This is the first story of Season Thirty Six (New Series 10). It was written by Steven Moffat, produced by Peter Bennett and directed by Lawrence Gough.
This is the first story to feature Pearl Mackie as the new companion Bill Potts, after the departure of Jenna Coleman at the end of the previous season. This story also sees the return of the Daleks, their last major appearance being in the previous season’s premiere "The Magician's Apprentice/The Witch's Familiar".
This is the first full Doctor Who story directed by Lawrence Gough - a newcomer to the show whose previous television work includes episodes of Misfits, Atlantis and Endeavour. Lawrence Gough revealed that he wanted to be a director from the age of nine! His debut feature film was the 2009 movie, Salvage, starring Neve McIntosh, an actor familiar to Doctor Who fans as the sword-wielding Silurian, Madam Vastra.
Discussing the idea behind this story Steven Moffat has commented ‘Everything you need to know about Doctor Who is explained in that first episode - the cloaking device, the chameleon circuit, the bigger on the inside - all of that is there and you even get to see the Daleks. The idea was just to introduce Doctor Who properly - the story starts here. You need to know nothing before this point’.
According to Head Writer and Executive Producer Steven Moffat, in a video introduction ‘Series ten sort of begins the show again, introduces everything you need to know about Doctor Who, and tips you into the universe’. Indeed, through Bill's eyes viewers are introduced again to the character of The Doctor, his TARDIS, his enemies the Daleks, and his versatile tool, the sonic screwdriver.
Being the first story to feature Pearl Mackie, as new companion Bill Potts, Steven Moffat has commented ‘I think every time we get a new companion - even more so than a new Doctor - you are sort of saying, 'This is the beginning. This is where it starts. You can join in here'’.
This is Pearl Mackie’s first major television role following her West End appearance in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.
Also returning to Doctor Who is Matt Lucas, who plays the part of Nardole. Matt Lucas has revealed ‘I’m chuffed to bits that Nardole is returning to the TARDIS for some more adventures’. I loved acting with Peter and I’m excited to work with Pearl’.
This story also marks the second appearance of Jennifer Hennessy in Doctor Who. She previously appeared playing the part of Valerie in the 2007 Tenth Doctor story "Gridlock".
Stephanie Hyam, who plays the part of Heather, has appeared in Peaky Blinders, Jekyll & Hyde and Sherlock.
It has been revealed that many, if not all, of the extras who attend The Doctor's lecture were employees from Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff.
The read-through for this story and the next story, "Smile", took place on the 14th June 2016. Filming for both stories took place in the first production block which began in Cardiff on the 20th June 2016 and concluded on the 28th July 2016.
In a video for the official Doctor Who YouTube account released on the 23rd June 2016, Pearl Mackie is heard to comment ‘Feeling very excited, very warm in all my legs... we've had a good couple of days so far, and I'm really looking forward to the rest of today and getting on with it’.
It was reported that as she began her first day at work Pearl Mackie was delighted to receive a bouquet of flowers from her predecessor, Jenna Coleman (who played the part of Clara Oswald) and that in response Pearl Mackie sent a tweet to Jenna: ‘Thank you, Jenna, what a beautifully thoughtful gift. From one companion to another’.
Scenes were recorded at Cardiff University and Cathays Park in Cardiff. The Main Building, the Sir Martin Evans Building, and Tower Building of Cardiff University largely fill in for St Luke's University, while the Reardon Smith Theatre (within the National Museum of Wales) is where The Doctor gives his lectures and The Cardiff Metropolitan University (Llandaff Campus)'s Atrium Cafe is where Bill is seen serving chips. The bar scene was shot at Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff, while the bathroom, that Bill runs into when the TARDIS lands in Australia, was filmed at the World of Boats in Cardiff. While the exotic planet the TARDIS travels to was filmed in CEMEX's Taffs Well quarry, situated just outside of Cardiff.
This story was original titled "A Star in Her Eye", before it was announced a month before its broadcast that the title had been changed to "The Pilot", to reflect the ‘rebooting’ of the show with the new season.
