Doctor Who: Thin Ice review

Spread the love

Jon Hall/BBC

reader comments 39

This is a post-UK broadcast review of Doctor Who. River Song always warned the Doctor against spoilers, so be sure to watch the episode first. Doctor Who broadcasts on Saturdays at 7:20pm UK time on BBC One, and 9pm EDT on BBC America.

Thin Ice is a classic, thoroughly entertaining Doctor Who episode with a plot that finally breaks the ice on series 10 of the popular sci-fi show, while still having time to put kids (both on screen and the hide-behind-the-sofa variety) at the center of the story.

Pearl Mackie) to discover what the Doctor’s motivations are—alongside a good dash of Time Lord ethics: “if I don’t move on, more people die,” he says as a little boy disappears under the ice, never to be seen again. But when he’s challenged by Bill, the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) says: “I’m 2,000 years old and I’ve never had the time for the luxury of outrage.”

I’ve always enjoyed a new companion being shown the ropes: the audience knows what to expect from the “bigger on the inside” line to the sidekick learning about how the Doctor so nonchalantly responds to death and destruction. But the process seems to deliberately be burning a little longer this time, clearly signalling to the audience that the introduction of Bill also represents the 12th Doctor’s imminent farewell.

The first two episodes struggled to dance between the mostly-excellent teacher/student friendship and somewhat inconsistent sci-fi plot lines. Thin Ice, however, skates through with ease. Writer Sarah Dollard—whose debut episode, Face the Raven, “killed off” Clara last season—ably steers the whole thing through a (Moby Dick)ensian world.

Sword swallowers, a circus elephant, and cheeky, pickpocketing kids who could easily be the distant cousins of Oliver Twist all entertain the time-travelling duo as they amble along the frozen River Thames and gawp at the last great frost fair.

The Doctor looks dashing in top hat and tails.
Enlarge / The Doctor looks dashing in top hat and tails.

It’s not just the TARDIS that, to Bill, looks a little out of place in this 200-year-old scene, though. Incongruous green lights darting beneath the ice catch her attention, too.

The glow worm-style fish react to the sound of the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver (NB: this is a far superior tool to sonic sunglasses, which thankfully have so far made only a minor appearance in this year’s series—here’s hoping it stays that way!). The fish circle around whomever the unfortunate soul is who happens to be isolated alone on the ice, and then suck the victim below the surface where a salivating and imprisoned Tiny the serpent waits to be fed.

And while the first episode of Doctor Who lazily used a well-worn trope for Heather, it’s good to see that the “black guy gets it first!” plot device has no truck here in another installment where, pleasingly, the cast isn’t made up of a bunch of white dudes.

London Beer Flood. A little later she says to the Doctor that Regency England is “a bit more black than they show on the movies.” He responds: “So was Jesus. History’s a whitewash.”

Two slimy serpents feature in Thin Ice: the one snaking beneath the Thames and the other, steel baron Lord Sutcliffe (Nicholas Burns), who is living on dry land, feeding kids to the beast below, and milking Tiny’s poop for profit. The serpent monster produces fuel powerful enough for interstellar travel, the Doctor says. “Shhhhhit,” indeed, Bill!

Gone fishing

Capaldi turns in another fine performance in this episode, and it will be a shame to see his Doctor regenerate into a different actor. His monologue about humanity is kick-ass and comes after the diplomacy charm offensive with the racist Sutcliffe fails.

“Human progress isn’t measured by industry,” the Doctor says. “It’s measured by the value you place on a life, an unimportant life, a life without privilege. The boy who died on the river, that boy’s value is your value. That’s what defines an age. That’s what defines a species.”

reptilian Ice Warriors? Were they also lurking underneath the Thames? Or could they be the ones that are noisily banging behind the door of the mysterious vault, which an increasingly irritated and neglected Nardole (Matt Lucas) is guarding?

Bonus round: Will we see Peregrine Sutcliffe again? And who the hell is Pete?

This post originated on Ars Technica UK

Spread the love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *