In Depth

Doctor Who's new companion: What to expect from Pearl Mackie

Funny, feisty and clueless about time travel, Bill is ready to boot evil aliens into another dimension

Pearl Mackie was unveiled as Doctor Who's new companion Bill earlier this year – but who is she and what can viewers expect from her new character?

The Brixton-born actor is a 2010 graduate of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and made her first significant appearance on the small screen in 2014, when she played Anne-Marie Frasier in the BBC1 soap Doctors.

She makes her debut in Doctor Who when the next series airs in 2017. It's her biggest television role yet.

"I couldn't be prouder to call the Tardis my home," she said in interview with the BBC.

 After praising Peter Capaldi's Doctor as "wacky and wonderful", Mackie said her own character was "wicked", saying Bill was "fantastically written, cool, strong, sharp, a little bit vulnerable with a bit of geekiness thrown in".

The new companion also appears to be an active, physical character, as Mackie said she was looking forward to using her stage combat skills to "kick some evil monsters into the next dimension".

Doctor Who's creative team, which includes Capaldi, producer Brian Minchin, writer Steven Moffat and casting director Andy Pryor, all had a role in choosing Mackie for the role, according to an interview in the Radio Times.

Moffat created the character and wrote a few scenes, after which the group began looking for someone new and relatively unknown to play the part.

Pryor had already seen Mackie on stage in London in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and felt she was a "strong, talented young woman" waiting for the right role.

She "arrived fully formed, with a strong personality and a strong sense of herself" and a "great deal of humour too", he added.

A BBC trailer introduces Bill as a plucky, curious and funny character who is relatively inexperienced about the world of time travel and inter-dimensional threats to humanity in which the Time Lord travels.

While Daleks pursue them through dimly lit corridors, she interrogates the Doctor with questions such as: "Why do they shout 'exterminate'? Why not 'kill'?"

An impatient Doctor retorts that "exterminate" gives the two of them more time to run away.

The trailer showcases Mackie's "disarming discombobulation", says Stuart Jeffries in The Guardian.

She, meanwhile, tells the journalist more about Bill's relationship with the Doctor. "I think the two characters complement each other," she says. "I don't have a lot of experience travelling through space and time, you see."

That's all the actor can reveal, adds Jeffries, because she's been warned by BBC minders that if she "blabs one iota of storyline, she'll be thrown down a wormhole to Gallifrey and exterminated by aliens".

The new series of Doctor Who will air on BBC1 in April 2017. There will also be a Christmas special, expected to be screened on 25 December in the UK.

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