“If your future is built on the suffering of that creature, what is your future worth?”
This weeks episode lands us back on earth in Regency London, and in true Doctor Who style, the Doctor and Bill found themselves there completely by accident. According to the Doctor, you do not steer the TARDIS you reason with it. Something which, more often than not, seems to get the Doctor into some sort of trouble. It was in no way different this week.
Regency London brings the Doctor and Bill much more than they bargained for. They’ve arrived at the last great Frost Fair of 1814, and The Thames is eating people. Drawn into the open by lights under the ice, people are being dragged below the ice and eaten by a massive sea creature. However, with only select pickpockets knowing the truth the festivities go on with the towns folk none the wiser. With the help of a small group of these pickpockets the Doctor and Bill discover what is going on below the ice. Interestingly though, they find the real danger to be above the ice, rather than entirely below it. This comes in the form of Lord Sutcliffe, the architect of the whole plan to keep the Loch Ness-esc creature chained under the lake, where it is fed it and its waste harvested for fuel. In addition, he is rude, racist, sexist, and an all-round disagreeable man. On account of this he receives a timely punch to the jaw from the Doctor, something which is very satisfying I can assure you.
Though advertised as a somewhat relaxed, and even humorous episode, ‘Thin Ice’ delivered something much deeper, and much darker than I’d expected. This brought out a very different side of Bill, one where she really began questioning who the Doctor is, and what type of person he is. Overwhelmed and emotional over the death of a child, a situation which she had no control over, Bill lashes out. Here we see something which is so much more than confusion, and anger, Bill is lead to question both hers and the Doctor’s purpose for traveling like this. So, when given the choice to save or to condemn the creature under the lake she doesn’t just initially refuse to do so, she also questions why she must choose at all. The decision over life and death is one which she has never really needed to spare much thought for, so faced with it now it is beyond overwhelming, it scares her.
Our misunderstood creature of the week is just as much a victim of the greed of humanity as the humans who fell to their deaths in its’ jaws. This is where the darker aspects of the episode kick in. Yet again the companion is left to consider both the fate of humanity and how it will be remembered, and make a choice. In this way, the episode ‘Thin Ice’ is a reflection of the second episode of series five in which the Doctor’s companion Amy has to make a very similar decision. This similarity doesn’t take away anything from the episode, as here the episode is set in the past, where the consequences of Bill’s decision are much more likely to a have a visible impact on the future.
Though this episode did finish on a more positive note, it will be interesting to see just how Bill’s new knowledge of the Doctor will impact on their relationship. Her questions about how many people he has seen killed, and also on how many people he has killed himself gave Bill answers she was half expecting, half shocked to find out. I’m curious to see whether the question of the darker side of the Doctor will raise its head again as the series progresses, especially as the knowledge of the Doctor’s 2000 years has the potential to really change the way a companion sees the Doctor. In terms of the Vault under the university, we still have little to work with, though tonight’s episode revealed a rather sinister knocking coming from the other side of the Vault doors which seemed to rather rattle Nardole. This, and the fact that the Doctor isn’t meant to leave earth because of the Vault, suggests that there isn’t anything good being kept in there.
Both the performances from Pearl Mackie (Bill) and Peter Capaldi (the Doctor) were absolutely stellar. We got to see a very different side to Bill’s character tonight, and Mackie brought very raw and very real emotion to the screen which I loved. I hope we get to delve deeper into Bill’s character soon. Capaldi as usual brings a beautiful, old soul feel to the Doctor, especially in his argument with Bill. These two are just getting better and better this season. Overall, a solid episode, character development wise, making up for the slight issues in the plot department. The message however, and the darker points of the episode were very well executed. I’m looking forward to next week!
Plot: 2.5/4 – Character: 3/3 – Monster (‘Misunderstood Alien’) of the Week: 2/3