Tuesday, May 02, 2017

My Review of Doctor Who's 10x03: "Thin Ice"

Written by Sarah Dollard
Directed by Bill Anderson

The Doctor (to Lord Sutcliffe): "Human progress isn't measured by industry. It's measured by the value you place on a life. An unimportant life. A life without privilege."

Two things - first of all, this is so far the lowest rated episode of Series 10 (not by much, so no panicking people) and secondly, it's also the one with the highest AI so far this series as well. Talk about a bit of a duality there.

It's also an episode where white privilege, whitewashing, racism and outrage culture are all blended in together and if you've ever followed writer Sarah Dollard on Twitter, a lot of what is conveyed in this episode won't shock but saying that, it also feels rather consistent to both the Doctor and Bill as characters and we're only just getting to know the latter.

I have to admit, I found it rather amusing to see that there were some fans who were actually shocked with the scene of the Doctor punching the rather racist, child killing villain of the piece, Lord Sutcliffe (Nicholas Burns) in the face. I found it amusing because we're talking about a man who nearly clubbed a neanderthal in his first ever story back in 1963 and has at certain times resorted to violence, even if it isn't his usual go to place when it comes to solving problems.

For me personally, I was rather happy to see Lord Sutcliffe getting smacked across the chops, especially after that vile tirade of abuse he subjected Bill towards before getting punched. My only disappointment is that Bill didn't get to do the honours herself but the episode did however manage to slightly undermine the Doctor's "move on" and "calm and collected" mantras he was trying to pass along to Bill.

The episode certainly a lot to be outraged by. With Sutcliffe, we finally had a genuinely nasty if somewhat two dimensional villain and we haven't had one of those in a while to be honest. His antics put children's lives at risk as he was keeping a creature captive under the frozen Thames and was using it's poo for fuel.

Speaking of kids, this episode had a group of street urchins that were played by reasonably good child actors, didn't come across as annoying precocious and all had names to make their presence felt throughout the episode - Spider, Kitty, Perry, Harriet and Dot. In a scene I did find shocking though was that Spider actually died and in a first for a Moffat era script, the death of a child actually stuck.

Another reason why Spider's death provoked such a reaction was seeing Bill visibly freak out over the child's death. Aside from the fact that her reaction was completely believable, it was a nice moment to really show Bill why the Doctor does the things he does and while she didn't completely get it at first, she certainly did as the episode progressed.

As for the creature itself, we never really got too big a look at it and while it was eating people, it was mainly portrayed in a similar sympathetic light to the Star Whale was from The Beast Below and even freed by the end of it. I'm not sure if it was the wisest thing for both the Doctor and Bill to do but between Sutcliffe getting a much deserved death and the remaining street kids becoming massively rich, this episode did feel like it was flipping the finger to white privilege types and it handled a lot better than expected.

Back to the present day though, Nardole popped up for a scene or two. Mainly to be vexed by the Doctor being distracted by Bill but at the same time, he also showed a glimmer of a dark side when talking to who/whatever is trapped in the Vault. I have to admit this Vault mystery thingy is miles better than the Hybrid arc from the previous and Nardole is starting to become a lot more interesting as a character. Perhaps I misjudged him after all.

- The Doctor previously took River to the Frost Fair in A Good Man Goes To War. Other media has also used the place in time for adventures.
- Big Finish released a story back in 2011 with the Seventh Doctor and Ace with the same title. Twelve/Bill are vastly becoming the 2017 equivalent of that popular pairing.
- Who the hell mixes tea and coffee together? Seriously, Nardole, that's blasphemy man!
- How beautifully shot was this episode? The Frost Fair was so gorgeously brought to life throughout the whole episode and I loved the Regency clothing on both the Doctor and Bill here.
- I wonder if the Daily Mail readers lost their minds with the "Jesus was black" and "history's a whitewash" comments from the Doctor here.
- Chronology: February 4th, 1814 of course.

Thin Ice had a bit of an act to follow considering the event that was Dollard's previous contribution to the series. Like the episode, I don't think this will go down as a classic but it's certainly an episode that's visually gorgeous, has beautiful character moments, a genuinely hissable villain and some nice commentary on certain topics along with maintain the intrigue for the current arc as well.

Rating: 8 out of 10

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