Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor in "Doctor Who"
Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor in "Doctor Who"

“Doctor Who” season 10 episode 2 brought out emojis and left one question unanswered. The Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and new companion Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) travelled to distant future where cute little robots have changing emojis as their faces in “Smile.”

Spoiler warning: The following recaps and reviews the second episode of ‘Doctor Who’ season 10, titled “Smile.” The show aired Saturday in the UK on the BBC, and Sunday in Australia on the ABC.

In “Smile,” the Doctor was showing Bill how the TARDIS works when Nardole (Matt Lucas) briefly butted in to remind the Time Lord his oath not to go off-world or travel in time. That begged the question why Twelve isn’t allowed to leave Earth.

Nevertheless, that’s exactly what he and Bill did: They travelled to the future in another planet that has been colonised by Earth. They were then greeted by a robot that communicated in emojis (an emojibot). The emojibot gave them a circular pin that reflects their emotions but which they cannot see themselves.

The place appeared to be devoid of humans, though it should have been an Earth colony. Later on, they discovered that there was another type of robots present in the place: swarm robots (Vardies), of which the physical structure they were in was made. If a person was sad, their emotion would be reflected through the emoji pin, and the emojibots would signal the Vardies to kill the person.

Terrified, Twelve and Bill escaped the robots by pasting a smile on their faces. Twelve went back, though, to save the incoming humans — whom he thought were still yet to arrive — from the robots. Bill caught up with him after understanding what the Doctor really does.

The duo found the main ship and its engine room, with Twelve attempting to blow up the original colony spacecraft to wipe out the robots. But when Bill encountered a child in the main ship, they learnt that the humans were already in the planet, just cryogenically frozen. A few of them were awakened early to set up the planet. But when one of the early risers died, the rest naturally mourned her. The emojibots could not recognise the emotion that was gripping the humans, and therefore classified it as a virus. As a result, they killed all those who were grieving in a bid to wipe out sadness.

“What’s the opposite of a massacre?” Twelve asked Bill. “In my experience, a lecture.”

The newly awakened humans decided to fight back against the robots, but Twelve instead turned off and on the emojibots to reboot them. The emojibots now had no memory of what they had done, and the humans must learn to live with the Vardies.

The Doctor’s explanation

Pressed by Bill, Twelve explained he was not allowed to leave Earth and time because “a thing” happened a long time ago. “As a result of the thing, I made a promise. As a result of the promise, I have to stay on Earth,” he told Bill. He has to stay to guard the vault (featured in episode 1).

His explanation appeared forthright but still without giving away anything. What was that “thing” and what promise did he make? What’s inside that vault and what does it have to do with anything?

According to fan speculations, “the thing” could be what happened with his wife River Song (Alex Kingston), whom he last saw in the 2015 Christmas special “The Husbands of River Song.” In the 2016 Christmas special, “The Return of Doctor Mysterio,” the Doctor was still pining for her, and therefore whatever thing it was could have something to do with her.

‘Smile’ review

Bill proved to be an enthusiastic companion, still asking questions that viewers want to ask themselves. There ought to be a mini episode of just Bill asking the most curious of questions, like, “Why is The Doctor Scottish?” and “How much does the TARDIS cost?” (the Doctor doesn’t know because he stole it). She even figured out why the Doctor kept the phone box appearance of the TARDIS (it’s because the Gallifreyan Time Lord liked to be the helpline for everyone in need).

Last episode, the Doctor told Bill that she caught his attention in his class because she smiled when she did not understand anything, as opposed to other students who frowned. So who else could be more perfect than Bill to accompany the Doctor in a planet where smiling is not just encouraged, it’s required?

In the show’s history, anything that appears innocent is anything but. The emojibots in this episode proved that. They were cute until they were sinister. And in true Twelfth Doctor fashion, he attempted to blow things up but ended up giving a lecture to save everyone.

The newly awakened humans might be a bit too annoying, planning revenge immediately after being thawed. If they followed the Doctor’s advice and live peacefully among the robots wasn’t cleared. As Twelve told Bill as they were leaving, it’s up to them if they would.

Watch ‘Doctor Who’ season 10 episode 3 trailer ‘Thin Ice’

Read more:
‘Doctor Who’: First and Twelfth Doctors to appear together in Christmas special
‘Doctor Who’ season 10 episode 1 recap: ‘The Pilot’ is full of references, Easter eggs from the old and new series