Doctor Who season 10 episode 2: Smile by Frank Cottrell-Boyce (review).

April 22, 2017 | By | Reply More

Smile 🙂 or Frown 🙁  From here in there are spoilers!

From the start, there are references to the Doctor (actor Peter Capaldi) staying on Earth to guard the vault and yet he sneaks off for the first time with Bill Potts (actress Pearl Mackie) to explore one of the first Earth colonies off-planet, knowing that they can return a moment after they left. You therefore have to ask why hasn’t the Doctor done this more often in the past 50 years if for no other reason than sheer boredom. Perhaps Nardole has been keeping too much of a close eye on him but is left behind for this jaunt.

Although hinted at in the opening scene what has been killing the humans on this colony, the Doctor and Bill can only look and try to put things together. With such a limited cast, this looks like a bottle show and both actors with a mountain of dialogue to learn. In fact, this is the most dialogue I’ve seen in a ‘Doctor Who’ story for some time. The only real complaint is that it’s a slow plot again and you have to wonder if the younger members of the audience will be enjoying it or just be looking forward to owning one of the small robots as merchandise somewhere down the line. After all, the emojibots aren’t the actual menace. All they do is convey emotion and you should smile around them if you know what’s good for you. What you don’t really see up close is the swarm that can come down and devour you if you’re not happy although quite why they can’t do anything with the bones isn’t explained.

It isn’t until the last quarter of an hour that we see what happens when the final colonists arrive. The gardeners arrived ahead of them with their robot and swarm staff to prepare a city and crops for them to inhabit. Shame that when the gardener leader died, the Vardy robots saw this wasn’t indicative of a happy place and the swarm removed the rest. You would have thought that might have been better programming for the preservation of life.

The Doctor’s solution is the same as what you do with an faulty computer technology that needs an instant repair and you’ve all done it with your own computers to know what I’m talking about. With the addition of a sonic screwdriver, a little reprogramming along the way.

In many respects, there’s a good use of a CGI city**. It’s a shame that it doesn’t look more menacing. If you compare this place to the other nearly deserted cities the Doctor has arrived in before, there would have been more emphasis on bringing down the mood by either darkening the atmosphere or more sinister music. Instead, this mountain of dialogue. I almost get the feeling that scriptwriter Frank Cottrell-Boyce believes he should be paid by the word count. Oddly, Bill doesn’t really believe herself to be in danger. As she’s supposed to be the gateway character for the viewers, you would have thought that there might have been some more work done in that regard. That doesn’t mean I necessarily want to go back to the days of yore with screaming companions but a teensy bit more of reactive emotion would have gone a long way in making this episode a little more scary.

A little more refinement at the drafting stages would really have raised this episode up more than the final result shows here. This is an interesting idea that has got totally wasted. Watch for yourself and decide whether you want to 🙂 or .

(c) GF Willmetts 2017

**  Ed’s note: The city actually exists – it’s a complex called The City of Arts and Sciences, or Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, built inside the old drained riverbed of Valencia (Spain) near the turn of the century and is an amazing construction which has now basically bankrupted the local government. Check out the shots of the city here – you’ll recognise a few of the ‘sets’ from this episode of Dr Who (and the movie Tomorrowland). The city aquarium is right next door and both are well worth a visit if you ever head to lovely Valencia. Much better than Barcelona, IMHO.

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Category: Doctor Who, TV

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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