By Lee Travis
Who's Companion? Smile (Series 10, EP 2)
Emojis reign supreme in our current lives. In texts, emails, social media, and blog posts, we can’t escape this new shorthand. These cute and quick graphics convey our feelings when words can’t, or when we feel like our words need the extra punch. Smile deals with the dark repercussions of keeping a society perfectly void of any negative or unwanted emotions. (*nudge* just keep smiling)
The episode opens with Bill and The Doctor on the TARDIS, proper this time. Bill is asking all the logical questions that a human would when finding out a Police Box can travel through time and space. Where’s the steering wheel? Why aren’t the seats closer to the travel console? Nardole is the wet towel on the TARDIS party by reminding The Doctor that he can’t leave the planet unless it’s an emergency. The Doctor gives the briefest of brief summaries of why he has to protect the vault but decides to have a proper adventure with Bill anyway.
Bill wants to travel to the future, and the two find themselves on a new human colony. Humans wear a badge that lives on their back and displays how they are feeling. You can never see your emoji, but only those around you, in an effort not to influence one's emotions. A race called the Vardy, who are swarms of microbots built the human colony and created robots that interact with humans through emojis. These emoji bots live to make you happy, which leads to the artificial intelligence trope of killing their masters. If you're dead you can’t be sad or unhappy.
However, the nuance of the episode is the relationship between the Vardy’s emoji readers and our emojis. As The Doctor points out, only humans use emojis. In a recent book club read of the classic novel 1984, the role of emojis came up in conversation. The Orwellian novel shows how the dictionary is constantly culled of language that is frivolous, redundant, and unnecessary. Emojis follow this same idea. Language is stripped from the page or conversation and replaced with a visual representation. Is this the future for humans? The human language still exists in Smile's distant future, but to what extent?
The Doctor drops some lingering plot threads about what happened to earth between the current day and this distant colony. Whatever calamity happened to make these space colonists find a new home world decimated the remains of human culture. Bill is obviously shaken by this discovery, though The Doctor is aware of the impending doom.
Even though the central conflict of Smile was straight forward, the dynamics between The Doctor and Bill are fascinating as ever. Furthermore, the critique of how we currently communicate and the larger ramifications on our future was a fun yet chilling take on the issue.
How do you feel about emojis? Are they the future of the human langue? Leave a comment below and let me know on Twitter @Lostthenumbers.