The latest special episode released as part of Doctor Who’s ongoing lockdown content — bringing together fans through social media watch-alongs of episodes with commentary from the show’s stars and creatives — is, allegedly, Steven Moffat’s official hanging up of his Who-writing hat. But it’s also a timely reminder of the world we, and Doctor Who’s contemporary companions, live in.
“The Best of Days” catches up with Pearl Mackie and Matt Lucas’ Bill Potts and Nardole, after the events of the season 10 finale “The Doctor Falls.” It was an episode that saw the duo part ways with the Doctor after a deadly clash with the Cybermen saw Bill transformed into one of the cyborg beings (before, long story short, being resurrected by an omniscient being named Heather who she then began dating as they explored the universe together), while Nardole stayed behind to save Mondasian refugees from future Cybermen assaults.
It is also, allegedly, going to be ex-showrunner Steven Moffat’s last-ever-really-for-reals contribution to Doctor Who. Hyping up the episode before its release on social media, Moffat declared that “this — THIS — finally…is… IT! Bang! Kerpow! I’m out of here!”
Of course, Moffat acknowledged that there have been plenty of other times where he thought he’d penned his last Doctor Who tale. “I planned to leave with ‘The Husbands Of River Song,’” he added. “Then it was ‘The Doctor Falls.’ And then it was ‘Twice Upon A Time.’ And then I novelised ‘Day Of The Doctor’ and that was going to be the very end. And then Chris [Chibnall, current Who showrunner] got me to write “Terror Of The Umpty Ums” and Emily [Cook, who started the Doctor Who Lockdown initiative] got me writing online minisodes.”
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Really pleased – mostly because of what everybody else did. Now. Permit me the self-indulgence. I planned to leave with The Husbands Of River Song. Then it was The Doctor Falls. And then it was Twice Upon A Time. And then I novelised Day Of The Doctor and that was going to be the very end. And then Chris got me to write “Terror Of The Umpty Ums” and Emily got me writing online minisodes. But this – THIS – finally … is … IT! Bang! Kerpow! I’m out of here! So with that in mind can I just say … the title is quite perfect.
With both Mackie and Lucas reprising their roles, the audio-only tale sees Bill and Nardole swapping daily stories of their new, Doctor-less lives. But, under Nardole’s discretion, they both commit to only sharing good news with each other, to keep their spirits up after what has, really, been a pretty wild time for the both of them.
While Nardole’s update is mostly that he’s still stuck on a spaceship precariously caught near the mouth of a black hole and filled with Cybermen trying to kill him, Bill’s update is a lot more to take in. She’s back on Earth, “on a break” with Heather after realising that dating a Goddess is not as perfect as it quite seems, and then there’s well, the whole, you know, unprecedented global pandemic sending nations into states of lockdown. Bill picked a really bad time to come back to Earth, really.
But, as per Nardole’s wishes, she does have some good news: at least, good news couched in dark news. While Bill does not specifically acknowledge it by name, she describes having left her house for the first time in weeks to attend a protest, heavily implied to be one of the many ongoing events across the world against systemic racism and police brutality in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. “The reason we were marching isn’t good news at all,” Bill tells Nardole. “Turns out not all Cyberman have got handles on their heads, let’s just put it that way.”
But Bill also acknowledges that, even in a terrible moment being reckoned with across the world, she believes that it could lead to a better future. “A lot of very angry people, with a very, very good reason to be angry, kept their distance, and kept their calm. At least where I was, everyone remembered to be kind,” she ruminates of the protest. “It hasn’t always worked out that way, which is understandable. There are some things you never seem to get away from, no matter how hard you try. But hey! Maybe this time. I dunno, this time it feels…different. I have hope.”
Alongside the release of the episode, Cook also shared a list of anti-racism organisations Mackie had chosen to ask Who fans to support, including Black Lives Matter, the Black Curriculum (in support of bringing more Black history into the UK education system’s curriculum), Campaign Zero, and the Black Visions Collective.
Looking for ways to advocate for black lives? Check out this list of resources by our sister site Lifehacker for ways to get involved.
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