Imagine a time when everyone is happy, sounds pretty good, right? What if they were forced to be happy by penalty of death? That’s the future that The Doctor and Bill visit in this episode of Doctor Who, where you’d better smile or else. Meet me after the time and space jump for my thoughts on “Smile.”
I had mentioned last time that I quite liked new companion Bill a lot. And as we open on this episode, it seems that The Doctor does as well. There is a glee and a mischievous spark to The Doctor as he shows Bill the control room of the TARDIS, telling her all that is possible, even as she questions the illogical positioning of the chairs. It’s fun, and again, as I said, so refreshing.
The Doctor has missed having a companion, and based on the way he’s treating Nardole, a human companion, who is full of wonder and not jaded by the workings of a TARDIS and Time Lord. I feel the same happy energy I felt with Rose, and Amy, and Martha, and yes, even Donna, when they were first companions. I love this, and I imagine all the old school fans do as well.
Nardole is sent to make tea, and that’s when The Doctor takes Bill on a trip with the TARDIS. Nardole had warned him he wasn’t supposed to leave Earth, because of a promise he’d made – obviously guarding the vault as seen in “The Pilot.” Whatever is in the vault may have to wait for a while as it’s this season’s overarching plot device, but I love The Doctor’s logic in derelicting his duty regarding it.
As a Time Lord, he has mastered the mumbo-jumbo of time travel. If he comes back before he left, he never actually left, now did he? Therefore he never left Earth, and never stopped guarding the vault. Mission accomplished. Timey wimey. I love it.
When asked “past or future,” Bill replies, “future,” because she wants to know if it’s happy. And therein lies the adventure. The future Earth colony they visit is one where robots with emoticons for faces, and they ‘speak emoji.’ The weirdness is that The Doctor and Bill are alone in this colony, except for the robots (Emojibots) and the nanobytes (Vardies) flying around. What they don’t know is what we saw in the pre-credits sequence – what happened to all the people.
The Doctor thinks the people haven’t arrived yet, but in reality, the robots killed all the humans who weren’t happy and smiling. Slowly The Doctor realizes that it’s not right, and understands that all the people have been killed and turned into fertilizer. Oh yeah, this seems to be Doctor Who‘s new thing, turning the harmless into monsters. Last week it was water, and this week, it’s emojis.
The Doctor and Bill escape back to the TARDIS by smiling widely and ridiculously, but once Bill is safe, our hero runs back into the city to do the right thing, blow it all up. I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I didn’t say how creepy Peter Capaldi looks when he fake smiles. And when Bill catches up with him, just to continue the creepiness, he lets her know the killer Vardies are everywhere, that the city is made of them, just to scare her, even though it’s true. Bill just grins. The Doctor is a good guy, and “an awesome tutor.” Yeah, I’m loving Bill.
Still, determined to destroy the city, what he calls an abattoir, The Doctor goes in search of the ship that originally brought all this to the planet. While he tries to rig the engines of the ship to explode, Bill discovers a secret room with a sleeping woman, and a book of wonders. She also finds out the ship is full of the last survivors of Earth. The Doctor got it wrong.
The Magic Haddock
The ending is rather disappointing, despite earlier good spots like the idea of grief as a virus. In the end, and a rather rushed one at that, The Doctor simply reprograms the Emojibots and Vardies, changing how they think, and they are thinking, becoming an emerging new lifeform. As if to mock the ease with which The Doctor fixes the problem, he narrates the tale of “The Magic Haddock,” a version of “The Monkey’s Paw” story, indicating he simply wished things better. For me, this ruined an otherwise enjoyable episode, just too easy.
On the positive side, I love Bill, and am sad to hear she’ll be gone by the end of the season. I have to wonder about the usefulness of Nardole however. He’s only in about a minute of this episode, and in that, he expresses dislike of Bill himself. That does not bode well. We still haven’t learned the extent of why Nardole is still with The Doctor, and what exactly is in the vault. Mysteries for another day, I suppose.
Next: “Thin Ice!”