I am primarily a fan of the Doctor and his adventures into the future. It isn’t that I dislike the period piece episodes, but I have a lot more favorite classic episodes that take us to a distant future than I do the other. Nevertheless, this week’s episode, “Thin Ice,” took The Doctor and Bill back to 1814 London and the results ended up being pretty great.
In “Thin Ice,” the T.A.R.D.I.S whisks Bill and The Doctor off to a frozen-over Thames River in 1814. Personally, I was on the same side as Bill on this one. She questions The Doctor about how she thought they weren’t able to travel to parallel dimensions. Both Bill and I must have not been paying attention in history class that day, cause with a little Googling action, I found out that the Thames froze over a bunch way back in the day.
Since it is Bill’s first time traveling to the past, both she and the Doc get gussied up and head out for some shenanigans at the Thames last Frost Fair. Bill becomes overly focused on the rules of time travel, afraid she might do something mundane that has a negative impact on the future. With the acquiescence only a 2000-year-old Time Lord can have, he tells her “it’s just time travel” and to not “overthink it.” I couldn’t help feel like that comment was made for some of the strict, hardcore Doctor Who fans that search for plot holes and continuity errors in each episode. I know, I know. There are a ton if you go looking but what fun is that, folks?
Once Bill is comfortable with the idea, they head to the Fair where Bill is entirely too eager to “try everything” that she can eat. Personally, I barely trust food trucks let alone merchants serving up possibly undercooked 1800’s meats, but hey to each their own.
The Doctor admits that he has come back to this place in time on three separate occasions. He seems to love it because con artistry and thievery were seemingly a ubiquitous thing throughout London at the time. This is a pretty great call-back to the Time Lord’s origins on his home planet of Galifrey and how he famously stole the T.A.R.D.I.S in the first place. Once on the Thames he relishes in young miscreants pickpocketing folks and how conmen are flourishing. You can tell they all have his upmost respect.
Of course, this adventure can’t be all happiness, food merchants and adorable pickpocketing kiddos. There is something both the Doctor and Bill become aware of that is glowing and swimming around under the ice.
When two kiddos pickpocket the Doctor and make off with his Sonic Screwdriver, one of them is pulled under the ice by the swirling eerie glowing lights. Luckily, ole Doc is able to save his screwdriver and pull it from the poor child’s hand before he is totally pulled under. This marks the first time Bill sees anyone killed and sees how unaffected The Doctor is with death. Capaldi’s take on the Doctor rears its head a bit here, we see a fragment of the colder, more jaded side of the time traveling alien and are reminded that he has seen a lot of death over his 2000 years.
Bill’s reaction to the death, however, is complete shock that quickly becomes anger. She questions him on how many deaths he has seen and asks if he has killed anyone before. He is pretty forthcoming with the info. Of course, we know the Doctor has reluctantly killed before, but that it was done to save a whole lot more folks. He is still ultimately Bill’s tutor and suggests that she move past the sadness to possibly make some quick decisions in order to save a lot more lives.
To find out what is under the ice, the Doctor and Bill dress in a couple of old timey diving suits and literally get to the bottom of the matter. When they are pulled under the ice, they discover that the tiny glowing lights belong to baby monster fish pulling people through the ice in order to feed their huge momma. Turns out, she is a gigantic monster chained to the bottom of the Thames.
The Doctor uncovers a plot by Lord Suthcliffe, a racist highfalutin douchebag, who has been handed down the knowledge of the monster in the Thames over generations. The Suthcliffe family has kept up a vicious cycle over the centuries that feeds people to the monster in order to dredge up its waste. Turns out that waste burns brighter and longer than coal.
The Doctor, who is usually a laid-back dude, punches Suthcliffe out for being a racist dick. As if that wasn’t great enough, we get to see a memorable Capaldi monologue where he explains to Suthcliffe that industry doesn’t define or push forward a civilization and that only care for the lives of the people at any class level defines a healthy society. Not only is this a defining moment for Capaldi’s Doctor, it also makes Bill realize that he isn’t as jaded and uncaring as he appeared earlier in the episode.
When Suthcliffe is pushed into a corner, he sets out to blow up the ice on the Thames. This would lead attendees of the Frost Fair to fall into the river and to become a mass amount of food for the monster. All that, so that Suthcliffe can cash in through spring due to high produce levels.
Of course, the Doctor isn’t having it, and comes up with a way to use the explosives to blow the chains off the monster and set her free. He manages to pull it off and sets free the poor lil monster who may have headed to Loch Ness to make a new home…
The episode ends with Nardole alone in the University basement with the mysterious vault. To Nardole’s surprise something begins to knock from the other side. As he makes his way off to tell the Doctor, the rhythm of the knocks begins to take a familiar repetitive sound. A percussion structure we haven’t heard since we last saw The Doctor’s nemesis, The Master.
So far, season ten has been really fun and that fun is mirrored in both Capaldi and Bill’s performances. I liked Capaldi from the get-go, but this season has brought me on as a fully sold fan of his. I really wish that they had got to his and Pearl Mackie’s pairing sooner, because it is effortlessly kismet and a lot of fun to watch. Makes it all the sadder that we all know Capaldi will be exiting soon. At least it looks like he is going to go out with a heck of a season, with a huge bonus of the super treat it is going to be to see him and Mackie combined with the return of The Master.