“Smile. You’re in the belly of the beast.” – The Doctor
Well Whovians, were you happy with our newest episode? Sorry, I couldn’t start the review with anything other than that question. Too easy. Whether you’re smiling or not after our latest adventure it’s hard to imagine disliking “Smile.” We are two for two on “hey, that was a thing that happened” episodes on the year and while I’m not at all disappointed, I haven’t been really excited by the individual storylines so far. The relationship with the Doctor and Bill, however… thumbs up emoji.
The best part about Bill and the Doctor is that there’s currently no bloated story arch weighing their relationship down. Right now, anyway. Unlike the last companion, who shall not be named, we don’t have two seasons of drama behind and something convoluted ahead. It’s just pure, honest intrigue between one another. Capaldi is flawlessly settled into Twelve and Pearl Mackie is owning every moment as Bill. Their interactions read very much like all of us would act if we got to spin around time and space with the Doctor.
With the unknown lurking ahead, the danger of being the companion has returned. Our previous, nameless companion literally should have died several times, and even when she did, she didn’t (thanks to Moffatty writing). Bill has that innocence of her first trips around the Tardis. We know that it won’t be long before she gets a reality check. Like one, say, in the form of millions of tiny, mass-murdering robots. The ending of this story was a bit too convenient to have lasting effect. But you can feel something coming nonetheless.
“(The Vardies) identified grief as the enemy of happiness, and anyone experiencing grief as a problem.” – The Doctor
If Bill ultimately does face tragedy in her travels, will she have learned something from the events of “Smile?” You don’t have to be running from deadly emoji robots to know that grief is a valuable and necessary thing. But is grief the enemy of happiness? It’s an interesting question to me because I’ve known people who would have you believe that it is, and that sadness is a problem. Thankfully, they weren’t trying to kill me. But that notion is still dangerous.
If happiness is simply walking around elated at everything, then grief certainly is the opposite of that. But the refreshing truth is that it is okay to be unhappy sometimes. And sometimes it is necessary. Aren’t the parallels to our own culture and these funny little robots just so eerie? Look around you. At every turn, we’re met with programmed happiness, new things to help dull pain and artificially extend the notion of happiness. Forget the pain. Never mind joy. We should all just keep smiling, right?
“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” – Khalil Gibran
This is one of my favorite quotes. To know that sorrow, as painful as it can be, is doing a good work in us that makes the pain worth it is a rejuvenating idea. Sorrow carves wells into us, which can be filled with joy. I wish to know this truth as well as David did. His Psalms are filled with the honesty of sorrow’s pain and the beauty of the joy that followed. His showed how grief in the night led way to dancing in the morning, and that the dance didn’t negate the grief, it validated it. This episode leaves us with that so very important point- grief and joy are not enemies. They are companions.
There’s still a great deal around the corner for Twelve and Bill. As Capaldi plans to exit, rumor has it so too will Pearl Mackie. But for now, they’re off to a good start and have me intrigued. I’m glad we have such a positive companion this season. I’m eager to follow Bill’s journey and to see if she keeps smiling through it. Because she has definitely entered the belly of the beast.
Next Time on Who-ology:
As the Doctor explained the Tardis to Bill he mentioned its balance of taking you where you want and need to go. And they ended up on the frozen Thames in 19th century London. And there’s a sea monster. Another ho-hum episode ahead? We’ll see…