The Doctor Who Regeneration Review is a weekly column cataloging all the times Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor nearly regenerates, or dies, in the latest episode of BBC America’s popular science fiction show. Since this is the
Scottish “cross” character’s final season — a fact the showrunners have enjoyed teasing in the promos — we decided to tease back. Most items are serious, some silly, and all measured with the Doctor’s 💕.
As successful as Steven Moffat’s attempt to re-reboot the series with “The Pilot” was, the longtime Doctor Who writer and executive producer couldn’t escape the more formulaic aspects of his tenure, including the promise of a new story arc shrouded in mystery, but designed to string together all 12 episodes. The vault guarded by the Doctor, his “oath” regarding its protection and never leaving Earth for new adventures, Nardole’s (Matt Lucas) incessant reminders about said promise — all of this popped up in the premiere.
In “Smile,” these same elements reappear when Nardole briefly visits the T.A.R.D.I.S., or in conversations between the Doctor and Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie). Episode writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Moffat offer viewers just enough to understand, as Bill does, that her host isn’t supposed to travel anywhere. As for the more prescient Doctor Who fans in the audience, however, they know “the thing” he alludes to while explaining his oath is the death of River Song (Alex Kingston) during the 2015 Christmas special. Or, at least that’s what he might be referring to.
Whatever the case may be, the Doctor isn’t supposed to leave the planet — let alone travel in time off-world. Yet that’s precisely what he and Bill do in “Smile,” thereby putting them in the middle of a human-robot massacre communicated largely through emoji. 💀