This story introduces St Luke’s University, where The Doctor has been lecturing for over fifty years, and begins a plot thread surrounding what he and Nardole are hiding in a vault beneath the campus.
The name St. Luke’s University is apt as Saint Luke is the patron saint of artists, painters, notaries, surgeons… and doctors!
On his desk, The Doctor has framed photographs of two people who were very dear to him. His lost wife River Song ("The Wedding of River Song", "The Husbands of River Song", "Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead") and his granddaughter Susan Foreman ("An Unearthly Child" - "The Dalek Invasion of Earth").
The Doctor also keeps a collection of his sonic screwdrivers from both eras of the show. Also on The Doctor’s desk is a model of a raven, a reference to the death of Clara Oswald in the 2015 story "Face the Raven".
The ringtone for Bill's mobile phone is the same as the one heard on Martha Jones' phone, which was later kept in the TARDIS by the Tenth Doctor.
When Nardole shows Bill into The Doctor's office, his arm makes a mechanical sound and a bolt falls from it, implying that his body (or at least part of it) is robotic.
It is revealed that Bill is a fan of science fiction, and recognises many of its tropes in her experiences with The Doctor, including mind wipes. She becomes Bill's tutor on physics and astrophysics, among other subjects.
The Doctor attempts a memory wipe on Bill. The Doctor previously revealed that he has done this several times. Various companions have endured a ‘mind wipe’ to remove their knowledge of their time with The Doctor, but the way in which The Doctor faces Bill to eradicate her relevant recollections brings to mind the process Donna Noble underwent in the 2008 Tenth Doctor story "The Stolen Earth/Journey's End". In that story The Doctor pressed ahead with the mind-wipe despite his friend’s tearful pleas… However, in this story Bill is able to keep, and build on, her memories when she poses the question of how The Doctor would feel if it happened to him. (see the 2015 story "Heaven Sent/Hell Bent").
In the scene when The Doctor attempts a memory wipe on Bill we hear a brief excerpt of Clara’s Theme, giving a subtly reminder of how her time with The Doctor ended.
The humanoid figures we see flying through the air, battling the Daleks, are Movellans. Their only previous appearance was in the 1979 Fourth Doctor story "Destiny of the Daleks" when The Doctor discovered they were a race of robots locked in a long war with his oldest enemies. In the1984 Fifth Doctor story "Resurrection of the Daleks" it was revealed they won the war after unleashing a virus so deadly it almost completely wiped out the Daleks.
The Doctor has previously met sentient liquid beings - the Kar-Charratans on Kar-Charrat (see the 2000 Seventh Doctor Big Finish Productions audio story "The Genocide Machine").
The Doctor also battled against sentient water in the 2009 Tenth Doctor story "The Waters of Mars". A similar effect is used here in this story to depict that the water is controlling them: the liquid is dripping from their hands, their mouths and their clothes.
A creature which mimicked living people to steal their form previously appeared in the 2008 Tenth Doctor story "Midnight".
Another spaceship part seeking a compatible pilot - specifically one who wants to leave - previously appeared in the 2010 Eleventh Doctor story "The Lodger".
A piece of music called The Sad Man with A Box is heard playing in the scene where Bill is introduced to the TARDIS. A happier, more fairy-tale rendition of this same tune, The Mad Man with a Box, played during the scene in the 2010 Eleventh Doctor story "The Eleventh Hour" when Amy walked into the TARDIS and saw the interior for the first time.
Bill is heard making the classic response to the TARDIS interior - ‘It's bigger on the inside than on the outside!’ - but it takes her longer to say it. Nardole then explains it to her as imagining being able to put a large box inside a small box; the Fourth Doctor demonstrated this in a similar way to Leela in the 1977 story "The Robots of Death".
On entering the TARDIS for the first time Bill, when she discovers the it is bigger on the inside, at first thinks it's a knock-through behind The Doctor’s office and then that it is a lift.
Bill compares the console room design to a kitchen. She also asks where the toilet is.
The Doctor tells Bill that the name TARDIS, for his time machine, stands for ‘Time and Relative Dimension in Space’ (Other stories have it as ‘Dimensions’). In the 1963 First Doctor story "An Unearthly Child", The Doctor's granddaughter, Susan, mentioned that she made up the name TARDIS from the initials Time and Relative Dimensions in Space. Bill points out that this acronym would only ever work in English.
