I’m a tad underwhelmed, if I’m honest.
In a way that’s odd, as if I were to total up all I liked about this episode, I’d come up with more in the positive column than the negative. Bill is clearly a fun and refreshingly grounded companion, while Pearl Mackie is an engaging screen presence; the horror moments – J-Horror, though obviously with a few nods to ‘The Waters of Mars’ – were really effective (particularly the eye down the damned plughole); and I’m not sure there has ever been a better version of the ‘companion realises the Tardis is bigger on the inside than the outside’ scene. Plus the series is clearly set up very nicely with the intrigue over what The Doctor and Nardole have in the vault.
There are good things here, but I’ll be stunned if I look back on the series and count this as one of the better episodes.
Previous companion introductions in the age of Moffatt have taken place at high speed. Amy in ‘The Eleventh Hour’ and Clara (or a version of her) in ‘Asylum of the Daleks’ – there was a lot going on, there were a hell of a lot of ideas thrown in and they were cracking examples of developing character through action. This seemed happy to just meander. As I said I liked Bill, but the first half of the episode was a big ask to get us to care about a new character when she’s basically just hanging out. Eventually things do get going with The Doctor making the story his, but even then it seemed a tad inconsequential. I was far more interested in the vault and The Doctor’s secrets than whatever reason was going to be offered for the water girl stopping following them about. Even the contractural obligation appearance of the Daleks failed to add any real jeopardy.
This episode of course represents a soft relaunch of the show, with the title a nod to that. It’s Moffatt inviting those who have drifted away or never been on board, to pull on the handles of those famous blue doors and enjoy the fun. I just hope that having invited them into the warm embrace of DOCTOR WHO fandom, he didn’t lose them again by giving us an episode which had its charms but not really any wow factor.