Welcome back to another review of the tenth series of Doctor Who! This week’s episode, entitled Thin Ice, was written by Sarah Dollard and directed by Bill Anderson. In the episode, the Doctor and Bill arrive in London, 1814. The entire city has turned out for the biggest Frost Fair in decades. But beneath the frozen Thames, revellers are disappearing, snatched through the ice and pulled into the depths where a terrifying monster lurks. Will the Doctor and Bill stop the slaughter before they too are dragged into the icy waters? Like all previous reviews, this one will contain spoilers, so if you haven’t yet watched the episode, now is your chance to turn back and avoid being spoiled.
So this episode ended up being really good. Not as good as the past two episodes have been, but still very good. The best part of the episode is easily the subplot where Bill has to come to grips with the Doctor and his morality. After she witnesses the creature under the Thames eat a little boy, she sees the Doctor’s lack of shock and is worried by this. She discovers not only has he seen so many people die that he can’t remember the exact number of them; in fact, he’s even killed people. Naturally, this does not sit well with her (as it never does for any companion), so the most interesting parts of the episode end up being Bill’s journey to accepting this part of the Doctor; he’s not a hero, not in the traditional sense. But he does what needs to be done for the greatest good, and he can’t afford the luxury of not moving on.
The episode bears a lot in common with the season five episode, The Beast Below, particularly in the climax of the episode. Bill has to decide whether to set free the creature and risk the creature killing loads of people or allowing the creature to continue being trapped and have humanity’s future built on the guilt of imprisoning an innocent creature. Amy has to make a similar decision in The Beast Below when she has to decide whether or not to stop the space whale’s torture. These similarities are fine, it’s an easy way to force the companion into making one of those decisions where there’s no perfect answer, and Bill’s reaction to the situation is massively different than Amy’s was.
Again, Pearl Mackie continues to shine in this episode, as does Capaldi. The guest cast is nothing to phone home about, but they’re perfectly serviceable. Bill Anderson does a wonderful job with the directing, never showing too much of the monster. As always, what’s unseen is always scarier, and he nails that with the monster in this week’s episode.
I also like how this episode deals with some themes of racism. Naturally, Bill is a woman of color, so landing in regency England isn’t exactly the greatest place for her to land. And the show addresses this, with Bill pointing that out and also with the bad guy, Lord Suttcliffe, referring to Bill as a “creature” leading to the Doctor literally punching him in the face. It’s a pretty great moment. There’s also a moment towards the beginning where Bill comments that Regency England is a lot blacker than the dramas show, leading the Doctor to retort: “So is Jesus. History is a whitewash.” It’s a great moment, and it’s appropriately used in the episode. It was a nice touch by Sarah Dollard, who wrote last season’s Face the Raven.
Overall, it’s a solid episode. Like last week’s, it’s stand-alone and focuses a lot on the dynamic between Bill and the Doctor. I’m really digging how much time is being dedicated to building up their relationship. I think it’s a really smart move on the show’s part to be doing this as it helps the audience identify more with Bill and really get into the show. It’s a solid, funny, interesting, thrilling episode, expertly written and directed, and with superb acting.
I give Thin Ice four out of five wands.
Doctor Who continues next week on BBC One and BBC America.