If you’re anything like many of the staff here at ScienceFiction.com, then you couldn’t wait for Peter Capaldi to return as The Twelfth Doctor in all-new episodes of ‘Doctor Who’. With all the excitement surrounding a new companion in the TARDIS, naturally you were also probably quick to watch the first episode featuring Pearl Mackie as Bill Potts as soon as you possibly could. However, if you were looking to commemorate Capaldi’s (and showrunner Steven Moffat’s) last first episode with something special, then Fathom Events offered a most interesting opportunity for the Whovian looking for a little bit extra.
Earlier this week, BBC America teamed up with Fathom Events to screen the ‘Doctor Who: Season 10 Premiere’ in theaters nationwide. But in addition to showing the season opener titled ‘The Pilot’, the two-night event also included the first episode of the Coal Hill Academy spinoff ‘Class’ and the never-before-seen bonus featurette ‘Becoming the Companion’, which chronicled Mackie’s journey from the London stage to the once-in-a-lifetime role as the beloved Time Lord’s latest companion.
The night kicked off with the newest Whoniverse spinoff that was created by young adult storyteller Patrick Ness. The series focuses on a group of Coal Hill students and their reluctant teacher as they are forced to deal with the alien threats that pass through the long-running ‘Doctor Who’ institution while dealing with the stresses of their everyday teenage lives. At first, the show seemed to give off a ‘Degrassi High’ vibe thanks to the teen drama and the prom. However, it soon took a ‘Degrassi: The Next Generation’-esque turn about halfway through that immediately grabbed the audience’s attention. In ‘Who’ terminology, ‘Class’ was definitely darker than ‘The Sarah Jane Chronicles’, but lighter than ‘Torchwood’ (but not by much). After a special appearance by Capaldi’s Doctor established the looming threat monsters breaking down the walls of space and time and wreaking havoc on Earth, it’s not hard to be compelled to tune into the next episode to see what happens on the sci-fi side of this sci-fi teen drama.
Before the main event, it was time to focus on Bill and Pearl Mackie’s journey to the role. The special feature basically took us on a ride from the actress’ casting to her first day on the set. It was totally fascinating to get an insider’s look at the process of becoming a part of the TARDIS’ crew. This portion of the show was a nice palette cleanser between the two shows with distinctly different tones. Not to say that ‘Doctor Who’ doesn’t get dark, but this particular episode wasn’t as dark as the introduction to ‘Class’, so to have that buffer was a nice change of pace.
Finally, the moment that we all were waiting for was upon us. As my colleague Tony Schaab put it in his analysis of the episode, it was “a really fun start in what is, sadly, Capaldi’s farewell tour of his run as the Doctor”. The episode was filled with Easter eggs and callbacks to earlier seasons of the seminal British sci-fi series, but they weren’t so central to the plot that newer Whovians would have been confused by them. There’s nothing like the introduction of a brand new companion because it really reverberates the things that make the show so awesome. With each new addition to the Doctor’s pantheon of partners, the audience gets another taste of the child-like wonder, the fear of the unknown, and the excitement for adventure through all of space and time. And to see it all on the big screen makes it all the more better.
To that point, every Whovian should take the opportunity to see ‘Doctor Who’ on the big screen if they can. This is most definitely a show that benefits from a viewing on the biggest screen possible. The action and suspense are certainly worthy of the silver screen. Even the opening credits sequence looks better in a movie theater. While it was a nice added value for the price of admission, ‘Class’ didn’t benefit from the larger format as much as ‘Doctor Who’ did. Although, seeing The Doctor and the TARDIS and Daleks and all of that time whimey stuff very worth a night at the movies during the week. Based on the popularity of past events like these, it’s likely that the season ten finale will screen in theaters as well. If this does indeed happen, there could be no better way to say goodbye to the Twelfth Doctor and Peter Capaldi than to watch the episode in a theater, so be sure to stay tuned to BBC America and Fathom Events’ social media pages to see if that opportunity arises.