The first thought that leapt into my mind as I started to watch “Smile” last night was ‘Happiness Patrol’ – just that this time round NuWho’s budget allowed for an infinitely more impressive setting. The lush crops swaying in the wind and the stunningly futuristic space city admittedly knocked spots of McCoy’s slightly clunky studio-bound tale.
Both stories share the idea of feigning happiness to avoid death. But there is something scarier about cute little robots bumping you off. Like Autons carrying daffodils, the danger is greater when it is totally unexpected. In the promo pics for “Smile”, the emojibots looked almost silly and gimmicky. How wrong could I be? They reveal their deadly side right from the start.
In the first half of the episode the Seventh Doctor vibe continues as Bill and the Doctor wander around the city and chat. It reminded me of Ace and the Seventh as they strolled through sunny Perivale in “Survival”. Perhaps there is too much initial dialogue in “Smile”. Aside from the pre-credits sequence, it starts at slightly too gentle a pace.
The episode livens up with the awakening of the human colonists. Ralf Little’s character, Steadfast, adds some drama with his desire to bash the bots. Bill continues to impress. She is a hugely likeable companion and Pearl Mackie has shown herself to be an extraordinarily talented actress. I, for one, will not be smiling if her character doesn’t continue into Series 11. Peter Capaldi continues to look incredibly comfortable playing a nice guy Doctor in contrast to his grumpy Series 8 persona. This version of Twelve will be missed.
Frank Cottrell Boyce’s script was – as to be expected – imaginative and well-written. Lawrence Gough’s direction was again effective and the whole production crew went all out to give “Smile” a real movie feel. It felt as if millions has been lavished on it.
The episode concludes with Bill and the Doctor being thrown into a new adventure, thanks to the Tardis becoming pleasingly unpredictable again, a trait she will hopefully retain.
Overall a great episode. Series 10 of Doctor Who continues to feel fresh and new. Fans don’t have to worry about the emojibots coming for us. We have a reason to smile.