Main content

The Pilot: The Fact File

The read-through for The Pilot took place on 14 June, 2016 and shooting began in Cardiff on Monday, 20 June.

Working titles for the episode included A Star in Her Eye.

Uniquely, a whole chunk of Bill’s first encounter with the Doctor, as depicted in The Pilot, was broadcast on 23 April, 2016, almost a year before the episode itself aired. Entitled ‘Friend from the Future’ (see right) the three-minute scene served to announce Pearl Mackie was playing Bill Potts, the new companion and it showed her and the Doctor discussing - then trying to avoid – Daleks!

The humanoid figures we see flying through the air, battling the Daleks, are Movellans. Their only previous appearance came in 1979’s Destiny of the Daleks when the Doctor discovered they were a race of robots locked in a long war with his oldest enemies. In Resurrection of the Daleks it was revealed they won the war after unleashing a virus so deadly it almost wiped out the Daleks completely.

On his desk, the Doctor has photographs of two people who were very dear to him. One is River Song. The other is his grand-daughter, Susan, who left the TARDIS to forge a new life with David Campbell in another adventure featuring the Daleks - The Dalek Invasion of Earth.

Moira is played by Jennifer Hennessy who starred as Valerie in the Tenth Doctor adventure, Gridlock.

Jennifer Hennessy with Ardal O'Hanlon and David Tennant in Gridlock

The Doctor is working at St. Luke’s University in Bristol. Saint Luke is the patron saint of artists, painters, notaries, surgeons… and doctors!

In the scene where the Doctor prepares to remove Bill’s memory we hear a brief excerpt of Clara’s theme, subtly reminding the audience how her time with the Doctor ended.

Various companions have endured a ‘mind wipe’ to remove their knowledge of the Time Lord, but the way in which the Doctor faces Bill to eradicate her relevant recollections brings to mind the process Donna underwent in Journey’s End. In that episode, the Doctor pressed ahead with the mind-wipe despite his friend’s tearful pleas… In The Pilot, of course, he relents and Bill is able to keep – and build on – her memories.

The Pilot is the first full episode of Doctor Who helmed by Lawrence Gough who has revealed he wanted to be a director from the age of nine! His debut feature film was the 2009 movie, Salvage, starring Neve McIntosh, an actor familiar to Doctor Who fans as the sword-wielding Silurian, Madam Vastra.

Discussing the idea behind The Pilot, its writer, Steven Moffat, noted, ‘Everything you need to know about Doctor Who is explained in that first episode - the cloaking device, the chameleon circuit, the bigger on the inside - all of that is there and you even get to see the Daleks. The idea was just to introduce Doctor Who properly - the story starts here. You need to know nothing before this point.’