First, before I make an attempt to write something interesting and psychologically enlightening, may I have a moment of squee? (Please brace yourself for far too many exclamation points.)
It is awesomely cool when a main character in an episode of Doctor Who has your name! I know that Heather was most likely named after Bill Hartnell’s (the First Doctor) wife, Heather Hartnell. But still…!!!!!! I got a big thrill hearing my name said repeatedly by Bill. (Finally, a small moment of redemption for my name, eternally sullied by a 1980’s teen flick.)
OK-now that I’ve gotten THAT out of my system ….
Along with the rest of the Whoiverse, I am so excited to be writing down some thoughts about new Doctor Who. I love this episode. Capaldi/Moffat’s Doctor has evolved into a terribly endearing Time Lord. He may have forgotten Clara, but he retained her lessons. (Though I imagine the 50-75 years he has spent teaching at the University may also have something to do with that.) Not only has he learned to say things such as, “How can I help?” (which is itself a minor miracle), but he has learned to show affection, rather than hiding it behind hugs. I saw more looks of tenderness from the Doctor in this one episode than throughout the previous two seasons. I approve of this.
What is there to say about Bill and Pearl Mackie’s portrayal that hasn’t already been said? She is beautiful in all ways, curious, kind, self-confident and most importantly, optimistic. Despite what was clearly a traumatic childhood, Bill has retained an optimistic outlook on the world and on herself. This is resiliency.
Love, love, love that she is gay. As a 40-something lesbian, it warms everything in me to see a crush between two women portrayed as normal and desired, without commentary or explanation. Go Doctor Who!
The primary motivation driving both the Doctor and Bill is the need for connection, belonging, family. It is no coincidence that the two photos on the Doctor’s desk are River and Susan. Out of all of the many people the Doctor has loved and travelled with, he choose photos of his spouse and his granddaughter for his desk. (So very domestic and human of him!) River and Susan are the Doctor’s family, the family he has lost.
Bill’s foster mother is portrayed as narcissistic (self-focused) and unavailable (though she may become more likeable over the course of the season. I was NOT a Jackie a Tyler fan at first). We learn that she never knew her mother, doesn’t even know her face. Bill obviously is somewhat naive/shy about dating, so she hasn’t had the opportunity to create her own family.
So, they begin to spend time together as the Doctor gives Bill the education she doesn’t have enough privilege to access on her own. My headcannon says that they often share dinner together, as one does when meeting every night at dinner time. When next we see them, they are together for Christmas dinner, a meal traditionally eaten with family. (The two past Christmas’ Clara and the Doctor shared come to mind.) It is during this dinner that the Doctor discovers the impoverishment of Bill’s family situation. And then he gives her the gift of her mother in photos.
The Doctor’s frequent glances towards the photo of Susan tell us he is longing for family; for people who are known to the point of being taken for granted. No romance, no mysteries, just good, old fashions family love. That’s what he has found again in Bill.
I think this is why it became important for Bill to be gay. It serves to strengthen the simplicity and clarity of their relationship.
Just a word on Nardole. We know Nardole. We met him as River’s personal assistant. When next we see him, he is the personal assistant for the Doctor. In that way that good assistants have, he cares for the his charges. It is Nardole who explains the Doctors sadness to Grant and Lucy telling them, “He’s the Doctor. He’s very brave and he’s very silly and I think, for a time, he’s going to be very sad. But I promise, in the end, he’ll be all right. I’ll make sure of it.” He praises the banter between Bill and the Doctor, reminds the Doctor he isn’t supposed to get involved, he explains the Doctor to Bill saying, “He never notices the tears.” I think we’ll see Nardole continuing to care for both the Doctor and Bill as the season progresses.
I predict we’ll see the theme of family ties explored this season as the Doctor and Bill find in each other bits of what they’ve lost along the way.
Thanks for reading! I would love to hear your thoughts about The Pilot.