Well, the new series of “Doctor Who” started yesterday- so, it’s time for a review.
Although I’m not sure how many of the new episodes I’ll end up reviewing or how long it will take me to review them (eg: the review probably won’t appear for a day or so at least), it has been way too long since I last reviewed an episode of “Doctor Who” (and, yes, I know that I reviewed the Christmas episode a few months ago, but still…).
So, that said, let’s take a look at “The Pilot”. Needless to say, this review might contain some SPOILERS.
The episode begins at a university, where the Doctor is teaching. He’s asked somone called Bill to his office because she has a habit of attending his lectures, even though she isn’t a student at the university (she works in the cafeteria).
Yet, instead of complaning or ordering her not to attend lectures, The Doctor is intrigued by the fact that she apparently smiles whenever she doesn’t understand something. So, he wants her to become one of his students and offers to become her tutor.
After a strange series of events involving another character called Heather – Bill, The Doctor and his friend Nardole find themselves fleeing through time and space in the TARDIS in order to escape a mysterious watery ghost who seems to be chasing them across the universe….
The first thing that I will say about this episode is that, as the title suggests, it’s an episode that can be enjoyed if you’ve never watched “Doctor Who” before. It spends a while reintroducing and re-explaining various elements from the series, which slows down the pacing of the episode slightly. Still, as introductory episodes go, it manages to cram a lot of characterisation and storytelling into just fifty minutes.
Plus, unlike the previous series, it’s a proper stand-alone episode. It tells a single story that is concluded by the end of the episode. After the relentless over-use of two-part episodes in 2015, it’s great to see the series returning to what it does best!
Still, despite all of the cool stuff in this episode, the pacing isn’t quite right. The beginning of the episode is surprisingly slow-paced for a “Doctor Who” episode and, whenever something thrilling, suspenseful or creepy happens later in the episode, it is often broken up by a subsequent scene with a different emotional tone.
This is especially disappointing since this episode really, really tries to be a horror episode. There are even a few scenes that are reminscent of late 1990s/early 2000s horror films too. But, many of the creepy parts of the episode aren’t really allowed to develop to their full potential since the suspenseful atmosphere is often broken by something random and/or silly.
But, although this episode fails slightly as a horror episode, there is still loads of really cool stuff here. In addition to lots of hilarious dialogue and subtle references to earlier parts of the show, there are all sorts of interesting locations and we also even get to hear the Doctor delivering a lecture about time too. Plus, there’s a vaguely “Blade Runner”-like scene that involves a mirror in an old photograph.
One other cool moment in this episode is where The Doctor uses the “monster infighting” tactic from the original “Doom” in order to try to defeat the ghost. In other words, he tricks a Dalek into fighting the ghost by standing in front of the ghost and diving out of the way just before the Dalek fires it’s lasers. Seriously, it’s great to see classic 1990s FPS gaming tactics in TV shows.
As for Bill, it’ll be interesting to see how her character develops as the series progresses. The scenes involving her include a good mixture of both comedy and serious drama. She comes across as a fairly realistic character, even though she has a habit of asking hilarious questions almost constantly. A lot of the drama and comedy in this episode comes from the fact that Bill has only just been introduced to the TARDIS, time travel, other planets etc.. So, it’ll be interesting to see how her character changes when she gets more used to going on adventures with the Doctor.
One other outstanding feature of this episode is the set design. This episode contains a ridiculous number of locations and they all look suitably interesting, realistic and/or futuristic. In addition to the cool blue/orange colour scheme used in the locations where the Daleks appear, there’s also a scene set on another planet that includes almost Hollywood-level effects:
All in all, it’s great to see “Doctor Who” back on TV again. Although this episode doesn’t really “work” as a horror episode and the pacing isn’t quite right, it’s an absolutely great introduction to the series for people who have never watched “Doctor Who” before. It’s kind of like a “greatest hits” compilation of everything that makes “Doctor Who” what it is – even if it ends up being slightly less than the sum of it’s parts sometimes.
If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would maybe just about get a four.