Doctor Who Review by John Keegan

Doctor Who 10.03: Thin Ice

Doctor Who 10.03: Thin Ice

Written By:
Sarah Dollard
Directed By:
Bill Anderson

Three episodes in, and this might be one of the more divisive series of the modern Who era.  It seems like people either love Bill immediately (and oddly without much insight into the character herself) or consider her to be nearly impossible to decipher.  Sadly, despite always wanting to find something to like about all Companions, I find myself in the latter camp.  This episode gives us a much better look at Bill, but I still come away feeling like the script assumes we’ve already accepted that she and The Doctor have an established history, even though the continuity makes it very clear they are still pretty new as a team.

 


 

The script does its best to be a solid stand-alone adventure, and in many respects, it is.  It harkens to many elements that make up successful Doctor Who serials and stories.  But in the process, there are oddities.  The Doctor at one point makes a comment about avoiding outrage; does that make the slightest bit of sense, even if one were to only take the Twelfth Doctor era into account?  His capacity for anger and outrage was literally a key point to the moments before Clara died.  If it’s meant to be The Doctor playing at self-delusion, it’s too awkward for even Capaldi to sell.

 

Part of the problem is that Bill pushes the point so hard.  Bill takes a very long time to process the death of the young boy, to the point that her eventual acceptance and “moving on” later in the episode comes across as somewhat disingenuous.  For the audience to buy those moments as genuine, the audience has to invest in the rapport between the characters.

 


 

This is counter-balanced by some solid material for Capaldi, notably his speech on human equality.  The episode itself allows some commentary on class and race to serve as an important undercurrent, which makes sense given that there are unfortunate reactions to someone like Bill in the time period in question.  There’s a general distrust of Bill in the episode that works, because she’s making mistakes as a new Companion that others would not.  (Which is why it’s strange that some lines suggest she’s been around longer than she has.)

 

One interesting item to ponder is how quickly Bill lets The Doctor off the proverbial hook after his speech.  I wonder if she would feel the same way about The Doctor if she was aware of his own colonialist attitudes in classic serials like “The Colony in Space” and similar tales that exposed The Doctor as someone with the potential to become much more like The Master.  It would almost be a shame if the writers failed to explore this idea when episodes like “Thin Ice” clearly capitalize on Bill’s very different life experience from the typical privileged Companion.

 


 

Nardole actually gets some screen time in this installment, with the revelation that there is something very much alive in the vault that The Doctor is supposed to be protecting.  The moment is played for humor, and yet there is the undercurrent of concern and fear in Nardole’s reaction to it.  That makes it even more intriguing, as it suggests a situation that should not be a concern but could turn out to be far more complex than imagined or realized.  The slow burn on this subplot is much appreciated.


Our Grade:
B-
The Good:
  • Addressing the very obvious items of race and class politics that Bill would encounter
  • Capaldi’s performance continues to carry the tenth series thus far
The Bad:
  • Unfortunately, Bill is still underwhelming as a Companion, despite the benefit of not being a walking plot device

John Keegan aka "criticalmyth", is one of the hosts of the "Critical Myth" podcast heard here on VOG Network's radio feed Monday, Wednesday & Friday. You can follow him on twitter at @criticalmyth

Doctor Who by - 5/1/2017 1:11 PM49 views

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