Now that I’ve had the time to think about it, I think Bill is freaking brilliant and love her to bits. As much as I always-have-and-always-will adore Peter Capaldi, I have to admit that I was excited for this week’s new episode of Doctor Who so I could see more of Bill.
This week, we start in the TARDIS with Bill properly traveling with The Doctor for the first time (instead of running for her life). She is asking all the important questions again – like why the seats are so far away from the controls and where the steering wheel is. It’s noteworthy that The Doctor finally admits that you don’t steer the TARDIS; “the still point between where you want to go and where you need to be – that’s where she takes you.”
Nardole scolds The Doctor about his oath not to go off-world. He says he’ll make a cuppa for him (but not Bill), and The Doctor points out that they can go away and come back before the kettle even boils. Nardole will be none the wiser.
Bill wants to see the future because she wants to know if it’s happy. Oh, sweet girl. That’s not how this works.
In the future, we see a woman out in a field chatting to someone on a comm. She has a little robot with her, and the woman on the comm seems a bit frantic. She says they are having a Vardy problem, to which the woman in the field says she and her Vardys have been pollinating lots of wheat.
When she meets up with the woman back inside, she gets news of lots of people dying but is pushed to keep smiling no matter what. As they talk, a little emoji panel on the wheat-pollinator’s back changes to reflect her emotions. The other woman begs her to keep smiling, and, when she catches sight of the robot’s reflection of her sister’s mood, she begs them for more time. “She’ll be happy in a moment.” The tiny robots disintegrate her sister, and, despite her pleas to notice her smile, they swarm her, too.
The emojibot smiles again.
The Doctor has brought Bill to this settlement. It’s one of Earth’s first colonies. They apparently cracked the secret of human happiness. Bill doesn’t let him deflect with fancy explanations; she wants to know about the oath. He says a thing happened and a promise was made, and now he has to protect the vault on Earth.
Bill isn’t impressed with the tiny robots. Her ear gets a comm upgrade, which excites her because she’ll never run out of phone battery again!
Despite not finding any people on the colony, they do meet an emojibot. The Doctor explains that it’s not a robot exactly; it’s the interface for the tiny Vardy robots. Bill loves that the language which survived is emoji – The Doctor not so much. The emojibot presents them with their own emoji badges which are blank on whatever side they can see. It represents their own emotions, but you can’t see your own mood. The Doctor hypothesises that it is because knowing your mood can change your mood.
When they try to wear them, the badges attach themselves to their backs. The emojibot serves them little blue cubes with cutlery. The Doctor is still bothered, and Bill starts to eat. The cutlery is human, and no other culture uses emoji. It HAS to be human. He explains that the clue cubes are algae; Bill is pleased that, in the future, we don’t eat meat anymore. (Though The Doctor does reminisce about an emperor made of algae who once fancied him…)
Bill doesn’t know why she only got one blue cube but The Doctor was given two. Before he can answer, he realises that they must have landed too early. The colony isn’t up and running yet! Bill goes back to the portion sizes. “Is there going to be food sexism in the future? Is this bloke utopia?” Man, I love her.
The Doctor says that the robots probably think he is two people because of his two heartbeats. He rants about how you would definitely send robots up ahead of a colony to make it all nice for you, and she fixates on his two hearts and blood pressure.
They go for a stroll through a greenhouse. The Doctor picks up a necklace, carrying it behind his back. He comments on the robots fertilising and pollinating all the plants, and Bill is excited that there’s a rosemary plant that smells exactly like the one outside the SU back home. She has a little thing there to remind her of her humanity even in a world where she doesn’t see another human.
The Doctor isn’t so convinced. He says he told her that the humans haven’t arrived yet; did he convince her, and did he convince himself? Yes and, according to his emoji badge, no.
The fertiliser is calcium-based, and he finds the skeletons of many humans. They aren’t the colonists, but they are the set-up team. And they are gone.
The emojibot sees their changing moods and switches to murder mode. It isn’t running to follow them – oh, because it doesn’t have to! It’ll catch them eventually.
The Doctor realises that the only thing that’s changed is that they (Bill, in particular) have stopped smiling. He says that smiles aren’t just on our faces; they have psychological effects to boost our moods. If we fake smile, we’ll be closer to real smiles. Bill’s emoji badge smiles when she does, so they should just give the emojibots what they want. Magic haddock and all that.
