TV Bill? Well it is Shakespeare's birthday I suppose. Evening, and there we are, new companion Bill played by Pearl Mackie. Isn't she good? More in the Ace/Sam/Izzy/Lucie/Rose mould character wise so far, with the 90s revival costume and entire lack of fuck-giving in relation to the deadliest foe in the galaxy. We'll talk some more about this in a mo. Here's the BBC's press release.
The approach to revealing companions has become increasingly sophisticated across the years with midnight press releases giving way to broken embargos on press releases to appearances on The One Show and now we have an actual mini-episode broadcast during Match of the Day of all things, or as has been indicated on the BBC website, "an exclusive scene from a future episode of Doctor Who" so it might not be the Christmas special.
Waiting for its emergence was of course torture for those of us whose interest in the beautiful game wouldn't stretch to even calling it the beautiful game despite Gary Lineker making us feel welcome with some Delgado cosplay. After some typical stoppage time we had to endure seemingly unending analysis of the kind that it's probably quite ironic of us to criticise given our behavior in the run up to the reveal.
Then it was time. Except, no it wasn't because at the moment when it seemed like discussion was ending and the fun was beginning, Gary segwayed into a clip of Graham Taylor discussing his time at Watford and his friendship with Elton John. Taylor probably hasn't been less welcome since he was manager of England. No, I can't do football jokes either.
Then, after narrating some maddeningly detailed fixture television scheduling information, Gary finally affected the ill at ease tone he previously adopted during London 2012 when forced to introduce those drama trailers, "And there's something else coming up on BBC One in the not too distant future, the Doctor has a new companion..."
And we're off and running because Doctor Who has to have lots of running. And Daleks, not forgetting the Daleks. Initially I thought these were shots repurposed from Into The Dalek or some other episode, but as the publicity shots indicate there was at least one on set for Capaldi to point over the head of.
The surprise was obviously spoiled by Radio Times writing about her yesterday after noticing a spike in the betting. If there was a leak, judging by his Twitter, it wasn't the RT writer it went to, he was simply reporting. Apparently Pearl just started following Billie and Freema on Twitter so that must have been an indication. Let's see how long she continues tweeting.
It's a bit of a strange place to commenting on a companion based on two minutes of screen time and she's being played by an actor who's completely unknown outside of the theatre. Most of the commentary is on the fact that she's a POC which is fine and worth noting, but let's not make that her defining characteristic shall we?
We simply don't know enough yet. She's funny. She has the capacity to turn on a dime and there's some obvious chemistry with Capaldi which is super important. The timing is all there. The script which was probably one of her audition pieces doesn't give much scope beyond screwball comedy, and although I didn't cheer at the end, when has Andy Pryor got this wrong?
She's another cockney, that's worth commenting on but in fairness we've not had someone from London since the RTD era (depending on what Clara's accent was doing that week) (or indeed which Clara). Like I said the vibe isn't very 2016 at all from, like last, like, decade or the one before or the one before that. Especially that t-shirt which looks like something Ace would wear. See below.
Wild speculation: is she a historical companion? It would be a bold move to have a character from the Wilderness years for example, the kind who might just as easily have travelled with the Eighth Doctor in the novels or comic strip. What is Bill short for? Is it short for anything? It's unusual. I've just googled "women called Bill" and now know a lot about presidential scandals.
Pearl's probably the least known new companion since the show came back. Karen had some background on The Kevin Bishop show and Jenna had spent years on Emmerdale. Pearl's IMDb indicates a bit part in an episode of Doctors from 2014 and a background artist on the John Hardwick's film Svengali from 2013.
Quick sidebar on Svengali's availability because we'll all be wanting to watch it now. It's on Netflix. Findable lists other sources where you can buy a stream though given it's mostly the same price as a month's subscription to Netflix, you might as well get Netflix and finally see Freema in Sense8 because she's brilliant and Sense8 is brilliant. Or Svengali is £3.99 on dvd.
In all the excitement, Capaldi will probably be taken for granted but his performance in the above is extraordinary, his Doctor having apparently divested himself of his demons. He's a bit crabby, but only with a Tenth facing down The Runaway Bride vibe, certainly the most Doctorish he's been yet. If anything it's him which actually makes me excited to see the next series. As it should be.
So nice to have an amuse-bouche in during this year of fasting and nice that there's nothing in here which is going to trouble us about the direction of the programme in 2017 at least. After that? Fuck knows. But I've already said my peace about that. Did Chibbers had any say in this selection? Will she continue on into his era?
Two other things. Two coincidences:
That t-shirt. It looked familiar. I tweeted and sure enough James pointed me towards this tweet:
When was this shot? Given that it's a proper piece of drama with grading, special effects sequences and editing, it wasn't going to be in the last couple of days, not least because it would have been signed off my BBC management. Graham Kibble-White was on the case:So it appears @Pearlie_mack is wearing a Prince tshirt in that announcement scene! LOVELY touch! pic.twitter.com/aMLIvnf5QH— Gareth (@gabundy) April 23, 2016
Then this from Ed Russell:@grahamkw I'm not entirely sure when it was shot but definitely before the Prince news. Crazy co-incidence.— Reetu Kabra (@ReetuKabra) April 23, 2016
Next. Rachel Stott is the artist on Titan's Twelfth Doctor comic:
I CAN PREDICT THE FUTURE. She looks exactly like the fill in companion for issue #2.5 O_o #NewCompanion pic.twitter.com/QuSBg87ThF— Rachael Stott (@RachaelAtWork) April 23, 2016
I said to my sister this morning 'It won't be Pearl because the BBC would've got me to change it' 😂😂— Rachael Stott (@RachaelAtWork) April 23, 2016
Well. I have spooked myself.— Rachael Stott (@RachaelAtWork) April 23, 2016
I tweeted this like a month ago O_o pic.twitter.com/D3J3vEDr8A— Rachael Stott (@RachaelAtWork) April 23, 2016
.@JustPlainTweets Nope! @robbiegmorrison invented a character because Clara left the comics, and I just made up her appearence O_o— Rachael Stott (@RachaelAtWork) April 23, 2016
Oh my. There we have it, anyway, a Doctor Who companion announced on Shakespeare's birthday. What a day.Okay, so I guess now I just carry on doing whatever, with one more crazy story under my belt.— Rachael Stott (@RachaelAtWork) April 23, 2016
Updated 24/04/2016 Here's an interview with Pearl.