Doctor Who Review: “Smile”

It’s a new week. We’ve had a new Doctor Who episode. And because of that, I have a new review for you, too.

***Spoilers ahead, Sweetie**

A Brief Overview Of What Happened

This was Bill’s first proper trip into time and space as the Doctor’s companion. In a similar way to Rose’s first outing in “The End of the World”, the Doctor asks her where she wants to go; Into the past, or into the future. She decided she wants to go and see the future so she can see if it’s “happy”. But of course, as it always is in Doctor Who, it’s not all that happy.

The Doctor and Bill find themselves in a time after the world has ended, and have landed in a city, built by robots called the Vardi, for human colonists. Except there aren’t any humans to be seen. The Doctor tries to theorise that the humans just haven’t arrived yet. However, we all know nothing is ever that simple. The Doctor knew there would have been some sort of skeleton crew needed in the city to control the Vardi. And he found them. Only problem was they were being used as compost for plants after being killed by the Vardi.

Why? The Vardi worked on emotions. If the humans were happy they knew the humans were satisfied, and they saw sadness as a problem to be eradicated. Unfortunately, they saw the solution to this was to kill any human who was unhappy. Concerned this same thing will happen to the rest of the arriving colonists, the Doctor rushes back into the city, prepared to blow it up. But something happens. Something that rarely happens. The Doctor got it wrong.

The rest of the human colonists were already there, frozen in cryogenic chambers on the ship the city was built around, waiting to be woken up. The Doctor stops the city from being blown up, but the problem with the Vardi still stands. He tries to explain the situation to the humans, who’s automatic reaction is to reach for their guns and start shooting. A full-blown battle between the humans and the Vardi begins when the Doctor comes up with a solution.

Wiping the Vardi’s memories of humans, peace is restored. They do not remember the humans made them, let alone who they are, and believe the city is their own (they built it after all). And the Doctor becomes a negotiator between the Vardi and the humans to discuss the humans settling in their new world.

A slow start

While I enjoyed the episode as a whole, I feel as though it got off to a really slow start. Of course, we as an audience knew there was something wrong with the Vardi right from the beginning, as we were shown before the opening credits. However, it seemed to take eons before the Doctor and Bill realised the sinister happenings going on themselves. We had them chatting in the TARDIS, discussing the mood badges the Vardi use to read the emotions of humans, Bill eating futuristic algae-based food, and then walking through the gardens before they realised what was happening. After the slow pace of last week’s episode, I was looking for something a bit more fast paced this time. That doesn’t necessarily mean being thrown into the action in the first 10 minutes, but I definitely think they took too long getting to it this time around.

After that, though, the episode became packed with it. So much so that for a second there, I got slightly confused as to what was going on. One minute the Doctor’s going to blow the city up, then there’s humans, then he’s talking to them, and then the humans are getting guns. It all happened so fast, almost like Moffat had become aware of how much airtime he’d taken up with the first half of the episode, that he was frantically trying to cram the rest in, in the little time he had. But to give credit where credit is due, he did that cramming fairly successfully. Everything was solved, no questions were really left unanswered, and the fast pace of the final half certainly helped them to keep my attention.

And another round of applause of Bill, please! Honestly, it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to relate to a companion so much (which I feel is really the whole point of having one. So, the audience can feel like it’s them in some shape or form). She’s not afraid to ask questions, even the daft ones. And she’ll keep on pressing until she gets the answers she wants. This can be seen very clearly when she’s asking questions over the portion size of the algae food; Why does the Doctor have 2 portions and she only has 1? Of course, the answer was simple, the Doctor has 2 hearts and she only has 1 heart. However, it took a lot of pressing from Bill to get that answer, as the Doctor was far more interested in the Vardi and lack of humans (rightly so, really). This did make this scene hard to follow, though. With Bill talking about one thing and the Doctor talking about another, if you diverted your attention for so much as a second, you could easily be confused.

Moffat was even kind enough to give us some more hints as to why the Doctor was ever at the university in the first place. We now know he’s there to guard the vault we saw in the last episode. We also know he’s there because something bad happened, and because that something bad happened he made a promise. That promise being to guard the vault and never go off world. Which he has of course broken despite Nardole AKA mum’s close watch. But as we all know, rule one is that the Doctor lies. — So we’ve got some answers, but as always, more questions have been generated. What’s the bad thing that happened? And why does the vault need to be guarded?

It also looks like the majority of these episodes are going to take place in between Nardole going to make the Doctor his tea, and that said cup of tea being made. Although he’s already missed that landing mark by a long shot and ended up in Victorian London… with an elephant on the Thames. Hopefully he’ll get it right sooner or later, or there could be dire consequences… An unguarded vault and all that.

Overall, it’s been another enjoyable episode. And long may this streak continue. After the last couple of seasons, it really has been nice to see Capaldi’s doctor shine a little better, and allow him to go out with a bang.

What did you think of the latest episode?


Johanna an avid writer and lifelong Doctor Who fan living in the UK. By day she is a student, studying Media and Film Production, and by night she fangirls about all things TV/Film related on Twitter and writes posts for a variety of blogs as well as her own lifestyle blog.