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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.

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

Nardole brings a woman called Bill Potts into a university professor's office. The professor asks Bill why she keeps attending his lectures since she isn't actually a student but just works at the university canteen. Bill confesses that she loves his lectures and always wanted to attend the university. The professor offers to be Bill's personal tutor, telling her to address him as "the Doctor".

Bill goes through her daily routine: serving chips, attending the Doctor's lecture and tutoring session, and returning home to her foster mother, Moira. That night, a blonde woman catches Bill's eye when she visits a bar.

The next morning, Bill follows the Doctor and Nardole, who descend into a hidden vault under the university. She meets Heather, the girl from the previous night, looks distraught. Bill notices a starlike pattern in Heather's eye, but Heather simply brushes this off as a "defect" and expresses, "Everywhere I go, I just want to leave." Heather leads Bill to a mysterious puddle near the university, telling her to look at her reflection in it. Both notice something is wrong with the reflection, but Bill doesn't know what. After the two leave, a voice issuing from the puddle claims that a "pilot is located".

At Christmastime, Bill celebrates with the Doctor, whom she tells that her birth mother died when she was young. Bill tells him that she apparently looks like her mother but doesn't have any photos to know this, wondering whether photos really help after loved ones are gone, while the Doctor looks wistfully the photos of his wife River and granddaughter Susan on his desk. At home, Bill's foster mother Moira shows her a newfound 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, seemingly the one photographing her mother.

Bill meets Heather again, but Heather mysteriously disappears while Bill is running around to meet her at the puddle. Bill consults the Doctor, who runs out of his office to investigate the puddle and the scorch marks surrounding it. The puddle seems to mimic a the subject, rather than producing a mirror image. The Doctor sends Bill home, where she notices someone in the bath, even though Moira is out that night. Bill runs to the university after noticing Heather's starry eye staring out of her bathroom drain.

Outside the university, Bill is confronted by the puddle, which has taken on the form of a soaked Heather. Bill rushes into the Doctor's office, where the puddle gushes into the room, reforming into Heather. The Doctor takes Bill (and Nardole, who is already in the TARDIS) 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 alien is not here for whatever is hidden inside the vault and is instead there to chase them. They escape in the TARDIS, which the Doctor flies to Australia to test the puddle's abilities.

In Australia, Bill asks the Doctor about his alien origin and the acronym "TARDIS", which wouldn't have made sense in his native language. The Doctor replies that most people don't bring this up. However, the puddle catches up, so the trio leaves 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 shape-shifting "liquid spaceship" requiring a host "pilot". Bill remembers Heather's desires to leave, explaining why the alien chose Heather. No sooner do they realise this, but the alien materialises and nearly takes Bill with it. The Doctor's last test of the puddle's abilities is to destroy it in "the deadliest fire in the universe".

The "deadliest fire" turns out to be a Dalek during the Dalek-Movellan War. The Doctor and Bill lure a Dalek while Nardole distracts and quarantines the other Daleks using the Fourth Doctor's sonic screwdriver. The puddle (as Heather) materialises and proves indestructible to Dalek weaponry. Bill remembers that Heather promised not to leave her behind before the puddle absorbed her. Bill sadly absolves Heather of this promise, but the alien tries to entice anyway. Bill realises she must resist and the alien deforms back into liquid. The Doctor brusquely returns to his ship while Nardole comments on the former's seemingly ignorant behaviour.

Back in his university office, the Doctor tells Bill 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 due to a promise he made. Bill retorts, asking how the 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.

Bill finds the Doctor next to his TARDIS on the university lawn. He tells her his mind was changed by "Time … and Relative Dimension in Space", as the two run into the TARDIS, which dematerialises soon afterwards, leading on to a series of adventures for the Doctor and Bill.

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 scene featuring the Doctor and Bill known as Friend From the Future was broadcast in April 2016, set during the encounter in the Dalek war zone. Parts of this scene were adapted into the episode. (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

to be added

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.

to be added

Continuity Edit

Home video releases Edit

DVD releases Edit

to be added

Blu-ray releases Edit

to be added

Digital releases Edit

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External links Edit

to be added

Footnotes Edit

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