Outgoing showrunner Steven Moffat‘s attempt to re-reboot Doctor Who with new companion Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) has largely been successful — mainly because of her chemistry with the 12th Doctor (Peter Capaldi). Following the premiere episode “The Pilot,” “Smile” took the two out for a short stroll across the universe before promising to return them home in this weekend’s “Thin Ice.” And through it all, it’s easy to see that their pairing is what ultimately makes Moffat’s re-reboot work. As with anything new to Doctor Who, however, Bill’s addition to the long-running science-fiction series isn’t without its hangups — especially a rather creepy one from a cut scene.
The pilot’s weakest aspect was Bill’s relationship with Heather (Stephanie Hyam), the mysterious girl with a star in her eye whose discovery of — and absorption by — a pool of living liquid left by an unknown spaceship kick-starts the main plot. Most of the premiere operates at a steady pace, so as to properly introduce Bill and encourage the audience to care about her before she joins the Doctor. Yet nearly everything involving Heather — from her introduction to Bill at a bar, to their final goodbye amidst of a Dalek battle — feels rushed.
In a new interview with Den of Geek, director Lawrence Gough revealed a possible reason for the pacing discrepancy. It turns out the bar scene in question, which was actually from a montage during the Doctor’s lecture about time, was supposed to feature a whole lot more:
There was a whole sequence in the bar scene, where Heather and Bill first meet, and we spin around them. When we spin around them, what was originally revealed was that the Doctor was on stage playing guitar. It’s a great sequence, it was lovely to shoot. She hears the guitar and people part, and as she goes to look who’s playing this eerie tune, which was “Clara’s Theme,” played in a heavy metal way. Then she runs to Heather, and the camera spins round to see the Doctor in-between them, as if he’s drawing them together.
While the cut scene still would have taken place within the lecture montage, it would have at least devoted more time to Bill and Heather’s budding relationship. Hence why Gough thought the sequence was “lovely to shoot.” Continuing, he said, “[I]t was lovely, and it was a really great sequence.” And considering the general reaction from the press so far, it seems many are disappointed Doctor Who fans won’t get to see Capaldi rock on his axe yet again. Which is understandable, since the guitar’s debut the previous season was quite something.
As cool as seeing the Doctor play more guitar would be, the cut scene also suggests — perhaps unintentionally — that his vow to live life companionless has turned him into a creepy old man. Bill tells the Doctor during a Christmas celebration that she doesn’t actually know what her biological mother looks like since she doesn’t have any photos. Soon after, Bill’s foster parent discovers a box filled with missing photos of her mom. In one of them, she finds what looks like the Doctor’s reflection in a mirror, camera in hand while taking the picture. It’s a sweet gesture in this context, especially given Bill’s emotional response to suddenly finding new photos of her mom.
Unlike this moving sequence, the cut montage’s insertion of the Doctor into Bill’s private life soon after they’d just met doesn’t have a context. And as “lovely” as it may have looked or felt in the moment, its inclusion in “The Pilot” would have undermined the picture scene’s emotional strength and made the Doctor look more like a weirdly invasive figure. (Not to mention the fact that it suggests Bill isn’t in control of her own life, personal and otherwise.) Gough explained the scene “had to go” because it mucked up the episode’s otherwise excellent pacing, which is probably true, but it also sounds like it would’ve painted the Doctor in an awkward light.
(Via Den of Geek)