Despite the character’s apparent departure in the tenth season finale, ‘The Doctor Falls‘, it was confirmed several months ago that Pearl Mackie would be reprising her role of Bill Potts for this year’s ‘Doctor Who’ Christmas special. This followed months of fan speculation as to whether or not she would return, as her prior exit deliberately left the door open for exactly that. Indeed, that sort of speculation has become something of a routine over the past few years (recall, if you will, the uncertainty that seemed to arise like clockwork as to whether or not Jenna Coleman would return for the next season during her tenure). But this time, at least, that uncertainty was shared behind the scenes.
Speaking to the Radio Times during production of ‘Twice Upon A Time’, executive producer and showrunner Steven Moffat revealed that Bill’s inclusion was not part of the original plan for the special. As Moffat explains, it wasn’t until he sat down to right the script that he realized he needed to bring her back:
“It came to me later on, actually. I was just starting into the script and we had Mark [Gatiss’s] character and we didn’t have Bill and I was thinking, “It’s just proof of format again.” You need someone to whom to explain. Not explain it to the Doctor; that’s not what the companion does at all. The companion makes it fun.
The speed with which, to give one thing away, Bill figures out that this daft old brush is the Doctor is humiliating to the current Doctor. He’s horrified that she gets it so fast. Those scenes and just Bill’s perspective on it [were essential]. And I got so in love with her and used to writing her voice in the show that I missed her, and I just wanted her to walk in and say, “Hey, why is that Tardis so much smaller?”
It’s hard to argue with Moffat’s logic, though he is conflating a few different things with regard to the show’s format. In terms of format, the fundamental role of the companion is to give the Doctor someone to whom they can explain things. Anything else is really a bonus. They aren’t there to “make it fun,” whatever he means by that. Though many companions do bring a sense of fun to the proceedings, either through their rapport with the Doctor or their way of conducting themselves. Bill certainly does, but it’s not a prerequisite. I find it hard to imagine, for example, that many fans would argue that Adric made anything fun. With one notable exception, of course.”
But what about Mackie herself? The actress, by all accounts is thrilled to be back. In addition to the interactions with the David Bradley’s First Doctor that Moffat teased above, Mackie promises that Bill and the Twelfth Doctor will be in fine form come Christmas. Indeed, the enthusiasm Mackie has for her return to ‘Doctor Who’ is evident in the praise she heaps upon the special:
“I’m pretty excited. They gave me a call and said “Do you want to come back?” Yeah! There’s a little bit of a mystery surrounding it, but it’s nice. BIll’s back in full Bill mode to a certain extent. You get to see a bit of the whole “Bill and the Doctor” rapport again, which is very fun. It’s a wonderful ‘Doctor Who’ story and it’s a wonderful Christmas story. I think it’s going to be so joyous for everyone to watch – and it’s really funny as well, which is great. You need that on Christmas Day after a few glasses of wine, don’t you? It plays very well as a sort of standalone, even if you’ve not seen the full series – or indeed if you’ve not seen anything else ‘Doctor Who’ either. Which is nice! There’s jokes in it, there’s fun for kids, and there’s fun for adults. I think it’s going to be great.”
‘Doctor Who’ will return this Christmas for the broadcast of ‘Twice Upon A Time’. The special, which will culminate in the regeneration of Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor, is also set to feature Pearl Mackie, David Bradley, and Mark Gatiss. In addition to Capaldi, producer Steven Moffat will also be bowing out at Christmas. The outgoing star and showrunner will be succeeded by Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall, respectively.
Be sure to check back with ScienceFiction.com for more news on both ‘Twice Upon a Time’ and the upcoming eleventh season of ‘Doctor Who’ as it becomes available!