Doctor Who, The Pilot. Television Review.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 8.5/10

Cast: Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas, Nicholas Briggs, Jennifer Hennessy, Stephanie Hyam.

What are the greatest of gifts you can give anybody, it isn’t anything you can wrap, you can’t spend it, you cannot offer it as a prize, for then the truly worthy don’t receive it and the undeserving don’t value it. Time, compassion, patience and the ability to listen without expecting to have to answer back, these are the greatest gifts and as a species we have become very bad at offering these moments to people without expecting some kind of reward.

After what seems an eternity without a new series, or at least not with two Christmas specials and their ability to verge upon the shmultzy and the decorative, in keeping with the season’s greetings and gentle snoozing of a family day off, Doctor Who has returned to British television screens and with it a new companion, one perhaps who in one episode was able to get sarcasm out of Peter Capaldi’s doctor than the brilliant Jenna Colman was able to do.

The Pilot, an auspicious title, one wrapped in an idea of new beginnings, a different attitude arguably, one in which a new companion is introduced and given freedom to not have the Doctor care deeply about them or have them be, as can be seen, so far out of the ordinary that they dominate the show. In this Bill Mackie stepped up to the Tardis plate and scored neatly a home run in her first episode.

Whilst for some Clara Oswald, played by Jenna Coleman, was the epitome of the best companion to the Doctor, and for others arguably one of derision, the truth of it all was she was in many ways a bigger deal than the Doctor, than Peter Capaldi, for she had strode across the landscape with the same beautiful confidence as Elisabeth Sladen and Caroline John. Bill Mackie has large shoes to fill but as The Pilot made its way through its soft reboot, there was a lot of evidence to suggest that all was going to be well in this new strange land.

One of the most enjoyable things about Doctor Who has always been its willingness to completely offer glimpses of the past, of being happy to offer moments of Time to the audience old and new and this opening episode of the second Series Ten is no different. A glance at two old enemies, the Movellans and the Daleks caught in an age old war, a skim of a second or a lingering look at two photographs on a desk indicating a love, a bond that the Doctor still feels obligated to feel the pain of. Such is the effect of the programme that it pays homage to itself because its fans, no matter how long they have been on board, since the very start or only coming by when the Doctor changes his appearance, matter.

With Bill Mackie already entrenched in the idea of what is to come in the series, Matt Lucas capturing a different and easier on the eye and thought side to his character Nardole and Peter Capaldi being enigmatic, the responsible alien to fly the series towards the inevitable and much talked of new Doctor, Series Ten or the 54th year of Doctor Who is already looking as pleasing as finding a Tardis in your back garden.

Ian D. Hall