Season 10’s been great for BBC’s Doctor Who thus far, hitting its stride and bringing some much-needed focus to the show. This weeks episode, Thin Ice, took a colder turn as we saw a darker side to London. With Bill and The Doctor racing against the clock to discover the cause of this, and working to understand each other better – is Thin Ice a good episode?
If last weeks episode was a wide-eyed adventure for Bill, this weeks outing was a downright horrific return to earth. Continuing on from last weeks episode, Bill and The Doctor arrive in early 19th century Thames Frost Fair. The festivities quickly give way to a terrifying mystery under the ice, as innocent people are dragged under the ice and used as a snack. Bill also began to learn the importance of her actions and decisions, with a series of key situations bringing into light the reality of her position next to The Doctor.
Last week I said one of my main critiques of Bill was that she felt a little too-starstruck in her first outing. that her interactions felt slightly detached from reality. I mean, she did see numerous humans reduced to garden compost. This week’s episode addressed this; doing so in a strong and meaningful way that’s quickly seeing Bill become a favourite part of the show for me. Bill’s role evolved from bystander to active participant in this episode – the companion given moral weight and decisions. She was angry at the right moments, and ultimately made to realise that travelling with The Doctor isn’t all fun and games.
It was also a great showing for Capaldi, who’s matured into his role as the Twelfth Doctor with great presence. If his earlier run felt uneven, Season Ten seems to have brought some much-needed focus. He’s always one step ahead of the curve, and is made to feel important in everything he’s doing. Dialogue is on point and delivers punch when needed, as seen when he attempted to talk down this weeks villain. One of strongest aspects of this season is the relationship forming between companion and Doctor – which steals the show consistently.
It needs to be said too that the production values of this episode were second to none. Of course a show like Doctor Who is more likely to nail it than not, but the aesthetic was beautifully constructed throughout. Costumes felt authentic while the claustrophobic nature of the frozen Thames translated throughout the episode. Compared to the warm and welcoming episode last week, it felt like a different show completely. Sometimes the show doesn’t manage this; but this weeks efforts were notable.
For all this praise though, the central plot was arguably the weakest aspect of this weeks episode. The villain appearing only half way through gave the first half a sense of mystery – but it also made his subsequent evil deeds feel less impactful. His ultimate goal became a bit muddled between the big fish reveal and the Doctor and Bill’s scenes – meaning some of the more important plot points failed to land. Quite honestly I can’t remember his name – and it’s a sign of how flimsy this character was that he left such a fleeting impression.
It also needs to be said that the gravity of The Doctor’s decision to step back and allow Bill to make such a grand decision near the episodes end was severely underplayed. It’s not often that he does such a thing – yet the show failed to highlight this in any meaningful way. It’s lucky that her decision played out as expected – as the implications otherwise would have been catastrophic.
Overall though I was happy with what we got here. Another solid solo-adventure that didn’t dwell too long on creating heavy plot – just getting to the good stuff. Bill is coming along great, while we’re seeing the very best of Capaldi. We also got our first glimpse at the overarching story of this season towards the end of the episode – teasing enough to have me wondering when it’s all going to be heading south.
Oh and Matt Smith’s role is being kept minimal. No complaints here.