Guest contributor Ryan Williams looks at the first third of Series 10…
It was 497 days since we last had a full series of Doctor Who. Sure, we had two amazing Christmas specials, a wonderful new spin-off in the form of Class, and an extensive library of Big Finish audios, but a series of twelve episodes? 497 days. That is in fact 42,940,800 seconds that the Doctor could have picked us up in his TARDIS and taken us to watch the premiere; but I’m sure he was far too busy guarding that mysterious vault of his…
When The Pilot aired on the 15th April, I had already been on holiday in Spain for six days, and was settling in for three more days basking in the sun. I was gutted, to say the least, that I would be missing the first episode after over a year without Doctor Who on our tellies. However later in the day, we found a way to watch English TV through our apartment TV, and faith was restored!
Even with the TV cutting out sometimes and my cousin, an obvious non-Doctor Who fan, talking throughout, I was able to enjoy The Pilot. The story was new and it opened us to a fresh look in to the world of the Doctor, even though it had been Steven Moffat’s fifth series and Peter Capaldi’s third! We were introduced to Bill, played by Pearl Mackie, and I instantly fell in love with her (yes, I know she’s more into girls), along with the rest of the world. Another fabulous addition to the cast was Matt Lucas’ Nardole who we had previously seen in both the 2015 and 2016 Christmas specials. Sure, it wasn’t the best Who story ever, but it was one of the strongest Moffat era stories we have seen.
I watched The Pilot two times afterwards, and my love for it only grew each time.
The week leading up to Frank-Cottrell Boyce’s Smile was a strange one. “An episode with robots that speak emoji? Has Doctor Who really run out of ideas?” we heard shouted from around the world; however, I realised halfway through the week, possibly when we received the promotional photos, that I was really excited for this story. It looked visually stunning, being filmed in Valencia where I had only been two hours from when in Spain, and the story intrigued me as far as it could with the little information we had. “What was the deal with these emoji-speaking robots?”
In the end, my excitement for the episode was justified! Steven Moffat claimed that Smile would be mainly the Doctor and Bill walking and talking; and I found that to be one of the best attributes of the episode! We got to see the dynamic between the two evolve, something we had seen before in episodes like The End of the World and The Fires of Pompeii. The eventual ending may have been rushed, and the hysteria behind Ralf Little appearing in the episode was a let-down after only appearing in the closing act, but the episode was fun, and was a vast improvement on Boyce’s 2014 episode.
Smile made me smile, just as it did for other fans!
Out of the first four episodes of Series Ten, Thin Ice had to be one I wasn’t particularly excited for. Sure, it had a cool setting and seeing why the Doctor was going to punch someone in the face was possibly one of my most anticipated moments. But part of the positives towards the episode was that Sarah Dollard was writing it, the one-sixth of female writers for Doctor Who.
In the end, Thin Ice was a nice episode. The historical setting was different to what we have seen before, being set in only two main locations, and the monsters at the heart of the story, alien or otherwise, were original. The underlying ethical questions stood out for me, and I was glad to see Bill question the Doctor on his ethics of death. Though I wasn’t entirely impressed by the end of the episode, I was pleased with what it contained, and I hope Dollard returns to Doctor Who again sometime soon.
Thin Ice was met with a frosty reception from myself, but seemed to be able to warm the hearts of other people.
David Suchet is playing the mysterious Landlord! There’s a special binaural edition on BBC iPlayer! They were just a couple of the headlines that fuelled the excitement for Knock Knock. It was set to be a creepy episode, following in the footsteps of episodes like Blink or Listen, taking an everyday object and giving it science-fiction reasoning. Why do the floorboards creak?
The episode was never going to have the atmosphere it intended to have on an early-summer night, the sun was still up when I watched it at 8:30, but the episode still found a way to make me grip the sides of my sofa, wondering what was going to happen next. The extensive guest cast were used sparingly, which is a shame when we could have seen these breakthrough artists interacting better with landmark actors like Peter Capaldi and David Suchet. Capaldi himself was fun in the episode, and he seemed to be enjoying taking the mantle of Hartnell being called Grandfather through the episode. Without a doubt, the best performance was Suchet himself. He perfectly played a creepy landlord, but as soon as the twist shifted the episode his performance changed as well, and his performance even brought a tear to my eye. In the end, it was a shame Suchet had never been in Doctor Who before.
I hope Knock Knock has a knock-on-effect, and we get to see more guest stars outshining the main cast.
So after four weeks and as many episodes, my feelings towards Series Ten are very mixed. Unlike other fans across the internet, I’m one of the minority who hasn’t been blown away every single week. So far, The Pilot has been my favourite episode of the series, but Smile, Thin Ice and Knock Knock just haven’t been as brilliant as I had hoped. The next four episodes, which I will be giving my thoughts on in ‘Two-Thirds Through’ in four weeks, seem to really get the ball rolling as Nardole begins to join the adventures, and we prepare for a three-part story!