Smile! It’s time another dire episode of Doctor Who!
But it’s not all dreadful, because despite Nardole (Matt Lucas) turning up early to bumbles around again for no reason, he was quickly left at home as The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Bill (Pearl Mackie) headed off on an alleged adventure. Given the choice of going into the past or the future, Bill wanted to see if the future is happy…
And in the future, everyone has to smile as if they’re in North Korea and bowing down to Kim Jong-un the wrong ‘un. Christ, if I had to smile at every one of Steven Moffat’s ‘executive-produced’ Who episodes, I’d die quickly!! Reason? The Vardies, which are tiny robots – looking rather like the nanobots from Christopher Eccleston’s 2005 series.
If you don’t smile, then they’ll be called upon by the Emojibots, thanks to a badge you have to wear, so that everyone you meet can see what you’re thinking.
Our heroes were led to think the place is built by robots solely with a view to humans coming along eventually in order to colonise it, but we knew from the trailer that the reason there’s no other people on site is because they’ve all been killed off.
Alas, despite the occasional decent line like The Doctor’s, “Do you know why it is when something chases you very slowly? It’s because they don’t have to run!”, overall, we had a nice idea for a plot, but one that was completely wasted.
From this point on, expect some spoilers as the situation he’s was presented with caused the Doctor a thinking time of all of two seconds to deduce a solution to blow up the problem. How lame… but then even more predictably, the pods on the ship are actually the surviving population from Earth, so basically a plot point we’ve seen in many previous sci-fi films and TV shows including The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Before I get to my big bug-bear about this episode, I will say that it’s an interesting change to bring genocide into a tea-time show predominantly watched by children, but there was so much that was a disappointment…
Early on, he raced back to stick Bill in the TARDIS, but she’s inquisitive so quickly comes back to him, hence that’s five minutes you could quickly cut out.
Then add in some lines which went nowhere:
- The Doctor’s secret move at chess is to kick over the board. Or so I thought, since Chicago TARDIS‘ John Lavalie told me it’s reference to the Tom Baker episode, The Sunmakers – The Doctor was losing to K-9, so he nudged the TARDIS to make the board tip over; and probably meant as a throwaway line.
- In the future all our food is made from algae, and the Doctor once met an Emperor made from algae… who fancied him. Huh?
- And since he has two hearts, Bill asked if that means he’s got really high blood pressure, to which he replied he has. And that was it.
- The magic haddock story which was a complete nonsense.
Yes, it’s from David Bowie’s Ashes To Ashes
However, one possible series arc may come out of this, as Bill spotted a plant that’s just like one growing outside the Student Union and which smells amazing, so that’ll come back in towards the end of the series no doubt. Well, I say ‘no doubt’, but Moffat’s tenure is getting weaker by the week, and he’s leaving after this series, so does he even care any more?
But the part of this episode which should be consigned to Dante’s 9th Circle of Hell? Despite being faced with complete extinction for the remainder of the human race, the entire episode was thrown away with a RESET BUTTON!! What the AF? (as the kids say, these days)
Some have said that The Doctor was simply ‘rebooting’ them, so they forgot anything they’d been programmed with originally. Erm… when I reboot my PC, it doesn’t forget everything I’ve been programmed with!
And even if it was that easy, surely someone else would’ve commandered one by ripping its face off and sticking their hand in?
A slight save, however, for the David Bowie reference when The Doctor quoted to a robot, “I’m happy, hope you’re happy too.” from Ashes To Ashes, which reached No.1 in 1980. I’ve put a link to the video for that above, for anyone who somehow has never heard it, but – homework time – why are some women in the background appearing to bow as they walk along? The reason is because their outfits are being taken under by the bulldozer and they don’t want to fall over!
At times, this episode was heading for a 4 or 5 out of 10. The reset button would’ve brought it crashing down to a 1, had the Bowie reference not allowed it an extra point.
Next week: The Doctor and Bill are in Regency-period Britain, and something’s eating people. According to the interweb, this should therefore take place between 1811–1837. Let’s see if Moffat can manage that.
Smile is available on the BBC iPlayer until one week after the series ends. You can also pre-order Series 10 Part 1 on Blu-ray and DVD, ahead of its release on May 29th. Both versions contain the first six episodes, plus six exclusive Series 10 art-cards.
Individual episodes can be bought in HD and SD here.
Director: Lawrence Gough
Producer: Peter Bennett
Executive Producer: Steven Moffat
Writer: Frank Cottrell Boyce
Music: Murray Gold
The Doctor: Peter Capaldi
Bill: Pearl Mackie
Steadfast: Ralf Little
Nate: Kalungi Ssebandeke
Emojibot #1: Kiran Shah
Emojibot #2: Craig Garner
Kezzia: Kiran L Dadlani
Goodthing: Mina Anwar
Nardole: Matt Lucas
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.