Villordsutch reviews Doctor Who Series 10 Episode 2: Smile…
Directed by: Lawrence Gough
Written by: Frank Cottrell-Boyce
Doctor – “We’re in the utopia of vacuous teens!”
In “Smile”, our second episode of Doctor Who Series 10 (written by Frank Cottrell-Boyce who also wrote “In the Forest of the Night” from Series 8) we are taken to one of Earth’s first colonies which is being maintained by emoji- loving droids and drone-like creatures that wouldn’t seem out of place within a Library the size of a planet.
With Bill already in full-on critical mode with the layout of the TARDIS, the Doctor is more than keen to begin a new round of adventures with his fully-charged travelling companion; however, their spirits are somewhat dampened by the mention of the Doctor’s ‘oath’ from Nardole. It appears the Doctor isn’t supposed to go off-world unless it’s an emergency, yet this doesn’t stop a rapid excursion taking place between the moments of kettle being boiled.
The Doctor and Bill arrive in the future, on a far off distant planet – Gliese 581D – primed and ready for colonisation, where the only occupants are emojibot droids and Vardis (bee-like nanobots). Wandering the halls, they fail to find any colonists or crew and the only way to communicate with the emojibots is with a small yellow badge that reflects their mood via emojis, though the holder of the badge cannot see their current mood relayed upon it. Walking through the gardens, the Doctor and Bill discover the location of the set-up crew and what happens when your mood badge begins to show negative emotions.
‘Smile’ begins rather well, with Frank Cottrell-Boyce delivering what appears to be a society constantly judged by both their peers and the system. The episode takes a sly stab at both the secret collection of personal data and the world of social media, even going to the point of making Bill and the Doctor ‘permanently connected’. In this new colony you must be social and are forced to maintain a positive ‘utopian’ world by keeping a smile – albeit false – across your face to keep the ‘perfect’ world working.
However, midway through the story strays away from this idea completely, turning it on its head and making it far less ‘Big Brother’ than it appeared to be, which I’ll be honest was a disappointing turn to make. Doctor Who is good at poking a finger in the ribs of Society and this looked like it was on the path to being a great 21st Century Happiness Patrol for a short while.
There are some interesting moments in this episode – the Oath and the Vault are the two major highlights: who was the oath made to? what or who is in the vault? The cold-fusion engine is a couple of pipes, a dial-or-two, and hulking great wheel with a handy spanner -this was a genius piece of set! The use of emojis is also an interesting form of communication – the last time I observed something like this was in Moon from Duncan Jones.
Although Smile looks good and you will find yourself smiling at points, the sudden change in the direction of the story partway through throws the flow off and it finishes with a bit of an empty ending.