Simon Ridgway, Stuart Manning / BBC

Doctor Who's Latest Emoji-Themed Adventure Raises ???

Will Bill's sophomore episode leave her ;^D or 8^( ?

The Doctor has had a diverse roster of companions (more diverse than ever, as of now), but all of them have fulfilled some of the same narrative functions. Each serves as a viewer surrogate, giving the Doctor somebody to whom he can explain things and sound brilliant. They give him someone to care about, motivating and humanizing him at the same time. But most of all, they ask him questions.

For decades, most of those questions were variations on the general theme of "what is it, Doctor?," which is probably part of the reason that companions have tended to get bored with being on the show faster than Doctors have.

So one of the reasons I'm enjoying Bill so much is that she asks questions other companions have been too preoccupied with the obvious (and with constant, life-threatening danger) to think of. Questions like, why is the name of your ship an acronym that only works in English? Does having two hearts give you high blood pressure? Why are the TARDIS seats so far back from the console? How do you just blow things up without getting into trouble? Where's the bathroom?

And judging from the preview of next week's episode, it looks like there will be plenty more where that came from.

These aren't the kind of questions most companions have asked, simply because they're not the kind of questions the writers have had the companions ask. These questions are fascinating to me for several reasons. It's because they're metatextual. It's because they prove that there are still new things to wonder about, even after more than fifty years of this show. It's because they're the kinds of questions that get asked at Doctor Who conventions when children under ten get a hold of the microphone during a Q&A panel. It's because they are not, in the strictest and most English sense of the word, polite.

And of course it's not like we're going to get satisfactory answers to any of them, any more than the kids at the cons are getting satisfactory answers to questions like "What does it feel like to regenerate?" But it's always fun to see the Doctor thrown for a loop, however briefly, even if he's only going to come up with a non-response like "people don't generally bring that up."

That's no reason not to enjoy the questions themselves. And you never know; maybe if Bill keeps up this relentless hail of queries, perhaps the Doctor will slip and reveal something he doesn't mean to. Not unlike a suspect in an interrogation room.

To that end, I'd like to submit a few questions of my own for Bill to load into her high-capacity magazine, as it were. Some of them are things I actually want to know, and some of them are just things I want to see the Doctor struggle to answer. I'll let you figure out which are which.

Am I seriously the first companion you've ever traveled with who is versed in science fiction?

I mean, seriously? What are the chances?

What do you think of my jacket with the question mark, ampersand, and exclamation point sewn on?

I get the feeling you'd be into wearing punctuation. No? Well, maybe in a past life or something.

If the TARDIS travels through the space-time vortex, what's with all the transition shots of it hurtling across normal space?

And why aren't we dizzy?

Tell me more about this Vault you're meant to be guarding.

Is this going to be a season arc thing? Is it like that crack in the universe from several years ago? Are you going to end up protecting it for literally half of your lifetime, like Trenzalore? Why am I comparing it to things I have no way of knowing about?

Speaking of which, if dramatic irony means the audience knows something important that a character doesn't, how long until I'm caught up?

[Short answer for Bill: never.]

When are you going to realize you can't actually steer this thing on a reliable basis?

I'm brand-new around here, and even I could tell from the confident way you said it that you wouldn't be able to get us back to the exact time and place when we left. By the way, and this is unrelated, I found this note for you from Amelia Pond. Where's that?

Where do you get off bitching about emojis when your native written language consists entirely of circles?

Oooooo, hit a nerve there, didn't I?

What's up with Nardole?

For how much of your subjective timeline has he been with you? How much of him is cybernetic? Why did you rebuild him? Did you have his consent to do so? If not, what the hell gives you the right? And how many metatextual characters do we need around here, honestly?

In the U.S., Star Trek has often used allegory to address real-world concerns like social justice, the Cold War, and radical terrorism. Using specific examples, discuss whether Doctor Who's longstanding exploration of colonial and post-colonial themes is a function of its status as the cultural product of a former global empire.

Please answer yes or no.

What did you get right this week?

From messing up the timeline for the colonists' arrival twice to nearly blowing them all up, to landing us miles and decades off-target, you're a much better tutor than tour guide so far.

Almost all readers liked this episode
What did you think?

Discussion

Explore the Doctor Who forum or add a comment below.