They make with the pleasantries and fake smiles. The emojibots reach out but don’t attack them. They run, and Bill is grabbed. The Doctor sonics her free as a swarm of Vardies seems to break off of the city’s structure, and they safely reach the TARDIS. The Doctor tells Bill she will be safe inside, and he starts to run back toward the city. After all, “there’s a giant smiley abattoir over there, and I’m having this really childish impulse to blow it up.” Bill thinks it’s too late to do anything, but The Doctor points out that there’s likely a colony ship on its way. There’s no helpline for him to phone. Don’t worry, Bill: The TARDIS has broadband now!
Bill is inspired by the words on the outside of the TARDIS (“ADVICE & ASSISTANCE OBTAINABLE IMMEDIATELY”) and follows The Doctor back into the city. The Doctor opens the locket of the necklace he found and sees a hologram of a little boy waving. As he continues past an emojibot, his badge because a thinking light bulb.
Bill approaches, asking about why he’s Scottish and if there are Scotlands in space. (Important response is that there are Scotlands everywhere, demanding independence everywhere. Also, he’s not Scottish – just cross.) She has surmised that he doesn’t phone helplines because he IS the helpline.
He has determined that the city isn’t full of robots. It IS robots. Loads and loads of them. There isn’t a spacecraft outside, so it must be inside. They probably landed and built outward. Walking around, they find a REAL wall. It wasn’t locked; they anticipated peace. As they go through (and lock it behind them), all the emojibots take notice of something – but at least they’re smiling!
They find a map, and The Doctor plants Bill in front of it to lead him to the engine room. She doesn’t understand why he’s allowed to blow up a colony, and he doesn’t understand why she doesn’t see it as a moral imperative. He finds the engine, and she realises she could just take a photo of the map and follow him. The system wakes up, announcing itself as Erehwon (“Nowhere” backward?). The emojibots return to murder mode, and Bill gets distracted by the artefacts the settlers brought with them. She finds a body – just in case you were wondering if the woman is for-sure dead, her emoji badge tells us – and an iPad-book of human history. Bill realises that humans must have planned to come because something awful happened, not for explanation. Also, emojibots can unlock doors and follow them into the old ship.
As Bill leaves the body to help The Doctor, she finds a little boy asking if they’re there. The emojibot attacks The Doctor, but he manages to shake it off and set off the engine destruction. Just as he announces that they should run, he sees the little boy Bill discovered. It suddenly hits him that the colonists aren’t soon to arrive – they have arrived, and they are starting to wake up. Not only are they humans, they are the lone survivors of Earth.
The Doctor shuts down the engine blow-up. The first out of the sleep pods is Steadfast, a medic. Bill shows The Doctor the dead woman she found, and they rearrange the iPad data to show them when people died. No one had ever died there before, and she died of natural causes. When her family and friends were sad that she died, they had to be eliminated. Grief as a plague! Eventually everyone was wiped out.
The Doctor shows Bill the locket. The boy inside is the same boy who woke up first; since the necklace was in the garden, it’s unlikely he’ll be finding his mum in the pods. The Doctor lectures the waking people about the Vardy, and they decide it’s most important to arm themselves. The boy starts asking too many questions – like where his mum is when she probably should have been in the garden.
Bill tries to comfort the boy, but he starts to cry and Steadfast shoots one of the emojibots. The remaining emojibot starts to twitch – oh, good. It’s learned about revenge. The roof breaks apart into loads of Vardy and start attacking the people.
The Doctor says he always wins at chess because he turns the board over. We finally hear his story of the magic haddock. A man caught a magic haddock that offered him three wishes. He wishes for his son to come home from war and 100 pieces of gold. The man’s son comes home in a coffin, and he is given 100 gold pieces as recompense. The third wish is used to undo the first two wishes. It’s a reset button.
Steadfast wakes up on the floor, and the invasion has stopped. The Doctor has hit the reset button; he has turned the emojibots off and on again. Their memories are wiped. They don’t remember seeing the people before now. As far as they are concerned, they are the indigenous lifeform. It’s their city; after all, it is made of them. The humans had better play nice. At least they have The Doctor to negotiate for them!
Bill and The Doctor are flying home in the TARDIS. It’s the exact moment they left – isn’t it always?!
Except … it’s snowing, they’re on the Thames, and there’s an elephant in front of them. Yep, exactly as they intended!
I'm still crazy about Bill. I love how expressive her face is and how she never stops asking questions. She is a fantastic match for this Doctor; I could only imagine her character working well up against him or the 9th Doctor. I hope that, if she stays on, she maintains the chemistry with the new Time Lord.
Also, and this may just be the Bowie fan in me, but did anyone else catch the reference to that famous space pilot, Major Tom? "I'm happy; hope you're happy, too..."