It’s a difficult time to be a Whovian.
It sucks having to wait until Christmas for any new Doctor Who. It sucks even more so to have over a year to wait before we get a whole series.
Steven Moffat is leaving and Torchwood and Broadchurch’s Chris Chibnall is taking up the reigns. Over recent years – if Twitter is anything to go by – Moffat has divided fans increasingly with regard to his storylines, but even his detractors must have some nerves about a new Head Writer – the role which, more even than the casting of Doctor or companion, will make or break a series.
Nor do we know whether the brilliant Peter Capaldi will be around (my guess is ‘no’) after Moffat hands over the key to the TARDIS.
Yes, it’s a difficult time to be a Whovian, which is why – desperate for any snippet of news – I was so excited when the BBC announced that they would be introducing us to the Doctor’s new companion yesterday.
Even more surprising, the announcement wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill ‘ta-da’ moment of announcing the actor’s name. We were treated to a two-minute scene (I assume by the hand of Steven Moffat) of the Doctor and his new counterpart escaping from the Daleks.
And I loved it.
Okay, I had (as did most people) the initial reaction of ‘who the hell is that?’ but the more I watch it (I’m up to five times, so far), and the more I read about her, the more excited I get.
So, who have we got?
Pearl Mackie will be playing the role of ‘Bill’. A quick imdb search (she must have been the most Googled name on the internet yesterday) shows that she’s only had a couple of small roles on television – an episode of Doctors and an appearance in the 2013 film, Svengali. She’s primarily a stage actor who is currently playing in the West End production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. I’m really encouraged by this. Her lack of tv credits is made up for – or, more to the point, is perhaps complimented – by the fact that she has a lot of theatre experience. I look forward to seeing how the required discipline of theatre and the different skills it employs will translate onto the screen.
I think that Bill will be a fun character to watch. It’s hard to gauge too much about her in the brief two minutes we’ve seen her, but she seems much more natural than many of the Doctor’s recent companions. Whereas many seem swept immediately away by the Doctor’s adventures, accepting everything they’re told without question, Bill’s reactions seem more true to what any normal person would ask. Like, why have the Daleks got suckers? I loved the way she wasn’t really fazed by them – not because she has some sort of bravery bordering on a death-wish (like Clara) – but because they literally look ridiculous. It’s the same reaction that any one of us would have if some mad man in a box told us that the giant pepper pot with the sucker and the eye on a stick was going to kill us.
A lot of people I’ve spoken to have been reminded of Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble, which is what immediately occurred to me, and this is no bad thing. There is also a hint of Sheridan Smith’s Lucie Miller in there from the Big Finish Eighth Doctor audio adventures. I think we can look forward to a sharp, witty, brash, entertaining companion who will certainly keep the script writers on their toes.
But of course, the subject of the scripts does raise the question of Bill’s longevity in the show. She’s currently signed on for series 10, Moffat’s last. Whether or not Chris Chibnall will want to keep her for his stint, or whether he already has other plans for the TARDIS’s plus-one is something that I imagine even he won’t decide for at least a few months.
As to whether the Bill we see in the announcement video is yet the ‘finished product’ remains to be seen. The scripts are still in progress, so the character may change subtly. Even David Tennant is vastly different in New Earth to his earlier appearance in The Christmas Invasion, and different slightly again than his own introduction in the Children In Need Special in 2005.
One thing is for sure, whatever fans make of Pearl Mackie – and the Twitter response has been overwhelmingly positive for a change – few who noticed it would fail to be amazed at Bill’s t-shirt, depicting the insert sleeve image from Prince’s Purple Rain album. Either the promo was shot over the last few days in order to minimise the risk of the cat being let out of the bag early, or the whole thing is really… really… spooky. So far, the BBC have refused to comment…
Pearl Mackie’s Doctor Who debut can be seen here: