*This post contains spoilers*
With all of the hullabaloo about the 13th Doctor, I think people are very much overlooking what happened to Bill Pott in episodes 11 and 12 in this recent season finale. Bill, my favorite companion since Donna, is brutally killed and then turned into a cyberman. She then “dies” again, turns into an incorporeal spirit, and is reunited with the girl she had a crush on at the start of the season. Happy ending?
A resounding NO.
Using a term coined within the comics genre, this is pure and simple refrigeration, meaning a female character is killed off in a particularly gruesome manner, and left to be found just to push the hero’s buttons, or send a message. The female is usually someone who matters to the hero, specifically a best buddy, a love interest…or a companion. Bill Potts was refrigerated, and I am angry, for many reasons.
First of all, BBC broke the mold by giving us an openly gay, and openly proud woman of color. She is smart, she is funny, and she is genre savvy (hey, she knew her sci-fi tropes very well). She is the perfect modern foil to Peter Capaldi’s stuffy and didactic Doctor. They built up a partnership of equal respect, for as much as Bill admired the Doctor, he respected her intelligence and they both really cared for each other.
I loved Bill’s wide eyed wonder, her willingness to embark on any adventure, and her distinct lack of angst. Bill never whined; she questioned the Doctor out of genuine curiosity, and she was always trying to understand what was going on. She was a party to the solution, never merely a plot device. She wanted to learn, hence her position as a “chip girl” at the university. Although she couldn’t afford to attend, her brain was a sponge and she was hell bent on soaking up everything. She boldly snuck into classes, which is where she met the Doctor.
She did get angry with the Doctor (who doesn’t),and she calls him out. She doesn’t want to just take his word for something, she wants to know why something was happening. She was possibly the only companion the Doctor ever gave homework to. She did cry on a few occasions, but they weren’t tears of self pity.
Best of all, in spite of all of her many strong attributes, she was never, ever a Mary Sue (like Capaldi’s last companion,Clara or Matt Smith’s Amy Pond). Bill was a breath of fresh air, and as I said previously, the companion I had been hoping for since Donna of the David Tennant years.
This is all awesome stuff, right? Then what do the showrunners do to her? Blast a devastating, deadly hole right through her middle in a scene that makes my gut churn and heart ache just remembering it. Then she is turned into a Cyberman, which Pearl Mackie played with (what should be) award winning heart and precision. Mackie was quite brilliant as the Cyberman who remembered, the Cyberman who could cry.
For better or worse, she is killed/released from her doomed nature, and becomes an incorporeal being. She reunites with Heather (Puddle), a girl she had a crush on. Heather tells her that she is not entirely dead, she is one with the universe, and could do anywhere in space and time, and that she could choose to assume any form she wanted. That is her ”happy ending.” But is it really?
Can Bill reunite with the Doctor, ever? (Seeing her with a female Doctor would be so awesome, delightfully awkward, and would make for a great team!) Bill really didn’t know Heather all that well, she had only met her a couple of times – and what if they aren’t soulmates after all? I just don’t buy into any of it. It seems like a complete “ass-pull.” Bill could have been easily cloned (this is science fiction/fantasy after all). She could have chosen to incorporate and stay with the Doctor.
This is not a happy ending, in my opinion. This is refrigeration. Bill Potts’ death was simply a means to devastate the Doctor, to bring him to his knees, to perhaps shock him into regeneration.
We lost a great, strong, smart woman. We lost an outstanding, capable woman of color. We lost a role model and positive icon for the gay community.
Bill Potts ended up being a plot device, and this infuriates me.
I really hope the new showrunners will consider bringing Bill back, if Pearl Mackie is willing. If not, I will consider Bill’s loss to be one of the greatest tragedies in Doctor Who history.