A Reason to Smile 

This week Whovian Leap takes a look at episode two of Series 10 and is all smiles 

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.

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2 thoughts on “A Reason to Smile 

  1. I’m not sure it was terribly ‘fresh and new’ when even your review name checks the Happiness Patrol, and you could also toss on Paradise Towers and The Ark for good measure. Not to mention, the trope of ‘tech gone bad and acting in an evil way but isn’t actually evil’ really has been done to death in Moffat Who. To be clear, it was even the theme of the previous episode, with the sentient engine oil killing Heather and following Bill like a crazed stalker. Long story short, I’m pleased you liked it. That’s all that really matters. But if you’re going to say something is ‘fresh and new’, have the data to back it up. Smile was *anything but* ‘fresh and new’.

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    1. Thanks for the comment. You’ve given me food for thought. What I mean by “feels fresh and new” is exactly that. A new fan or a casual viewer wouldn’t appreciate the similarities to old episodes of Who. You are right that tropes are being reused, but that doesn’t stop the show feeling as if it has an extra spring in its step, even when it is treading on old ground. It certainly isn’t “same old, same old” as last year.

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