60,906 Pages

You may be looking for The Pilot Episode.

The Pilot was the first episode of the tenth series of Doctor Who produced by BBC Wales. It introduced the Twelfth Doctor's new companion, Bill Potts.

According to Steven Moffat in a video introduction, "series 10 sort of begins the show again. [The Pilot] introduces everything you need to know about Doctor Who, and tips you into the universe". Indeed, through Bill's eyes now, viewers are introduced again to the character of the Doctor, his TARDIS, his enemies the Daleks, and his versatile tool, the sonic screwdriver.

New viewers are brought into the show with all important information given, and meet the Doctor as a mysterious figure, much like they did through Rose Tyler in series 1's 2005 "pilot", Rose, or through Ian and Barbara in the original 1963 introduction, "An Unearthly Child". Much like Rose, The Pilot follows Bill around in every scene.

This was also the first on-screen depiction of Movellans since their debut in Destiny of the Daleks. The episode introduces St Luke's University, where the Doctor apparently has been lecturing for over fifty years, and begins a plot thread surrounding what he and Nardole are hiding in a vault beneath the campus. This bears some similarity to the era of the Third Doctor, who was likewise restricted in his travels and held a job as the scientific adviser of UNIT.

Some things were different with Bill as a companion; she was panicky when first traveling in the TARDIS, and took a long time to figure out that it was time machine that "bigger on the inside". Continuing the unofficial theme of having the Daleks appear in each season of the Revived Series, the Doctor attempts to destroy the sentient oil with the deadliest fire in the universe, which turns out to the Daleks.

By the Doctor's own admission, he has come to believe that if he encounters some kind of alien on Earth, it is likely going to be dangerous as most of the past aliens he's encountered on Earth have been. However, in a twist, the "threat" turns out to be a misunderstanding caused by a crush.

This episode marks the first time since The Snowmen that the lights in the TARDIS have been off. However, unlike back then, ALL the lights are now able to be shut off when the Doctor hasn't been inside for a while.

Synopsis Edit

The Twelfth Doctor — now living and teaching at St Luke's University on Earth — convinces dinner lady Bill Potts to be his private student. The Time Lord and his companion Nardole soon discover that their new friend has unwittingly made a deal with a prospective girlfriend that threatens their safety in a way that even the TARDIS can't outrun.

Plot Edit

The episode opens with an empty university professor's office; nobody is in it. The sound of mechanical whirring is heard for a while before the door opens and Nardole leads a woman called Bill Potts in; he gestures for her to take a seat at the professor's desk. A bolt falls off his arm, but he discretely kicks it away before Bill can notice. He leaves without a word, leaving Bill to wait for the professor to arrive.

The Pilot Cup of Sonic

Various sonic screwdrivers.

Bill looks around the room, finding the TARDIS with an "Out of Order" sign hanging on it. Noting a mug on the professor's desk full of strange devices, which are sonic screwdrivers, Bill reaches to examine one. However, she is startled by the sound of an electric guitar playing the opening bars to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. She coughs, getting the professor's attention from the adjacent room; the Doctor sticks his head in, telling Bill he'll be with her in a moment.

Putting his guitar away, the Doctor takes his seat and asks Bill for her name. He wonders why she's been attending his lectures as she is not a student at the university. Bill attempts to deny this but the Doctor counters that he has seen her in his lectures. She admits that she actually works at the university canteen. After fumbling over a story about a woman she fancied in the canteen, Bill confesses that she loves his lectures and always wanted to attend the university. She then challenges back, asking why the man has taken an interest in her as "loads attend [his] lectures". He responds that it is because she smiles when she doesn't understand something, while the majority frown.

Bill asks around about the Doctor, telling him that it's rumoured he's lectured for 70 years. The Doctor think it's going to be a question about his age, but Bill says it's actually about what subject he's lecturing on. It's seem the Doctor has permission to talk about whatever he wishes; on one occasion, he was supposed to give a lecture on quantum physics, but talked about poetry. The Doctor tells her that they're basically the same thing because of all the rhyming. He offers to be Bill's personal tutor, stating that she must come to him at 6pm every weekday (even if someone is dying) and if she gets anything less than a First on each assignment, the tutoring will cease. As she leaves, she asks what to call him, as everyone calls him the Doctor. He tells her it's what he's called. Bill is sure this cannot be his real name, asking "Doctor what?" The Doctor just smiles.

Bill goes through her daily routine: serving chips, attending the Doctor's lectures and tutoring sessions, and returning home to her foster mother, Moira. Bill explains that the Doctor is kind of her foster tutor, as Moira goes over Bill's assignments, where she has scored at least 87% in each subject the Doctor taught her, even very obscure topics. Moira is worried the Doctor might be some kind of paedophile, warning Bill to be careful of men. Annoyed, Bill mutters under her breath she's not interested in men.

