The Doctor and Bill are back for another adventure! And this week’s episode is bound to make you smile — whether you want to or not — as everyone’s favorite Time Lord and his latest companion go back to the future to one of Earth’s first colonies.
The destination comes courtesy of Bill’s request to see if the future is happy. Though as any longtime viewer of the show could tell her, this will hardly be the case. But for now, it seems like she’ll get her wish as this colony is said to have cracked the secret of happiness. And as we quickly learn upon disembarkation, a lot of it has to do with wide, open spaces and micro robots (a.k.a. Vardies) that primarily communicate through their more robot-resembling interfaces, using EMOJIS!
Part of this communication system also involves the Doctor and Bill sticking electronic emoji-displaying patches on themselves, which then lets everyone else know how they’re doing. Practical as ever, Bill asks an important question in regards to this: What if you fancy someone?!
However, that would require there being someone to fancy. And as the Doctor quickly deduces, the robots were sent ahead to prepare the planet for humans. He and Bill just arrived early. But they amend that theory once they visit the plant nursery and find out that humans were here all along. They’re just dead and being used as fertilizer.
So they manage to beat a hasty getaway — smiling the entire time to appease the interfaces by seeming happy — but once they get to the TARDIS, the Doctor heads back (running like a penguin with its arse on fire), to blow up the city in order to save the potential colony ship full of unwitting victims on its way. He’s soon joined by Bill and they enter the spaceship that brought those first people to this planet. As the Doctor notes, the door isn’t locked because they’d come in peace. Sigh. Poor Future Humans.
Inside, the Doctor takes off for the engine room, with some guidance from Bill, thanks to a found map and the aural upgrade they got upon arrival. When she leaves to join him she gets sidetracked by the discovery of an older woman’s dead body, and a book that seems to contain the entire history of the human race.
As Bill tearfully goes through the flashing images, she begins to question why the colonists came here, and whether they were the last people. The Doctor reassures her somewhat, telling her the Earth was evacuated and that he’s bumped into a few human colonies over the years. He then asks her to come join him. It’s harder than he’d expected to blow this place up. Bill leaves to join him, only to run into a plot twist an actual human kid.
When the Doctor meets the kid, he realizes they’re in the colony ship! The pods are the surviving population of Earth and he nearly blew it up!
As more colonists wake up, the Doctor and Bill figure out what went wrong with the robots. Turns out the Vardies had been programmed to guarantee human satisfaction. But when that same older woman had died, probably from old age, it had caused the small population to grieve. And being the smart little microbots they are, the Vardies had classified grief as the opposite of happiness, thus deciding it eradicate it. This led to a massacre as everyone left was mourning yet another person who’d died.
The Doctor figures this is the same fate awaiting the newly woken colonists. So he proposes a lecture…