energy to the “Doctor Whoniverse.” He’s delightfully absurd, but now that we’ll be spending the season with him I hope we also get to know him better than just as comic relief. What makes him tick? Does he like long walks on the beach? Does he take AA batteries? Inquiring minds want to know.

What did you think of the “Doctor Who” season premiere. Comment below, and join the discussion with your fellow TV fans in our infamous forums.

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