Confession #101: I'm Tired of Speculating

About two and a half weeks ago, on 23 Apr 2016, we got the latest big news in the continual evolution of our show: the announcement of the new Companion. In a two-minute video titled "Friend from the Future," we were introduced to Pearl Mackie's character Bill as she and the Doctor hid from Daleks. Fandom immediately began passing judgement.

I will admit that first impressions can be important in forming an attachment to a character, but I find it astounding that some fans have already decided they either love or hate Bill based on 124 seconds of footage. I only read a few reactions (mostly along the lines of, "Why won't she shut up? What part of 'killing machines' doesn't she get?") before I stopped paying attention.

Frankly, I'm tired of all the speculation so far ahead of the fact.

Regardless, it's kind of the bread and butter of fandom (especially for those of us who blog) to leap into the speculative fray. I'm therefore essentially duty-bound to give you my own thoughts on what may be in store for us once Bill's adventures aboard the TARDIS come to our screens. Long time readers will be shocked (sarcasm) to hear that I am "cautiously optimistic."

Here's the thing. While I can see the point of those who think Bill's lack of chill when faced with Daleks makes a poor addition to a potential Companion's résumé, all we have by which to judge her is this tiny snippet of time during which she is immersed in a completely foreign situation. We have no idea what led up to that moment, what else she may or may not have been exposed to while with the Doctor up to this point, or what else in her life might have led her to find him in any way credible. In other words, we know nothing, Jon Snow. (Sorry—wrong franchise.)

By the same token, one might argue that we also have no rationale for thinking Bill will be awesome. However, there are several reasons I come out more on the positive end of the entirely premature "will Bill be a good or bad Companion" argument. The first, oddly enough, is the fact that she won't shut up.

"Now hang on just a tick," you may say. "That's not a reason to like her!" Sure it is. To begin, the way Bill can't seem to stay quiet reminds me of Donna, who was my favorite Companion of the RTD era. Obviously there are differences, but even an oblique similarity is enough to skew my first impressions toward the favorable.

Further, it reads to me as an interesting bit of characterization. Maybe the way Bill deals with stress is by running off at the mouth. Maybe she simply doesn't quite believe what the Doctor is telling her about the gravity (or reality) of the situation. Whatever the case, I think it makes her more three-dimensional—more human—that she's not perfect at this kind of adventuring right off the bat.

I also like that she doesn't immediately take everything the Doctor tells her as the be-all and end-all, but continues to think about it and fit it into her own worldview. ("Is there a Dalek at the back with no gun and two suckers and it's really hacked off?") It makes me hopeful that she will be someone who will call the Doctor on his crap, but not in the way that Clara did. (More than anything, I'm looking forward to someone different from Clara.)

Perhaps my favorite part of the whole thing, though, is the idea that maybe—just maybe—Bill is from our past. I know pretty much nothing about fashion trends in the UK, but if they're anything like they were in the US, her look is fairly '80s. (Maybe someone out there can tell me more about how black British girls wear their hair now as compared to thirty years ago, and let me know whether or not that is also a clue.)

Her eerily well-timed choice of T-shirt—the harlequin-style "When Doves Cry" design from Prince's "Purple Rain" era (Prince died unexpectedly two days before the Companion announcement video was released)—lends weight to the '80s hypothesis, since Purple Rain (both film and album) came out in 1984. Given how the show likes round numbers, then, I'd guess Bill has been pulled from her timeline not long after that, in 1987.

The most compelling evidence to support the claim comes from a combination of the video's title and the last non-Dalek dialog. Presumably the Doctor is the eponymous friend from the future, bringing a star-struck Bill along for the ride. At the end of the clip, he gets an alert on some sort of hand-held device. Pocketing it again, he tells her, "We need to get back."

"Back where?" she asks.

"To the future. 2017 needs us."

The look of awe and delight on her face tells me as strongly as his choice of words that our (nearly) present day is her future.

If I'm reading these clues correctly and she really is from a different time (albeit not too distant), it will be a welcome change of pace. She may be another young, relatively modern British woman, but the promise of a new personality is always exciting. And the Doctor's not wrong—2017 needs them; fandom will be starving for new episodes by then.




During a hiatus I guess we have to satisfy our pangs for any DW content, and if that involves occasional spurious speculation then so be it!

I have no issues with asBill and I look forward to seeing her portrayal, however, I was intrigued at recent speculation (on Den of Geek I think) that Captain Jack was going to be in the Christmas Special this year. If so bang goes the Doctor's right to look down on CJ for living beyond his time

Now there's spurious speculation!

By Wholahoop
mrfranklin's picture

I totally replied to this the other day, and have no idea why it's not showing up.

My point was, iirc, that I don't think Jack will actually show up on screen (though I'd love to be wrong). More importantly, though, I don't think the Doctor's objection had to do with Jack "living beyond his time" as much as that Jack now has a different relationship to time than the Doctor feels comfortable with.

Anyway, I had other thoughts on the matter, but am feeling uninspired to reconstruct them today. :)

By mrfranklin

From what we've seen so far, Bill reminds me of Sydney Scoville from the webcomic Grrl power. She has the same habit of running her mouth off about irrelevant stuff all the time. The the thing is is, Sydney does it because she is mentally ill. If they're going that way with Bill, it could be very interesting. But somehow I don't think Moffat will have the courage to try anything like that.

(That's the other downside of speculating. You become too fixated on things that you personally want, then get very disappointed when the show doesn't do them.)

By solar penguin (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

I'll have to take a closer look at that webcomic. :)

I didn't read Bill as being randomly chatty because of any sort of mental illness, but rather that it was a stress reaction. It didn't bother me (the way it did some viewers) because it seemed like a natural response—or at least that it fell within a "normal" range of responses—to finding oneself in that kind of new/weird/freaky situation.

It would be super interesting if they went in a mental illness/neuro-atypical direction, though. Could be super tricky to do well/respectfully, so maybe it's for the best if they don't. :\

By mrfranklin

Moffat confirmed today that she's another present-day earth companion, like all the rest.
The outfit is just a coincidence, and something Pearl Mackie picked out herself.

By Random Comments (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture


By mrfranklin
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