Series 10, Story 02 (Overall Series Story #267) | Previous - Next | Index
|Image via the official Doctor Who tumblr|
My first thought was the lazy, "Make the reaction post all emojis," one. In my defense, this episode was unremarkable enough that I didn't feel like putting much thought into trying tease any meaning out of it, put it down, or boost it up. Or anything really. I wasn't bothered by it. I watched it twice without being irritated. I was just never engaged.
- When the Doctor mentions he's encountered some of these Earth evacuation ships before, I took him to mean the events described in "The Ark," and "The Beast Below." "The Ark in Space" also felt relevant here. (Now there's a story I'm ready to watch again.) But, that trying to figure out what this one might have to do with anyof the others I'll leave as an exercise for a future date. (These posts are stubs I mean to come back to and flesh out later, rememember.)
- The colony ship is named for a Samuel Butler novel that I haven't read. And (you may be sensing a theme here) I wasn't intrigued enough by the selection, or what I found out about it by scanning the wikipedia entry, to read it and search for deeper connections.
- Nitpicky, but I was underwhelmed by the robots' emoji face designs. The death skull one looked amateur. For walking UIs of a new AI life form, they weren't very expressive.
- Read some comparisons to Black Mirror when checking the reviews for this story. The setting did feel Black Mirror, but even by BM's kind of low bar, this didn't feel as Twilight Zone-y as a BM usually does.
- Bill continues to work well as a companion, and I didn't mind Nardole getting the brush off. Her (ignored) curiosity about why the Earth had to be evacuated after seeing the history e-book felt like it might be significant, like we might find out more. (Or, maybe we already have and I'm forgetting it ...)
- Only in reading the AV Club review linked below did it become clear that this episode revisits the theme of the "baddie" who's just different. Hunger looks like evil when you're on the wrong end of the cutlery, the Doctor observed last week. This week he points out the Vardie (sp?) were an emergent new life form without the proper context to interpret their coding.
Tardis Wikia Entry
The “damn with faint praise” aspect, however, comes from the fact that you can’t actually put the bar much higher than “oh, hey, Cottrell-Boyce avoided fucking up this time.” The script still never soars. Worse, as with In the Forest of the Night, the moments where it tries to soar are generally its weak points. The script has an awkward habit of leering in and insisting that you find it clever, and these bits don’t often correspond to when it’s being clever. The repetition of the “skeleton crew” joke twice in rapid succession and the thickly laid on “can’t you call the police” line are the two most obvious examples. But equally frustrating are the things it doesn’t unpack - the declaration that the Vardies are a form of sentient life isn’t set up nearly well enough, and more broadly the resolution is full of ideas that are actually worth exploring, but that the script has left no time to explore because it wanted to be an ostentatious two-hander for a while.AV Club review - Grades it B+ (seems high)
As a story in its own right, well… this is the early-season, far-future episode for a new TARDIS team. In that regard, it follows “The End Of The World,” “New Earth,” “Gridlock,” “Planet Of The Ood,” “The Beast Below,” and “Into The Dalek.” There are some good episodes in that bunch—“Planet Of The Ood” is legitimately great—and a few underrated efforts, but there’s a general pattern there of undercooked narratives that favor characterization over airtight plotting. That’s not such a bad thing for a story whose function is to establish the new iteration of the show’s central characters, but it can only excuse so much the flimsiness of this episode’s premise. The trouble is that, like the magic haddock the Doctor keeps mentioning, the Vardi aren’t meant to be good or evil, just different in their thinking from the humans.TV Tropes page
Simon's Incoherent Blog
... Smile was a fairly average, even derivative episode salvaged somewhat by some excellent direction, some nice dialogue and the usual excellent performances. I’m heartened that, unlike last time, Frank Cottrell Boyce has given us a script that feels like it belongs in Doctor Who; next time though, he might want to try relying rather less on its past.Locations Guide
I read somewhere this was shot in Valencia, expect the location guide will be updated to reflect that when the entry for this story is created.