On Saturday 23rd April 2016, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time actress Pearl Mackie was announced as the new Doctor Who companion. Now six weeks later here’s what we know…….
With this major casting announcement accompanied by a video of Mackie in action, alongside twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi fans immediately flocked to Mackie in droves. The Big Mackies? Pearls Earls? Whoever they are, they were dedicated a whole year before series ten is even due to air. Now, Whovians across the globe should be ready to have their excitement amplified in light of Steven Moffat’s most recent comments.
In the latest and 500th issue of the much celebrated Doctor Who Magazine, Moffat clarifies much of the speculation surrounding the Bill character: “She’s from now, yeah. I know there are rumours about her being from the 1980’s, but she isn’t. She’s just wearing what young people are wearing now. I know that because Pearl chose her outfit herself.” No doubt much of this speculation derives from Sophie Aldred’s Seventh Doctor companion, who featured in Doctor Who from 1987 to 1989. The two companions arguably bear similar aesthetic costuming, with their jackets featuring punk style text and badges that inform their character. However, there are reasons to believe that Moffat is not wholly looking to misguide the fans this time. Actor’s choosing their own costumes is a staple of Doctor Who production, building their characters from a foundation level alongside writers, producers and costuming departments. With this in mind, Mackie is ‘billed’ (sorry) to fully embody what is sure to be an iconic character by choosing her own costume.
Of course, with a bold costume comes a bold character. If the announcement video introducing Bill is anything to go by, she will be just as curious and speculative as to what is happening around her as the fans watching. With two enormous personalities occupying the TARDIS, their adventures are guaranteed to be highly bombastic by their dialogue alone. Moffat himself informed Doctor Who Magazine that: “Bill is someone who asks the questions that nobody has asked for 53 years [who has] irreverence and cheek to ask all the questions you’re not supposed to ask on Doctor Who. ‘How different is it having two hearts? Is one a back-up? Do you have very, very high blood pressure?” It is a distinct possibility that Bill will allow audiences to learn unspoken Doctor Who truths by breaking the fun taboos surrounding the Whoniverse.
Time will tell if Bill will unlock a host of Doctor Who secrets, and it will be a long wait at that according to Moffat: “How we first encounter her, and how we first encounter the Doctor next year, is very unusual for us. We’ll introduce her in the first episode of 2017, and she’ll run throughout that series.” Of course, this means that Bill, unfortunately, won’t be appearing in the forthcoming 2016 Christmas special. But it can definitely be assumed that in true Doctor Who spirit, she’ll do a whole lot of running throughout the 2017 series to make up for it!
Bill is all set to be as feisty and outspoken as 2008’s cheeky Donna Noble. However, Moffat is not the only Doctor Who champion with something to say in how Bill is pushing the show forward. Doctor Who casting director Andy Pryor has stated in an interview with the Radio Times that: “We decided that the new companion was going to be non-white, and that was an absolute decision because we need to do better on that. We just have to. I don’t mean that we’ve done terribly – our guest casts are among the most diverse on television, but I feel as though I could have done better overall.”
It has been nearly a full ten years since the TARDIS was occupied by any diverse actors since 2007’s Martha Jones, so the fact that the show is striving to represent people of all ethnic backgrounds is no doubt a welcome return to what Doctor Who is largely about social commentary. No matter how radical and intergalactic the show gets, it is consistently grounded in both Earth’s issues and prosperity. Andy Pryor adds that: “Unless you see people like you, it’s quite hard to imagine that it’s a profession that you can go into. The more we can reflect the demographics of the country, the more people will say, ‘Yes I can have a career in that. It’s not just something for a certain type of person.” Bill is clearly designed to be a role model, as is the case with all newcomers to the TARDIS. Not only does this suggest that Bill will update race representation, but it is perhaps also evidence that Moffat was not lying and that Bill, will indeed, be from current times for better relatability.
Of course, as is the case with Doctor Who, much of the information given by Moffat should be taken with a grain of salt. When pressed as to what precisely Bill is short for, Moffat commented: “Billie, I’m thinking. Unless I change my mind.” With the show runner being as deliberately unreliable as the TARDIS herself, there will surely be many surprises that pertain to Bill throughout the 2017 series.