So series ten continues to impress with its second episode; Smile. There are some things that you can guarantee Dr. Who is going to give you with each emerging season. One of those is the familiar ‘human advancement bites them in the ass’ storylines. I personally really enjoy these types of story as they explore the human condition and point out flaws within humanity. That that they’re done in a sci-fi setting and in most cases, still use things that are familiar to us now is just icing on the cake.
The familiarity comes in the form of emoji’s in this episode. In the very first scene we’re introduced to some colonists who are wearing badges that ingeniously display their emotions for all to see in the form of these universally recognized pictograms. The colonists are wiped out, however, by the robots they built to serve them. Why, you ask? They didn’t smile.
Another great mystery for The Doctor to solve; and Bill’s first real adventure. The first scene between the Timelord and Bill sets the tone for the interplay between the two for the rest of the episode. Bill is naturally very inquisitive and The Doctor, very evasive. The funny thing is that she’s asking all the questions that viewers have been asking all these years. Why are the TARDIS seats so far from the console? Why is he Scottish? And so on. She even makes a reference to Marvel’s Mr. Fantastic. Little things like that make Bill seem more realistic as a character.
Matt Lucas is barely in this episode. He makes a brief appearance at the beginning to remind The Doctor of his oath and make the Doctor roll his eyes at his ‘mother-hen’ behaviour. I like Matt Lucas and he brings levity to his scenes. I’m glad he’s not in every scene, though, as it would take the focus away from The Doctor and Bill. I would like to see an episode develop his Nardole character a little.
We’re treated to yet another point in the future of the human race when the TARDIS arrives on this new planet. The design of the city inhabited by the emoji-faced robots is slightly uninspired. In fact, I’m struggling to picture it and I only watched the episode about half an hour ago. This might be the point though as it was designed and built by the unimaginative robots.
The story unfolds in a pleasing manner as The Doctor and Bill uncover the fate of the colonists and try to piece together the events that led up to it. This is where Bill’s character shines through. While The Doctor is faking a smile to survive the robots, Bill genuinely is smiling. She’s having a great time despite the constant threat of danger and death. But the writing never steers her into being an adrenaline junkie who’s looking for a thrill. It’s more a sense of wonder and excitement that The Doctor last exhibited when he was Matt Smith.
When all is said and done, this isn’t a bad episode. It isn’t a great episode. It serves it’s purpose of developing the relationship between The Doctor and his companion by putting them into a deadly situation with a moral twist. The first few episodes always play it safe when introducing a new character or, indeed, a new Doctor. This one’s no different but that’s not a negative. It provides a good base to build upon as we see Bill develop as the new companion. And Capaldi is always fun to watch as The Doctor.
All photos are © BBC and used with permission.