Doctor Who Wants Us To “Smile”


Picking up right where last week left off, Bill is ready for her first proper adventure with the Doctor. Not even Nardole’s mothering admonishments can stop them.

One of the first things every new companion must go through is having their naivety about time travel whittled down. To that end, Bill’s request to see if the future is happy is clue enough for us to know it won’t be. The new duo visit one of Earth’s first colonies, a place that is supposed to run on happiness. Micro-robots called Vardies that exist in their tiny form as well as larger robots that communicate through emojis.

As the Doctor and Bill explore, they encounter robots but no humans. The Vardies are closely monitoring their mood via patches on their backs that display how they feel. The robots were sent ahead to prepare the colony for humans but the Doctor is perplexed that no setup team of humans is also present. In the garden, he and Bill learn the truth: the humans were killed and made into fertilizer.

That revelation signals it’s time to leg it back to the TARDIS. When their mood patches give them away and cause the Vardies to surround them, the Doctor and Bill plaster smiles on their faces so they slip past the bots. Once at the TARDIS, the Doctor tells her to stay there while he runs back to blow the place up. He assumes there’s a colony ship on its way and they can’t very well arrive to a new home filled with murder-bots.

Like all good companions, Bill runs after the Doctor and they quickly find the original spaceship the first people brought to the planet. Inside, the Doctor goes to the engine room to rig up an explosion while Bill wanders around. She finds the body of an old woman and a book detailing the history of the human race, right up to the part where they had to evacuate Earth altogether. When she turns to go join the Doctor, she finds a kid instead.

This isn’t the ship the first humans used; it’s the colony ship. All the passengers are still in stasis. Good thing it was so hard to blow up otherwise Bill would’ve learned the depth of the Doctor’s guilt. As the humans start to wake, the Doctor and Bill deduce what went wrong with the Vardies. The robots were created to guarantee satisfaction, but they didn’t understand the nuances of human emotion. So when the old woman died of her advanced age and the colonists grieved, the Vardies classified grief as a kind of virus and sought to eradicate it. Every grieving person they killed, just caused more sadness to spread until eventually the Vardies killed everyone.

The Doctor tries to explain the situation to the newly awoken colonists but all they hear is the robots rose up against humans and killed them. The colonists grab guns and start shooting the robots. Except, they’re everywhere. The micro-bots make up the entire colony. To prevent a significant portion of what’s left of the human race from being massacred, the Doctor reboots the Vardies’ system and erases their memories. Or as Bill puts it, “he turned it off and on again.” The robots had become their own species, the indigenous one to the planet. If the humans want to stay, they have to make peace (and pay rent).

Their job done, the Doctor takes Bill back to right after they left. Except, in true Doctor fashion, he doesn’t even get it close. They land in the past, in London, on the frozen Thames. And there’s something sinister lurking beneath.

Doctor’s Notes

Love love LOVE the Doctor explaining (showing off) the TARDIS and Bill wondering why the seats aren’t anywhere near the controls.

The Doctor: “I’ve thought about that.”
Bill: “And?”
The Doctor: “Well it would be a worry, so best not to dwell on it.”

Bill: “Is this Bloke Utopia?”

The Doctor: “I’m not Scottish, I’m cross.”

The Doctor, describing himself of course: “scary, handsome genius from space.”


Every episode without Nardole will be an episode I automatically enjoy more.

Bill is absolutely going to end up finding Heather and going off to travel with her. Every time things got interesting, even if they were scary, Bill’s mood tracker showed her being happy. This woman isn’t ever going back to a life just on Earth.

Stephanie Coats
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