Spoiler-Free Synopsis of Doctor Who, Season 10, Episode 2, “Smile”:
Bill’s first TARDIS trip is to the future, around the 29th century. Humans have colonized a new Garden of Eden. But where are the people? What are the robots up to? And is there food sexism in the future?
The Doctor says he doesn’t fly around looking for trouble to fix, not anymore…but since he’s in the area.
Most of Doctor Who horror is based on jump scares and atmosphere. This one has the atmosphere of a futuristic story. The monsters chase you slowly because they don’t need to run. And when it’s not scary, it’s fun. Swarms of AI robots! Mood readers! It’s all so pretty…except for the bones. The dissonance makes it even scarier.
Meanwhile, Bill is still asking the right questions, much like Donna on her first trip (I loved that episode). But unlike Pompeii, this time the Doctor was right (as far as he knew), and Bill understood that. She loves learning from him; she’s in awe of him more than any companion in a long time. It’ll be interesting when she ends up disagreeing with him about something.
The plot was a lot of fun, too. Interestingly, viewers probably solved the mystery before the Doctor and Bill did, and we get to see them figure it out. But no spoilers!
The episode’s problem is the rushed pacing, especially toward the end. The Doctor comes to his brilliant solution way too quickly, and executes it too easily. If the story had been stretched into two episodes, there would have been more time to explore a couple of plot points that they blurred through, which I don’t want to spoil.
The “moral” of this episode was about robot slaves. Remember what I said a while back about Toy Story and Wall-E? Just because robot servants are smart doesn’t mean they’re slaves in need of being freed. They might just be smart robot servants and therefore effective robot servants. Of course, if the humans are in danger then something needs to change. But stop calling them slaves. You’re just asking for ethical subtext that doesn’t need to be there, not in an episode like this.
8/10 wishes on a magic fish.
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