Doctor Who Debuted New Companion Bill in the Season 10 Premiere. What Did You Think?

This past weekend, BBC and BBC America aired the Season 10 premiere of Doctor Who featuring new companion Bill. How did you enjoy Pearl Mackie and Peter Capaldi together?

This isn’t a full-on review, more of an open thread for fans to chat, but I did want to say I enjoyed the new episode. I found Bill interesting to watch and I liked that the Doctor was staying in one place, on Earth, for a while incognito (sort of). I’m still not sold on Nardole’s role. We find out Bill is living with her foster mom (played by Jennifer Hennessy who previously starred in Doctor Who’s “Gridlock”) and that the Doctor has visited her birth mother some time in the past.

Once we learned Bill was gay, many of us were concerned with how that might be explored considering showrunner/writer Steven Moffat isn’t the best at handling delicate topics. One particular aspect of the decision was brought to the forefront at the end of the episode when I realized we’re likely going to be experiencing a lot of the “Bury Your Gays” trope this season. Not that companions are finding love left and right on the show typically, but now, when Bill does, there’s a higher chance of a queer character dying. While it’s great to see more LGBTQ+ characters, I’m not sure the exchange is one I’m personally comfortable with under Moffat.

Speaking of which, while it was nice the show revealed Bill to be gay straight away, the way in which Moffat wrote it included fat shaming. I saw fans begin to raise concerns as the episode aired in the U.K. and was wondering exactly how it went down. Later on that night I watched the Doctor ask Bill why she’d been attending his lectures considering she’s not enrolled in the school. She dives into a story:

My first day here in the canteen, I was on chips. There was this girl, student, beautiful, like a model, only with talking and thinking. She looked at you and you perved. Every time. Automatic, like physics. Eye contact, perversion. So I gave her extra chips. Every time. Extra chips. Like a reward for all the perversion. Every day, got myself on chips, rewarded her. Then finally, finally she looked at me, like she noticed, actually noticed all the extra chips. Do you know what I realized? She was fat. I’d fatted her. But that’s life, isn’t it? Beauty or chips. I like chips. So does she so that’s ok.

To which the Doctor responds, “And how does that in any way does that explain why you keep coming to my lectures?” And she says, “Yeah, it doesn’t really, does it? I was hoping something would develop.”

We’ve seen Moffat time and time again ruin a perfectly good episode by making a tasteless, unnecessary joke. This dialogue is shaming a lot of women actually, and as is clear in the following dialogue, it served no purpose whatsoever. Unless you count making Bill look unlikeable?

That ugliness aside, I enjoyed the episode. It had some good scares, introduced a companion with a lot of potential, and has a lot of fans excited for what’s to come. Here’s some behind-the-scenes from the episode.

And teasers for next week’s episode:

Class also premiered her in the U.S. the same night but I haven’t had a chance to watch yet. Feel free to discuss that first episode in the comments as well, just please note “Class spoilers” before your comment so folks can skip over if need be.

14 Responses to “Doctor Who Debuted New Companion Bill in the Season 10 Premiere. What Did You Think?”

  1. […] Last week’s discussion is here in case you missed it. I thought “Smile” was a good, simple adventure episode. While I appreciate continuity and nods to the past, and Pearl Mackie’s Bill will undoubtedly see her own story grow, it’s actually quite a relief to watch an episode that’s not bogged down by what came before. […]

  2. teenygozer says:

    First Easter egg I noticed: in Shada, the “lost” Tom Baker episode, there was a character who was an old professor who had worked in the university for decades without ageing, and nobody in the administration commented on it much, and they basically let him do as he pleased. That character turned out to be an old Time Lord friend of Baker’s doctor. The parallel to today’s Doctor was very obvious to me.

    Shada was written by Douglas Adams, it was a very clever script that would have probably been my second favorite Baker episode if it had been completed. Romana was never lovelier or more obviously in love with the Doctor. ;)

  3. TCE says:

    I had forgotten about the “beauty or chips” part. UUUUUURGH

  4. Craig_Ranapia says:

    Just to add insult to fat-shaming injury, about thirty seconds later there’s a damn lovely response when Bill asks The Doctor why he noticed her in his leftures…

    “Most people, when they don’t understand something they frown. You smile.”

