Not to sound too much like The Doctor, but I liked the cut of Bill Potts’ jib from the moment I saw her in last year’s teaser trailer.
But then Season 10, thankfully Capaldi’s last, began. With The Doctor playing electric guitar. Wearing sunglasses. Indoors. But then chip server Bill Potts appeared, made sure everyone knew she was gay and was semi-likeable throughout – but there was something about Bill Potts I just couldn’t put my finger on… I was so confused by her, I couldn’t even tell if her big, expressive face was stunningly beautiful or the opposite.
By the end of the season opener, I had worked out what I couldn’t work out:
Here was a companion more mysterious than The Doctor!
BILL POTTS IS A BEAUTIFUL CONTRADICTION
Streetwise without having (probably) never left her manor, fierce but vulnerable, equal parts intelligent and millennial-ly stupid. With my brain experiencing levels of cognitive dissonance not seen since the thing we don’t talk about, Doctor Who’s newest companion was, for the first time I can remember anyway, someone who didn’t approach him with a wide-eyed “You’re so cool, you’re not accountable to anyone” look in their eye. Well, Clara did lay down the law, but she still thought The Doctor was amazing.
Pearl Mackie’s Bill is the strong, gay, diverse character the world needs. But more so, she could see through the Time Lord’s avoidy answers; she was going to call bullshit and she was going to make him accountable.
This was refreshing and it flipped the series on its head and could only mean one thing:
THE DOCTOR IS BILL POTTS’ ASSISTANT
In the excellent second episode, which taught kids all about grief via robots who only spoke emoticon and killed you if you didn’t smile, she made the biggest discovery.
The Doctor was wrong, Bill was right.
By the end of episode three, the Dickens-tastic, politically-savvy, anti-elite, pro-orphan, race-aware Christmas Special-flavored “Thin Ice” Bill was in fully charge. Of course, he’ll always get to do the flashy, clever, fun, sciencey, timey-wimey things, but it was she who straight up asked him how many people he’d killed.
You killed Adric! And I’ve never forgiven you. Just like when Peter Potts (no relation) broke by cowboy gun when I was three. I’ve never forgiven him, either. Nor will I.
“I’M A SERVANT OF THE HUMAN RACE”
Back in the room. It was Bill who made the decision that saved human lives and the creature under the ice. The Doctor even, in the lead up to the finalé, saying “You decide. I’m the servant of the human race and you’re their representative” (or similar.)
Unlike the modern era show’s first diverse companion, Martha Jones (who, tellingly, I forget when listing recent assistants!) she adds a real sense of fun and asks questions we viewers would ask if asked to wear her Georgian lace up fawn boots.
With quotes like “Hello? Melanin. It’s 1814. Slavery is still totally a thing.” or “Regency England’s a bit more black than they show in the movies” (bringing an unforeseen response from The Doctor “So was Jesus; history’s a whitewash.”) I think Bill Potts could go on to be the making of this series.
“Thin Ice” was written by Australian Sarah Dollard, who also penned “Face the Raven” in which she killed off Clara Oswald, which was pretty harsh but not as bad as breaking my cowboy rifle.