The Doctor gives a lecture on the concept of the passage of time; in truth, time doesn't pass, because life is a great magician that only allows people to live one day at a time. As people remember living yesterday, they hope they'll live another day tomorrow. He further explains that each day is like a photo, a frozen moment, which, like a movie, when played in quick succession, comes alive. The Doctor then tells everyone to imagine all time happening at once. Every moment from birth to death, all the good and bad of their life comprising an entire city; it's the best place a person can ever hope to be. Writing on the chalk board, the Doctor calls this Time and Relative Dimension in Space, going on to say "it's called life". That night, whilst out in a bar with her friends, Bill's eye's meet those of a blonde woman across the room. As they leave their seats and approach one another, Bill sees that the woman has a star-like pattern in her left eye.

The next morning, Bill follows the Doctor and Nardole, who descend into a hidden vault under the university. She overhears snatches of their converstaion but leaves when she fears she has been detected. Outside, she runs into Heather, the girl from the bar, sitting on a bench looking distraught. Bill asks if she is okay, and enquires about the star in her eye, but Heather brushes this off as a "defect in the iris." Bill senses that Heather is troubled by something and asks her if she is "freaking out." Heather hesitates, then pleads with Bill to come with her and see something. Bill accepts and Heather leads her to a fenced-off service area between some of the university buildings. On the way Heather says that she hates the university but doesn't know why, remarking "Everywhere I go, I just want to leave." At the service area she points out a mysterious puddle that ought not to be there, as it has not rained in a week. She asks Bill to look at the reflection from it and tell her what's wrong with it. Bill notices that her face appears wrong in the reflection, but can't work out why. As Bill is looking in the puddle Heather walks off, apologising and making a hasty exit; Bill is crestfallen. After she too has left, a voice issuing from the dark liquid announces that the "pilot is located".

At Christmas time, Bill celebrates with the Doctor, giving him a rug as a present; the Doctor admits that he hasn't gotten her anything. They discuss travelling, Bill saying that she can sense that the Doctor travels around, even though he denies it. She says "With some people you can smell the wind in their clothes." This is what she presumes her birth mother would have said, revealing that she died when Bill was young. Bill tells the Doctor that she apparently looks like her mother but doesn't know this as there are no photographs of her. She wonders whether photos really help after loved ones are gone, causing the Doctor to look wistfully at the photos of his wife River and granddaughter Susan on his desk. At home, Bill's foster mother Moira shows her a newly discovered box containing photos of Bill's birth mother. Bill weeps upon discovering that she looks just like her mother. She notices the reflection in a mirror in one of the photos, in which the Doctor can be seen holding the camera.

Sentinent oil The Pilot

The strange liquid.

Months later, Bill walks past the service area to find Heather once more staring into the puddle. Bill calls out and Heather smiles to see her again. She asks if Bill ever figured out what was wrong with her reflection in the puddle. When Bill answers that she did not, Heather asks Bill to come round and offers to show her. Remembering her hasty departure the last time they met, Bill makes Heather promise not to go without her. Heather promises, but when Bill has run around the building and through the gap in the fence, her friend is nowhere to be seen. Assuming Heather to have walked out on her again, Bill is slightly offended, and leaves, not seeing Heather's screaming face beneath the surface of the puddle. As she is pulled down into the liquid, a voice announces "Pilot confirmed. Pilot engaged."

Worried about Heather and her fascination with the strange puddle, Bill consults the Doctor. She tells him about Heather's eye and the unsettling reflection in the puddle. When he hears his, the Doctor runs out of his office to investigate the puddle and the scorch marks surrounding it. The Doctor figures out that the reflection looks wrong because it is not a reflection at all. He explains that when looking at your reflection you never see your face the right way round, but in the puddle it is. The puddle is mimicking their faces as they look into it. It was easy for Heather to spot because the star in her eye meant her face was asymmetrical. The Doctor, sensing danger, sends Bill home to keep her safe. As she heads off, the voice from the puddle declares "Passenger selected. Pursuit engaged." Back at her flat, she notices the sounds of someone in the bath, even though Moira is out that night. Bill runs to the university after seeing Heather's starry eye staring out of her bathroom drain.

Outside St Luke's University, Bill is confronted by her pursuer. When Bill trys to speak to her however, she only mimics Bill's words. As Bill steps closer, she sees that liquid is constantly pouring from Heather's hair and hands; her face is pale and her expression blank. Bill is horrified, believing that Heather has died, and rushes into the Doctor's office, where he is examining a sample of the liquid from the puddle. Though Bill bars the door, the puddle gushes under it and reforms into Heather. The Doctor convinces Bill to enter his blue box, taking the sign off as they do. Bill protests that the box can't save them only to turn around as the console lights up and the Doctor reveals the TARDIS. Coming to terms with its size, Bill claims she needs the toilet, meeting Nardole on her way down. The Doctor proceeds to take them down to the vault, where she realises that the police box in the corner of the Doctor's office is his spaceship, which is bigger on the inside. The Doctor and Bill infer that the puddle creature is not here for whatever is hidden inside the vault and is instead there to chase them. Even as they reach this conclusion, liquid trickles down the steps and Heather reappears. They escape in the TARDIS, which the Doctor flies to Australia to test the transformed Heather's abilities.

