Doctor Who: Three Things To Consider After “Smile”


Doctor Who’s new season is here, and Twelve and Bill are off on new adventures. Here are three things we want to know after “Smile”.

The second episode of Doctor Who Season 10 was largely a standalone. Don’t get me wrong, as an individual episode, “Smile” was pretty darn great. But while it was a terrific first outing for Twelve and Bill together, it didn’t give us much in terms of new information. Particularly when it comes to any of the things we were wondering about after “The Pilot” aired.

This isn’t that weird, in all honesty. Those things we wondered about after “The Pilot” are all likely the big questions of the season. We’re supposed to still be curious about them. And we’re also likely supposed to not have any idea what’s going on at this point. But that doesn’t stop us from wondering anyway.

Here are three things we’re thinking about as we look forward to Season 10’s third episode, entitled “Thin Ice”.

Who Did the Doctor Make a Promise To?

We do learn one small tidbit about the mysterious item in the vault situation. And that’s a tiny bit about why the Doctor is there guarding it in the first place. Apparently, he made a promise to someone:

"BILL: One question. Little fella said you made an oath? You’re not supposed to leave the planet. DOCTOR: Okay, I suppose I owe you an explanation. A long time ago, a thing happened. As a result of the thing, I made a promise. As a result of the promise, I have to stay on Earth. BILL: Guarding a vault. DOCTOR: Guarding a vault. BILL: Well, you’re not guarding a vault right now. DOCTOR: Yes, I am. I have a time machine. I can be back before we left. BILL: But what if you get lost, or stuck, or something? DOCTOR: I’ve thought about that. BILL: And? DOCTOR: Well, it would be a worry, so best not to dwell on it."

This exchange, of course, just spawns more questions. Who could have extorted such a promise from the Doctor in the first place? One that not only asked him to stay on Earth for decades, but that he actually kept in the end? Well, for the most part, anyway. It seems obvious that the promise must be something about not letting whatever is in the mysterious vault back out again. (As it seems obvious that whatever is in the vault is bad. Or at least pretty dangerous.) But what was the “thing” that happened? Is all of this, whatever the “thing” is, the Doctor’s fault? A little more clarity would be appreciated here.

Seriously, What’s Up with Nardole?

So, we’ve met Nardole a couple of times before. But he definitely seems kind of different this time around. Now, it might just be that he’s been forced to babysit the Doctor for the better part of seven decades, while he’s been trapped and bored. That’s likely to make anybody cranky. Or it could be because he’s some form of robot now. (We haven’t exactly confirmed that yet, of course. But, bolts are falling off him, so it seems a pretty safe bet.)

But Nardole really seems exceptionally cranky. And also more than a little bit rude to Bill, who doesn’t really deserve it. It doesn’t entirely make sense. Was this Nardole assembled or programmed solely to keep the Doctor’s focus on the mystery item in the basement? (He could be. Does he really seem like the same person who popped up in “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”?). Is he somehow specifically connected to the vault item? And why is he so alarmed at the prospect that the Doctor might go off-world for a bit? (Clearly, given that Twelve refers to him derogatorily as “Mum”, he’s become something of a nag about it.)

And Is This Episode a Giant “Ark in Space” Sequel?

“Smile” is maybe connected to a classic Doctor Who story in a roundabout way. Or, at least, you could read it like that, if you squint. “Earth was evacuated,” the Doctor explains to Bill, telling her the story of what happened to the human race thousands of years in her future. “But there were a number of ships. I’ve bumped into a few of them over the years.”

And this is true. He has. Back when the Doctor was played by Tom Baker, he ran into another group of post-evacuation colonists, fleeing the disintegrating Earth. In “The Ark in Space,” Four, Sarah Jane and Harry discover a space station full of humans still in a cryogenic state. One of the colonists gets infected with an alien parasite which makes him try to kill his fellow travelers. (But he ultimately saves everyone on the ship with his last spark of humanity before leading all the other parasites to their deaths.)

The stories in these two tales aren’t precisely the same, but it seems hard to believe that these events aren’t connected. So does “Smile” take place roughly around the same time as “The Ark in Space”? It could. And isn’t that a neat thought – that the Doctor, various versions of him, are concurrently everywhere, protecting those that need him, even simultaneously with himself, sometimes.

Next: Doctor Who Season 10, Episode 2 Review: “Smile”

Doctor Who Season 10 continues Saturday, April 29 on BBC One and BBC America.