If you feel a little like you have seen this episode, Smile, before, it’s because many elements are familiar. It was a standard let’s go to the future, which is a little bit dangerous, in order for you to learn the rules, episode, with added bonus: The Doctor realising he is wrong and correcting himself, as well as The Doctor lectures the locals on living in harmony. This is not a criticism, by the way, these reminders are crucial and generally they are always delivered differently. Context is everything.
Forgetting all of this, I’m enjoying Bill pointing out logical and practical flaws in everything from the Tardis name to the positioning of the seats inside. I like how she notices things, and I hope her abilities in this regard will be important to the resolution to the series arc. Like it was destined, or something.
As an episode though, Smile felt most like The Beast Below, given it a ‘first adventure’, in the future, about human colonies, except the smiling automata that are killing people, are actually killing people and become a new species. Between the two episodes there are points to be explored about avoidance and public displays of certain emotions. Of course, there are no space whales, nor great emotional/emotive insights or hugging. But there was the concept of designing a world to make people happy. It reminded me that how, much like in the first iterations before Neo’s world in The Matrix, this world gets it wrong too.
Grief as a virus is interesting; how frustrating for the systems designed for happiness, but much like the pictures on the interface most of the emotion was told to us. I didn’t feel too much of it. Again it was telling, not showing, probably because showing us mass viral grief deaths are a bit gruesome and costly budge-wise.
Anywho, the interfaces designed for people had an eerie quality to them, much like those from The Girl Who Waited, as they are designed to help but end up killing. Says a lot about humans eh? Every time I see hygienically clean, tidy, and, bright in NuWho I think: death.
As for the emoji robot reboot, well that was a multi-layered joke. It was for anyone ever who has used tech, it was a series restart in-joke, a regeneration in-joke, and a reflexive writer joke about Chris Chibnall taking over. It was also advice: no matter how may restarts, watch the show, go along with it, and keep smiling because no matter who the companion is, or who takes over or who plays the titular hero, The Doctor is The Doctor.
May this long continue.
One thought on “Doctor Who: Familiar Smile”
Loving your reviews of the episodes, Bec – I deliberately savour them until I have watched the most recent episode (I watched Smile last night). I am loving Bill as the new companion and as you suggest, I hope her insights and observations take the narrative/character arc somewhere. I have a feeling it’s setting her up to be the perfect companion for the new and temporarily unstable doctor when s/he is “born”, but Who knows (sorry). I also thought the emoji-robots were a commentary on modern communications; the very idea that an image can supposedly encapsulate all the complexities of happiness, grief, anger etc is just completely preposterous (in every sense). You cannot abbreviate emotion. The notion of grief as a virus was chillingly brilliant…. Thanks for these fab reviews, Bec. I look forward to them each week. Karen x