Review of Doctor Who Season 10 Premiere: the Doctor dials it down
'Pilot', which aired on April 15, was definitely a step in the right direction for 'Doctor Who.'
The episode, which served as the premiere for the show's tenth season, contained all the usual suspects for the current state of the series -- a threat that defies the laws of physics, a nod to LBGT issues, the obligatory appearance by the Daleks, an older threat making a cameo (in this case the Movellans from 'Destiny of the Daleks') and a fantasy feel with super-science substituting for magic.
What made it work was that these elements were toned down compared to previous episodes and the result was a surprisingly absorbing and moving story. Only the chaotic climax, which was clearly a concession to fandom sensibilities, spoiled the mood and writer Stephen Moffat still managed to make it work.
Moffat, who announced that this will be his last season, creates an adversary for this episode that is not only genuinely creepy but ultimately sympathetic in a certain context. Hopefully future writers will treat this creature as a one-off and avoid demystifying an interesting concept.
The plot centers around the latest companion, Bill Potts (played by Pearl Mackie, who debuts here). She works in the cafeteria on a campus where the Doctor captivates students with lectures on the true nature of the universe. She also has a crush on a despondent student named Heather (Stephanie Hyam in a decent performance). Heather has an unhealthy fascination with an unchanging puddle that of course contains more than meets the eye. Predictably, she undergoes an unhealthy transformation. The resolution to the latest crisis, however, is unexpected but simple and elegant. Matt Lucas returns as the Doctor’s other companion, Nardole. He reins his performance in a little from his last outing in the 2016 Doctor Who Christmas special ‘The Return of Doctor Mysterio.’ Peter Capaldi is less frantic than usual as the Doctor, hopefully starting a positive pattern in what will be his final season as the character. If this episode is any indication, this incarnation of the character will depart on a high note.