However, the most sinister part of the new footage doesn’t come from the foes arrayed against the Tardis crew – rather, it comes from an ominous line spoken by new companion Bill (Pearl Mackie) as she describes the Doctor to the world.
After listing the Doctor’s many fine qualities (“funny,” “amazing,” “dangerous” – the classics), Bill concludes her short speech by suggesting that deadly times lie ahead in her adventures.
“I’m having the time of my life – and I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” she says (as you can see in the trailer below).
“Even if it kills me…”
Now, it could be that this is an offhand line not meant to do anything except sound a bit cool and dark – and in that case well done to all at Doctor Who, because it does.
However, both the placement of the line right at the end of the trailer (punctuating the whole thing, basically) and knowledge of what’s going on behind-the-scenes at Doctor Who makes us wonder if this is actually meant to be taken a bit more seriously. Maybe, just maybe, Bill could really die.
Now, we know what you’re going to say – Doctor Who companions never die any more, they just lose their memories, get trapped in parallel dimensions or become immortal time-travellers in a big flying diner. But who’s to say that departing showrunner Steven Moffat hasn’t decided to finally bite the bullet in his final series at the helm, and show the real dangers that accompany the Doctor’s adventures? What if he’s decided that when he’s leaving the series anyway, the time is ripe to actually kill a companion?
After all, a companion death wouldn’t be a first in Doctor Who as a whole. While the more recent series have found ways around companions dying, the classic series killed off companions once or twice, most notably Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) in 1982’s Earthshock.
It could be that the new series will return to this idea, finally sticking to its guns and showing the risks of travelling with the Doctor (which in recent years have been emphasised) after dancing around the concept for quite a while (like when Jenna Coleman’s Clara Oswald died and returned last series).
Based on how it’s mentioned in the trailer, it could be that Bill’s death (or the risk thereof) will be a major theme in the new series, with Pearl Mackie’s new character put in increasingly dangerous situations while characters chastise the Doctor for not taking more care.
Premonitions of her doom increasing, the Doctor might have his eyes opened to his own culpability in the chaos he causes – before witnessing a tragedy that could motivate both his regeneration and the backstory for a new Time Lord (in other words, the next Doctor might carry around the guilt of letting a friend die for a while).
And storytelling might not be the only consideration here – because as mentioned above, there may be practical considerations behind such a deadly move. If Bill were to die, it could help give new showrunner Chris Chibnall a clean slate for when he takes over the series later this year. Peter Capaldi has already announced that he’s leaving along with Steven Moffat, and the last time Doctor Who had a change in leadership both the Doctor AND the companion were replaced.
Pearl Mackie in the new Doctor Who trailer
With this in mind, there’s been a bit of a question mark over the fate of Pearl Mackie since the announcement of Capaldi’s departure. While it’s perfectly possible she could stay on in Chibnall’s version of the series, bridging the gap for viewers as they get used to a new Doctor, there has been no official word on whether she’ll stick around. Frankly, this seems a little odd –unless of course there is a plan for her departure that’s being kept secret, so as not to spoil the surprise of her character’s death for fans.
Then again, it could be that we’re getting over-excited about nothing. Notably, this whole thing is quite similar to previous death foreshadowing for other Doctor Who companions – Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler was hinted to be destined for the grave with the words “this is the story of how I died” – only for them to not actually perish, so it’s worth keeping in mind that Bill might also dodge her maker due to some technicality.
Still, we’d say that the choice of words in this new trailer were very deliberate, and will colour a lot of how we see this upcoming series. One way or another, dangerous times are coming.