It’s Week 2 of Doctor Who‘s tenth season, and it sees the Doctor taking Bill on her first proper trip in the TARDIS. Spoilers await any and all who venture further.
Even though Nardole reminds the Doctor that he took an oath to remain on Earth and guard the mysterious vault we saw in “The Pilot”, the Doctor offers Bill a proper chance to see the universe, which she eagerly accepts. The Doctor takes her to the planet Gliese 581 D to see an offworld human colony…except there are no humans there, only robots that communicate through emojis. And those robots seem awfully interested in whether or not the Doctor and Bill are happy…and then it starts to turn into Soylent Green (well, just a little–hey, if people are being turned into fertilizer, I’m going to draw comparisons, okay?).
I admit it; I thought the emojibots were going to be stupid, but I thought the way they were utilized in the episode actually made sense. Think about it–if you want robots that can communicate with the entire human race, it makes more sense to program them to communicate in universally-understood images than worrying about programming them to communicate in every single known language. I also liked how this ship was related to other ships from classic Doctor Who episodes that were evacuating humans from Earth due to massive solar flares that were going to render the planet uninhabitable. I think the concept was first introduced in “The Ark” from 1966, but we didn’t learn about the solar flares being the cause until “The Ark in Space” in 1975. I believe there were a few other episodes based on that concept in subsequent seasons, but I can’t remember what they were off the top of my head.
On the whole I felt this episode was much better than last week’s. The plot was more intriguing, and I think Bill’s personality is starting to develop. I think what helped was having just her and the Doctor for the majority of the episode. With just the two of them interacting, there was more time to get to know Bill as a person instead of the new companion. I’m still getting used to her, but she felt more substantial in this episode. And Capaldi as the teacher-Doctor is shaping up to be better than I ever anticipated.
Next week, Victorian London awaits us in “Thin Ice”, but no word on whether or not the Pater Noster Gang will be putting in an appearance.