In Australia, Bill asks the Doctor if he's from space; he tells her that he's not: "Nobody's from space. I'm from a planet like everybody else." Bill notes that TARDIS doesn't make sense then, as the acronym only works in English. The Doctor replies that most people don't bring this up. Heather soon catches them up, forming out of droplets on a mirror, so the trio leave to a planet on the other side of the universe, 23 million years in the future. Here, the Doctor and Bill hypothesise that the puddle is a type of sentient oil or perhaps a small part of a shape-shifting "liquid spaceship" requiring a host "pilot". Bill remembers Heather's desire to leave, explaining why the puddle chose Heather. When Nardole asks why the creature wants Bill, the Doctor begins to suspect that it may be the result of the mutual crush she and Heather had on one another, asking: "What, in the end, are any of us looking for? We're looking for someone who's looking for us." As the Doctor says this, Bill looks into a pool of liquid she has found. Heather begins to rise to the surface, smiling at Bill, who smiles back. Then Heather grabs Bill and tries to pull her down. The Doctor and Nardole free Bill and they retreat to the TARDIS, as liquid gushes out of the pool and begins to reform.

The Doctor's last test of Heather's abilities is to run her through "the deadliest fire in the universe". Nardole is terrified of where they're going; the Doctor hands him the Fourth Doctor's sonic and tells him to run interference. Once they land, Nardole runs off in the opposite direction. The Doctor leads Bill to a skirmish in the Dalek-Movellan War. They are found by Heather, who is shot by a Dalek; but the blast goes straight through her and she reforms after it. The Dalek fires in vain as the Doctor and Bill run. They are then confronted by a Dalek, which the Doctor realizes is Heather in a new form. Heather dissolves and reforms as herself. The Doctor wonders why she did not attack them.
Bill and Heather

Heather tries convincing Bill to join her

The Doctor is unable to figure out what can defeat it, and at this moment Bill remembers that Heather promised not to leave without her shortly before the puddle absorbed her. "Never underestimate a crush" the Doctor notes, and tells Bill to release Heather from the promise, to let her be at peace. Bill sadly absolves Heather of this promise, but Heather holds out her hand and Bill takes it. She sees a remarkable vision of Heather's memories of their mutual attraction and their possible future together, flying free through the universe. The Doctor tells Bill to resist, still fearing the possiblity that it is a trick. Bill sadly says goodbye to Heather. To this Heather responds "Goodbye, Bill": the first thing she has said since her transformation that is not mimicry, indicating that Heather remains herself and is not possessed as Bill and the Doctor had feared. Heather departs leaving Bill shaken and upset.

The Doctor brusquely returns to his ship while Nardole comments on the former's seemingly ignorant behaviour. Bill comments that the tears she sheds don't feel like her own.

Back in the university office, Bill seems to regret her decision not to leave with Heather, asking the Doctor if they will see her again and looking hopefully at the TARDIS. The Doctor says that she must forget about seeing Heather or travelling in the TARDIS and tries to wipe her memories of doing so, explaining that he must remain in disguise, unknown to everyone owing to a promise he made. Bill retorts, asking how he would feel if someone tried to wipe his memories. The Doctor tells Bill to leave immediately without another question, before he changes his mind. He looks at the picture of River, telling it to shut up, then the same for Susan's picture. Even the TARDIS briefly hums causing the Doctor to confess he "can't keep doing this".

The Pilot Bright Light Doctor

"I've changed my mind"

Outside, Bill runs down the steps, checks that she can remember Heather, and smiles. She finds the Doctor next to his TARDIS on the university courtyard. He tells her that they might run into Heather again as it's a big universe. The Doctor tells Bill that he changed his mind. When she asks what caused him to, the Doctor responds "Time and Relative Dimension in Space. It means what the hell." Bill excitedly runs into the TARDIS, followed by the Doctor who shuts the door behind them. Now the Time Lord is ready to see the universe anew.

Cast Edit

Crew Edit

General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics



General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.

References Edit

Science Edit

Technology Edit

  • The Doctor has, in his office, several sonic screwdrivers, of various designs from his past.


Culture Edit

Food and beverages Edit

Species Edit

Locations Edit

St Luke's University Edit

People Edit

Music Edit

Story notes Edit

Introducing the New Companion..02:05

Introducing the New Companion... - Doctor Who - BBC

The original scene in Friend from the Future

Pearl Mackie & Steven Moffat - The Aftershow - Doctor Who The Fan Show18:42

Pearl Mackie & Steven Moffat - The Aftershow - Doctor Who The Fan Show

This episode's Aftershow on Doctor Who: The Fan Show.

