Over the past few weeks Doctor Who just keeps on dropping hints that some serious death is coming to the sci-fi series, with new companion Bill (aka actress Pearl Mackie) seemingly on the chopping block at some point during the series finale.
Way back in an early series trailer she said she wouldn’t miss travelling with the Doctor “even if it kills me,” while the official summary for next week’s episode World Enough and Time notes that the Doctor witnesses “the death of someone he has sworn to protect” after making a “rash” decision.
And now the episode trailer for next week’s episode seems to have doubled down on the danger to Bill, with the Doctor’s plan to test out Missy’s newfound good nature by having her save a doomed spaceship hinted to be deadly to his closest friend.
“Just promise you won’t get me killed,” Bill mutters to the Doctor in the new footage, only to be held at gunpoint by a desperate blue alien when things start to go wrong.
Bill held at gunpoint in next week's episode World Enough and Time
“I said this was a bad idea,” Bill says – but is the Doctor’s compassion for Missy truly the “rash” idea that gets his companion killed?
From us, the answer is a resounding “maybe”. We’ve already recently gone into the potential for Bill’s death, but to quickly reiterate it seems most plausible that her being killed off would only be a temporary situation if it happened, with the Doctor using some sort of time-travel chicanery (perhaps involving the time-slowing properties of the spaceship the characters are on in episode 11) to bring Bill back before the episode’s end.
On the other hand, there have been rumours for a while that Mackie isn’t staying on in the series after the departure of lead actor Peter Capaldi and series showrunner Steven Moffat, and it’s not like Doctor Who hasn’t killed off the odd companion before (RIP Adric). And with Moffat on the way out, who’s to say he won’t decide to rock the boat and ruffle some feathers by introducing some real consequences to the Doctor’s decisions? It could even provide some backstory to whoever the next Doctor is, repainting them as a haunted figure afraid to get others involved in their adventures.
Still, perhaps the greatest evidence of all related to this matter is the fact that we’re talking about it at all. If Moffat and his team were really hoping to spring a dramatic, emotional death on the audience it seems unlikely they’d keep hinting at it so overtly, with the whole thing currently reminding more of similar hints dropped around the time of Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler way back in the 2006 series (see above; despite the death hints, Rose ended up sent to a parallel universe instead).
So in short, even if Bill does “die” due to the Doctor’s mistake, Missy turning evil again or John Simm’s Master rejoining the fray, we reckon it either won’t last long or will be less of a traditional “death” than some might be expecting. One way or another, the Doctor should be able to keep that promise for her.
Doctor Who continues on BBC1 next Saturday 24th June at 6.45pm