It really is weird that my two favorite seasons of Who in the modern era are four and ten, the last ones that their respective producers oversaw. Maybe this means that Chris Chibnall’s next nine episodes are going to pop for me? Fingers crossed, we will learn soon, and while we wait, we’ve got this almost perfectly brilliant run to enjoy again. I don’t like most of episode eight, and episode nine has a stunningly dumb thing in it, but almost perfect.
Sensibly, “The Pilot” is another entry-level episode, where our new audience-identification figure, a cafeteria worker named Bill Potts, learns that there might be something to those stories that the weird lecturer called the Doctor, who doesn’t often tutor students, has been at St. Luke’s in Bristol for between fifty and seventy years. And we see the weirdness of the world through her eyes, from a hugely effective horror scene where there may be something taking a shower in her apartment to a battle between the Daleks and the Movellans, making a tiny little cameo after a 38-year absence. The strange planet they visit has the sort of strangeness that we just wish all strange planets in Who had, and as though he remembered how great and effective the liquid-dripping dead people in “The Waters of Mars” toward the end of Russell T. Davies’s run looked, the antagonist in this story by Steven Moffat is similarly wet, creepy, and unforgettable.
Joining the TARDIS team this time, it’s Pearl Mackie as Bill Potts, who’s among mine and Marie’s favorite Who companions. I really like her a lot more than Amy or Clara. Matt Lucas’s Nardole is still here, faithfully spending his time showing students to the boss’s office while his aging robot parts need a bit of TLC. So they’ve been in Bristol since 1967, and possibly as early as 1947. They haven’t gone anywhere, since Nardole won’t let the Doctor forget his obligation to look after something in a vault. I love all the unanswered questions about this. I love how the Doctor’s office is the closest thing to his personal space that we’ve ever seen before, and that he keeps photos of his wife and granddaughter on his desk. It’s such a great premise that I’d grumble that they didn’t explore it more if the stories this year weren’t so good.