    Damn you, Moffat.

    • teenygozer says:

      See, I used to get ordered to smile by random @-holes all the time when I was younger, so I know what it’s like, and I don’t feel like he was doing that to Bill (if that’s what you’re saying here? It’s a wee bit confusing as you’re saying it was “insult” but also “damn lovely”, and “damn you, Moffat” could be taken as sarcasm instead of genuine disappointment!)

      I felt the Doctor (and writer) was saying that she greeted the unknown with a positive reaction. So many people do not like being put into a position where they don’t know something, so they frown. Bill greets not understanding something as an opportunity to learn. This made her stand out to the Doctor, not the smile itself.

      • Craig_Ranapia says:

        I’ve obviously phrase my original post really badly, because you’re not the only person I’ve confused so let me restate.

        I really loved the “Other people frown, you smile” line because I think it’s a beautiful statement of Doctor Who at it’s best. This sense of wonder and exploration, how an open mind is the most powerful thing in the universe.

        I really hated the fat-shaming that immediately preceded it. Not least because there were a billion other ways to nail the character point that Bill goes off on quirky trains of thought every bit as much as The Doctor, and she doesn’t view the world from obvious angles. And while The Doctor can find it confusing, or exasperating, it’s also exactly what he finds attractive in a companion.

        And I really want to smack Moffat around because it infuriates me how a very talented writer can be both completely amazing and utterly horrible in the same scene. And he does that a lot. Drives me nuts.

  5. VBartilucci says:

    Yeah, but she liked her anyway. It’s not like she said “Ick, tubby”. If you didn’t blink (worry) you got to see chip girl later in the episode, and they’re still smiling at each other. So I don’t think it made Bill look bad at all.
    Personally I thought Doctor Who’s use and treatment of LGBTQ characters has always been pretty solid. They pop up quite often, sometimes as friends, sometimes just as people, but never is their gayness a plot point, or in any way seen as anything other than perfectly normal (in a world where aliens invade seemingly every week, it’s likely the least strange thing these people see.)
    If you don’t count Jack Harkness, who’s more of an omnisexual (seriously, the crack of dawn looks good to him), She’s the first out companion, and save for her talking about the girls she fancies, it’s not made a thing at all. The Doctor wouldn’t even notice, why should anyone?

    • TCE says:

      She told a story about “fatting” a person, and concluded with “That’s life. Beauty or chips”. If I didn’t know the fatphobia is the writer’s issue and probably not intended as part of the characterization, I would definitely have held it against her. It’s a terrible, terrible joke.

  6. : / I think it would have been alright if the story hadn’t seemed to end with her “fatting her.” She says that it’s OK…but also, that’s where the story ends. So, the implication was, “I fatted her, so I’m not interested now.”

    Say it with me, my chubsy wubsy sisters and brothers:

    • Oh yes, let me leave this here for those who haven’t heard the news yet – Kris Marshall is being rumored for the next Doctor.

      • That Which Dreams says:

        At least he finally gets to be a ginger.

        • teenygozer says:

          Colin Baker was a ginger, he was! I admit, I sometimes look askance at people who self-identify as redheads (I want to say, “Really? You look like a light brunette to me, but whatever you want to self-identify as is fine!”), so maybe my judgement on redheads isn’t perfect.

    • teenygozer says:

      Fellow chubsy here!

      But, when she follows up with “Beauty or chips. I like chips. So does she so that’s ok”, I assumed she was saying she still liked the girl she’d inadvertently “fatted”… and I also thought it was pretty obvious that girl was the girl with the star in her eye. And that there was some chemistry between them that could lead to love. So, I’m not sure her story ended with “I fatted her”, it went on to “we both like chips, so all’s good.”

      • I’m fairly certain that she meets star eye at the club but we see the fatted girl at the cafeteria (the camera lingers, when she gives her chips). I forgot about the, “we both like chips, so all’s good line” though. That changes things a bit.

        I noticed other people saying that she said a thing about “beauty or chips” and…well. Eh.

        You know, it’s OK for a character to be imperfect? I’ve yet to meet a perfect person. Most of the people I work with are shit.