Doctor Who Recap: Smile… Or Else

In the future, humanity will be forced to leave Earth to colonize other, yet-to-be-discovered planets. This is not a spoiler. If you’ve looked at the news/Facebook lately, it’s easy to extrapolate. The upside is that our new home will look a lot like Valencia, Spain. The downside is that the Zygomaticus major will have to evolve to the point where it’s capable of a permanent flex. Smiling will be mandatory—like, all the time. At least that’s the way this week’s episode of Doctor Who envisions it.

Thanks to a comically short-sighted arrangement between the colonists and the Vardy, a swarming, bee-like race of alien robots who communicate with humans via an interface that’s recognizable even to us 21st century luddites (emojis, obviously), humanity has condemned itself to a state of permanent happiness—or else suffer the consequences. (Where consequences = being relieved of your fleshy parts and having your bones ground up into garden fertilizer.)

Thing is, sadness, anger, grief and the like are all natural human emotions. Being happy 100 per cent of the time would be unnatural. And exhausting. But robots are binary beings. Switch on/switch off, happy/sad. And since they’ve been programmed to ensure human happiness, they’ve come up with an efficient way to eradicate sadness… by cutting it off at the source. Switch off.

The Doctor, having escaped Nardole’s disapproving gaze, travels to this future colony with new companion Bill in tow. Arriving there, they meet the Vardy and their adorable Emojibot interfaces… but not a single colonist. Realizing that something’s wrong (but smiling anyway), Bill and the Doctor head for the heart of this “giant, smiley abattoir”—the original ship that brought the recon team to the planet.

He’s about to blow the whole thing up when Bill realizes that the rest of the colonists aren’t on their way, they’re already there, asleep in cryopods—but waking up. The Doctor pieces together the mystery of the composted colonists in his classic last-minute, break-neck speed style, just in time to save the colonists and reset the Vardy—and, as a result, the entire structure of the new civilization. The colonists are no longer in charge of the city. They’re on Vardy territory now, the Doctor tells them. To survive, they’ll have to behave like guests, not conquerors.

5 Questions About This Week’s Episode

1. With the Doctor and Bill off travelling, who’s guarding that vault thing? Don’t say Nardole.

2. Brexit or no Brexit, will the currency of future off-world colonies really still be the British Pound?

3. What’s up with Nardole’s sudden jealousy when it comes to Bill? They seemed to get along okay in the previous episode. Seems even cyborgs get a bit miffed over being left behind to make tea while their friends are out saving the world.

4. As the evolution of technology picks up speed at an exponential rate, is it getting more and more difficult for sci-fi to envision a future that we’re not already on the brink of? ‘Smile’ made reference to self-aware AI as though it were surprising. Scary, sure. But surprising? Nope.

5. How do we get our hands on some Emojibot costumes between now and Halloween?