The Radio Times logo

Could the new Doctor Who companion Bill be from the 1980s?

New companion Bill played by Pearl Mackie clearly has plenty of 80s style – but is she just dressing like it was acceptable in the 80s, or could she actually be from the past?

Published: Monday, 25th April 2016 at 12:10 pm

That Prince t-shirt, though. Was it just a bizarre coincidence, or the fastest costume redesign in TV history? Either way, it told us quite a lot about the new Doctor Who companion.


Yes, Pearl Mackie's Bill is clearly a fan of the dearly departed music star, and has the 80s style to prove it. But was the nod to Prince just a smart late addition, or is there more to it?

Her retro look rings loud and clear in the first promo shots for Bill. But is she just dressing like it was acceptable in the 80s, or could Bill actually be from the past herself?

Think about it: the hair, the t-shirt, the 80s-style sneakers (although, as you can learn here, they're not actually vintage). The retro clothing doesn't mean much on its own, but when you add in what the Doctor actually says to her, it starts to become much more suspicious.

First, the obvious one. "We need to get back... to the future. 2017 needs us."

Now as well as a healthy reminder that, barring the Christmas special, there will be no full Who series this year, it also begs the question: where are they? When are they?

Capaldi's line suggests that 2017 is 'the future' for Bill, and yes, I know, it's the (near) future for us too, but look at Bill's face when she hears where she's going...

Something about her reaction suggests she's about to go on a long journey and back in the 80s, the 21st century certainly seemed like that...

"What's a Dalek?"

Given how many times the Daleks have appeared on Earth since Doctor Who returned in 2005, you'd think by now that people recognised the fat thing with a sucker on it.

And yet, Bill is completely ignorant of those big old exterminating bads. Why? Could it be that her time on Earth hasn't witnessed an alien invasion yet?

OK, there is a caveat here: Steven Moffat has tried to solve this 'humans-aware-of-alien-life' problem in the past with his series five 'cracks' in time storyline, in which historical events, including the Dalek invasion of Earth, were erased. Amy Pond doesn't recognise a Dalek either in WWII-set episode Victory of the Daleks.

However, is the first dialogue between Bill and the Doctor really just re-telling the same old Dalek jokes, or is there something more interesting going on? Is Steven Moffat trying to make it clear that Bill doesn't know what a Dalek is because she's from somewhere that hasn't confronted them yet, whether that be 80s England – or somewhere else entirely?

Ignorance is bliss.

Is Bill the new Ace?

Several comments online, including Reddit user 27th_wonder, have mentioned the name of another much-loved Who companion in connection with Bill. Remember Ace?

Ace, or Dorothy Gale McShane, was a companion of the Seventh Doctor from 1987-89. A gifted chemistry student with a penchant for blowing stuff up, she ended up hundreds of years in the future on the planet Iceworld after one of her experiments created a time storm that swept her into the future. And that was where she met the Doctor.

Could Bill be a follow-up to one of Who's most popular companions? Ace has already been celebrated as the companion that "set the template" for nu-Who, and the comparisons are intriguing.

"Cool, strong, sharp, a little bit vulnerable with a bit of geekiness thrown in." That's how actor Pearl Mackie described Bill in her first Who interview. The description could just as easily apply to Ace.

Classic Who companions came from throughout human history. Vicki, one of the First Doctor's companions, was from the 25th century. Second Doctor companion Jamie McCrimmon came from 18th century Scotland, and while all the regular companions since 2005 have come from our own time, perhaps it's time that changed?

In short, even if Bill doesn't end up being from the 80s, there's a definite retro vibe going on in our first look at the new companion.

It could make for an interesting change of pace after the series of modern companions. How would a girl from the 80s react to landing in 2017-era Earth? How would we react to seeing the Doctor journey through space and time with someone not from our time?


Sadly, we can't time travel to 2017 to find out. We'll just have to wait... and wonder.


Sponsored content