I'm in Doctor Who (it's a big deal)10:50

I'm in Doctor Who (it's a big deal)

Caroline Lie describes her experience as an extra in the lecture hall.

  • A working title for this episode was A Star In Her Eye.[1][2][3][4]
  • Before filming started, a two-minute promo teaser introducing Bill known as Friend From the Future was broadcast in April 2016. Parts of this promo were adapted into the episode during the encounter in the Dalek war zone. (DWM 511)
  • The read-through for The Pilot took place on 14 June 2016, and filming on the episode began on 20 June.
  • The song "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division plays during the bar scene, when Bill and Heather first meet.
  • Bill mentioning people being possessed by lizards in the brains is a reference to the series Stargate.
  • When the Doctor finally invites Bill onboard the TARDIS, he says "Time And Relative Dimension In Space, it means... what the hell." it is a reference to the scene in Back to the Future in which Doc Brown tells Marty he broke the space-time continuum by avoiding death. [source needed]
  • During the scene in which the TARDIS travels to the Dalek-Movellan War Zone, a short scene from TV: The Doctor's Wife is re-used in which the TARDIS leaves through the bubble universe rift for the House planetoid.
  • As described by Caroline Lie, many if not all of the extras who attend the Doctor's lecture were employees from Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff. She can be seen, in fact, in multiple places, often near her friends, including Joe (TARDISArchives). Both previously participated in Classmates, a YouTube series consisting of fan reactions to episodes of Class.
  • The setting of this story bears some resemblance to the unfinished TV story Shada. Both stories feature Time Lords (in Shada, Chronotis; in The Pilot, the Doctor) who settle in colleges as eccentric professors for an extended period of time. Both feature opening shots of a student (in Shada, Chris Parsons; in The Pilot, Bill Potts) entering their studies and noticing the TARDIS, parked in the corner.
  • During the scene when the Doctor is about to wipe Bill's memory and she tells him to imagine if someone did it to him, "Clara's Theme" plays. This is a reference to the events of TV: Hell Bent.[5]
  • "The Sad Man with A Box" plays in the scene in which Bill is introduced to the TARDIS. A happier, more fairy-tale rendition of this same tune, "The Mad Man with a Box", played during the scene in The Eleventh Hour when Amy walked into the TARDIS and saw the interior for the first time.
  • The Doctor uses a chalkboard with the same white roundel frame in his university classroom as Miss Quill does in her classroom at Coal Hill Academy in the spin-off Class.
  • The romance between Bill Potts and her friend, Heather, may be homage to William "Bill" Hartnell, the first actor to portray the Doctor, and his wife, Heather Hartnell.
  • The ringtone for Bill's mobile phone is the same as the one for Martha Jones' phone, which was later kept onboard the TARDIS by the Tenth Doctor.
  • When Nardole shows Bill the Doctor's office, his arm makes a mechanical sound and a bolt falls from it, implying that his body is robotic, or at least partially cybernetic.
  • Pearl Mackie is added to the title sequence in place of Jenna Coleman and is immediately followed by "and Matt Lucas", bridging the gap between actor names in the previous episode. The Doctor's face also appears after the show's title now.
  • According to Doctor Who Magazine #512, two scenes were filmed, but edited out before broadcast. One features Bill asking Nardole about the Doctor; the other was an alternate edit of the club sequence where Bill meets Heather for the first time. As originally filmed, Bill was to be shown watching the Doctor, on stage, sadly playing Clara's Theme. The only remnant of this in the final episode is a brief glimpse of the neck of the Doctor's guitar and his left hand.

Myths and rumours Edit

  • The episode was to include a "very mild" sex scene between Bill and another character. This rumour circulated widely on Twitter in the months prior to broadcast, allegedly citing an advance copy of the episode and emerged in conjunction with the (later confirmed) rumour that Bill would be gay. There is no indication such a scene was ever actually scripted or filmed.
  • The character of Bill and Heather, who become attracted to each other, are named for William Hartnell and his wife, Heather. Steven Moffat has confirmed that this was a coincidence.[1]

Ratings Edit

The overnight ratings on BBC One were 4.64 million, up 60,000 viewers from the previous series opener, The Magician's Apprentice. Consolidated figures were 6.68 million, the highest figures for a standard series episode since the Series 8 finale, Death in Heaven.

Filming locations Edit

Production errors Edit

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • Bill is wearing a completely different shirt when she gets back to the university after Heather leaves.

Continuity Edit

Home video releases Edit

DVD releases Edit

to be added

Blu-ray releases Edit

to be added

Digital releases Edit

to be added

External links Edit

to be added

Footnotes Edit

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.