With all the excitement and press going to Pearl Mackie’s arrival on the TARDIS, we should not forget Nardole, the other TARDIS resident this season.
One of the more interesting aspects of Steven Moffat’s time as the showrunner in Doctor Who is his love of multiple companions. Even from the very early days of his first season, he wasn’t comfortable with just the Doctor and Amy–within a very few episodes, Amy’s boyfriend Rory was on board too. And though they killed him off on the regular, Rory managed to stick around all the way until the end.
The same was true during the Clara years. If it wasn’t Clara’s boyfriend kicking around, it was one of her students, or a companion’s companion, or a lizard lady from the dawn of time and her wife.
This year, Moffat has done away with pretending there’s a main companion and all others are secondary. Though most of the excitement has centered around Bill Potts and her arrival on the TARDIS this coming Saturday, as the synopsis reminds us, the Doctor *already has a companion.*
Two worlds collide when the Doctor meets Bill. A chance encounter with a girl with a star in her eye leads to a terrifying chase across time and space. Bill’s mind is opened to a Universe that is bigger and more exciting than she could possibly have imagined – but who is the Doctor, and what is his secret mission with Nardole on Earth?
Yes, Nardole, who was established as the Doctor’s companion this past Christmas in “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”. The Doctor inherited Nardole from River Song, after re-heading him post-events of “The Husbands of River Song” the Christmas before that one. But who is Nardole, and why did he decide to ride about with the Doctor? (Other than being grateful for having his head re-attached?)
According to Moffat, he’s less a “companion” and more of a Butler. A Bunter to the Doctor’s Lord Peter, perhaps?
“I’ve been thinking for a while with Peter’s Doctor that he should have a butler, a valet, an assistant,” the writer explained. “He would want somebody to fetch and carry and do complicated tasks for him – he’d want a little expert on hand and I was already thinking about that and had quite a different idea of who that was going to be.
“And then absolutely coincidentally Matt Lucas who had been in ‘The Husbands of River Song’ in a tiny little role said he had really enjoyed it and would like to come back if we ever wanted him. So I pondered this for a few days… it would be mad to not make something out of this, he’s such a popular actor.
So who is Nardole? Well, keep in mind that moment at the end of Doctor Mysterio, when Nardole dropped the “bumbling oaf” act and got serious about the Doctor for a moment. Because that’s what it is–an act.
“…He’s not quite, as we have seen in ‘The Return of Doctor Mysterio’, the bumbling oaf he likes people to think he is – he’s slyer, more devious, more useful and he has a very shady past.”
We’ll learn more about Nardole this coming Saturday, when Doctor Who series 10 debuts.