The new series of Doctor Who hit UK screens last night, but what did the media make of the latest adventure for the Doctor, and of his new fresh-faced companion?
The Telegraph's Ben Lawrence was pleased with the pairing: "their relationship, on the basis of this sensitively written episode, looks set to be the best since Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler and David Tennant’s Doctor flirted through time and space over a decade ago.". Clair Woodward in the Express had similar thoughts: "showrunner and writer Stephen Moffatt has pulled off what many thought was an impossible feat by bringing some much-needed humanity back to the series, a great deal of which comes from new female companion Bill Potts, played by Pearl Mackie, who has a really lovely chemistry with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. I can’t remember the old sod smiling so much." Colleague Neela Debnath for the Sunday Express added: "newcomer Pearl feels totally natural in the role and is a strong fit for Doctor Who, with elements of Eighties companion Ace (Sophie Aldred), thanks to those patches on her coat but also her intelligence. You get the sense that she might have a science background like Ace’s extensive knowledge of chemistry, although there is nothing to prove it - and she is simply working in the university canteen.".
Of course there's always those who don't take to the show so easily. The Mail on Sunday chose to focus on Bill's sexuality, citing feminist campaigner Julie Bindel's thoughts: "This is something that is clearly done for the benefit of those who just think of it as girl-on-girl titillation. I don’t want to have representations of lesbians which is all about sexism, double entendres and sexualised behaviour. It’s just taking two women and using the blueprint of sexist heterosexuality."
Daniel Jackson in the Mirror noted: "it’s quite telling that the director pulled focus to a photo of The Doctor’s granddaughter during her introduction - it reaffirms how Moffat sees the new coupling.". Patrick Mulkern from the Radio Times added: "Susan has barely been mentioned since her departure in 1964. Carole Ann Ford reprised the role in The Five Doctors (1983), we saw a blur of Susan fleeing Gallifrey in The Name of the Doctor (2013), and of course Susan was An Unearthly Child, the focus of the original “Pilot Episode” in 1963. For now, I’m not reading too much into this sudden reminder of her existence."
Summing up the feel of the episode as a whole, Patrick continued: "The Pilot has a lovely visual flair and is given an energetic snap from director Lawrence Gough. The effects of the menacing puddle and the watery transformations are expertly handled. But there’s a simple pleasure to be had in the presentation of our old friend, the Tardis. Never has it looked more stunning than in the gradual zoom-out from Bill at the police box doors as the lights and mechanisms flicker to life.. Jeff Robson of the i commented: "Bill was totally hooked – and, with reservations, so was I. It was amazing that in a set-up seen quite a few times before Moffat, director Lawrence Gough and the two leads still managed to serve up plentiful helpings of sharp dialogue and pulse-racing moments. Mackie could well be the breath of fresh air the series needs. She’s more down to earth than Jenna Coleman’s Clara, but believably gobsmacked by it all too."
With the story overall, Ben commented: "this episode may not have pushed all the buttons, but it was a reminder of how good Doctor Who can be when it tugs at the heartstrings, and moves from pyrotechnics into a more thoughtful, psychologically ambitious orbit.". Clair's thoughts: "This first episode brought Doctor Who’s humanity back, after a long, chilly spell. “What are any of us looking for? We’re looking for someone who’s looking for us,” said the Doctor about Bill’s crush on Heather, but it obviously applied to the way he felt about his new companion as well. I think viewers will find the new partnership equally loveable, and plotlines more understandable." Dan Martin of the Guardian observes: "it’s ironic and impressive, for a showrunner who gets criticised for reusing ideas, that Steven Moffat has delivered one of his freshest openers for his final run. It would indeed be a good place to join the show. In fact, I might start my little nephew off right here." Daniel noted: "more importantly, this episode nails the mellowing of the 12th Doctor. Perhaps his 50-year stint on Earth has done him good? Capaldi’s Doctor is certainly showing his more caring side."
Additional views and reviews of The Pilot can be found at: Belfast Telegraph, The Sun, Daily Mail, Mirror, Metro, Digital Spy, Wales Online, TV.com, The Quietus, Vox, A.V. Club, Screener.