Unaware that the TARDIS is a time machine Bill is heard to comment that both the doors and windows of The Doctor's office are too small to have brought the police box in without taking it apart.
The Doctor is heard once again mentioning the TARDIS' broken chameleon circuit, (see "An Unearthly Child", "Logopolis" and "Boom Town"), This time he calls it a ‘cloaking device’.
The Doctor is seen once again clicking his fingers to open the TARDIS doors (see "Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead", "The Eleventh Hour" and "Heaven Sent/Hell Bent").
While being chased by the sentient water through time, the TARDIS visits Sydney in Australia, a planet on the other end of the universe, and a war zone in the Dalek-Movellan War.
The plot element, of having The Doctor travel to various obscure locations in the universe as he continuously encounters the same entity, has been used in the show various times before. The First Doctor, Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton were once pursued by the Daleks in the 1965 story "The Chase"; The Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones were chased by the Family of Blood in the 2007 story "Human Nature/The Family of Blood"; The Twelfth Doctor said in the 2015 story "Face the Raven" that a Quantum Shade could chase a person throughout all time and space.
The Doctor has encountered scorch marks left in on the ground by a shuttlecraft once before in the 1988 Seventh Doctor story "Remembrance of the Daleks".
New viewers are brought into the show with all important information given, and meet The Doctor as a mysterious figure, much like they did through Rose Tyler in the first story of the revised era of the show, the 2005 Ninth Doctor story "Rose", or through Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton in the original 1963 introduction, "An Unearthly Child". Much like in "Rose", this story follows Bill around in every scene.
The setting of this story bears some resemblance to the unfinished Fourth Doctor story "Shada". Both stories feature Time Lords (in "Shada", Chronotis; in this story, The Doctor) who settle in colleges as eccentric professors for an extended period of time. Both feature opening shots of a student (in "Shada", Chris Parsons; in this story, Bill Potts) entering their studies and noticing the TARDIS, parked in the corner.
A bust of William Shakespeare is kept on the windowsill, a reference to the 2007 story "The Shakespeare Code", which has a stained glass portrait of Robin of Loxley (see "Robot of Sherwood"). The Doctor also has a bust of Ludwig van Beethoven in his office. This bust was previously seen in the 2015 Story "Under the Lake/Before the Flood". Similar to that story The Doctor is also heard playing Beethoven's Fifth Symphony on his electric guitar.
The 'Out of Order' notice seen hanging on the TARDIS's external door in The Doctor's study is similar to the sign hung by The Doctor on the TARDIS exterior in the 1966 First Doctor story "The War Machines".
The Doctor uses the chalkboard with the same white roundel frame in his university classroom that Miss Quill uses in her classroom at Coal Hill Academy in the spin-off series, Class, story For Tonight We Might Die.
Near the vault can be seen a sign belonging to the Mary Celeste (see "The Chase").
The Doctor is seen to speak to the photographs of River Song and Susan - telling them to ‘shut up’ after he refuses to take Bill as a companion. He previously told River Song, in the 2013 Eleventh Doctor story "The Name of The Doctor", ‘You are always here to me and I always listen. And I can always see you’. Immediately after this scene The Doctor offers Bill the opportunity to become his travelling companion.
Uniquely, a whole chunk of Bill’s first encounter with The Doctor, as depicted in this story, was broadcast on the 23rd April, 2016, almost a year before this story was broadcast. Entitled Friend From the Future this three-minute scene served to announce Pearl Mackie, as new companion Bill Potts, and showed her and The Doctor discussing, and then trying to avoid a number of angry Daleks.
Glimpses of this story were also shown at the end of the 2016 Christmas Special "The Return of Doctor Mysterio".
A 'Next' trailer, followed by a 'Coming Soon' trailer, are both shown before the end credits.
The first story of Season Thirty Six (New Series 10).
Pearl Mackie's first story as companion Bill Potts.
The first Doctor Who story to be directed by Lawrence Gough.