Series Issues: Doctor Who walks on Thin Ice

There’s more depth to Doctor Who this week, and it’s a welcomed addition.

(Source: BBC One)

Granted, it’s not much but it’s well balanced. Amidst an adventure in London in the middle of the Frost Fair of 1814, Bill addresses the Doctor’s approach to death. How many has he seen die? How many before he lost count? As the Doctor states he’s moved on, another relevant question comes up. How many has he killed? It’s refreshing to have Bill along because she’s rising up questions that are more in line with an informed sci-fi enthusiast.

The question of time travel is even trivialized. That’s fair game. I would expect a show about traveling in a Police blue box can’t have too rigid a rule. “Don’t worry about it,” is the Doctor’s reply to messing with the timeline. Fine, time travel is hardly up for debate (yet) but other serious subjects? When Bill addresses the much serious question of slavery in the past, the answer is muddled. The Doctor can’t answer it, it seems above the show’s powers. However, we do get a bit of old world racism from Lord Sutcliffe later on. The show answers that one a lot more clearly with the Doctor just punching the offending villain in the face.

Guess I should give you a quick recap. There’s a huge sea creature under the ice kept chained for generations by Lord Sutcliffe and his ancestors. The fair is just a way to get victims to be picked by the smaller fish creatures that make sure its bigger brethren is fed. Sutcliff even has a ragtag band of street urchins enticing people to the fair, who also pick pocket on the side. Yes, the sonic screwdriver gets stolen for the nth iteration. You can guess how it all turns out.

Besides the light “the real monster was the one in the fancy mansion the entire time” lesson, we also learn the Doctor serves at the pleasure of the human race. That one hasn’t been put in the proper context in a while. It’s left up to Bill if the creature under the ice is to be freed or killed. And of course Bill’s hesitation comes from the beast’s possible fury when unleashed. Wouldn’t more lives be spared by killing it?

“If your future is built on the suffering of that creature, what’s your future worth?” says the Doctor, and the framing is on the nose. Despite his diatribe on how only idiots know all the answers, the Doctor knows but prefers to get an order from the human race, and that’s what Bill represents.

Highs/Lows/LightsUnderTheIce:

  • Pretty much a solid story, albeit without no big surprises. It had a very Dickensian, very classic feel to it.
  • Bill continues to impress, as a companion that early on has shown the insight to question the Doctor. The triviality of time travel gets a simple answer. The question of slavery is not even attempted. But life and death for the last of the Time Lords are the big questions to address.
  • Does the Doctor really serve at the pleasure of the human race? He’s made rash decisions before without consulting his companion. Was it simply a lesson for Bill?
  • The Doctor presumably takes the kegs of explosives down below the ice and next to the chains to free up the sea creature. The stuff is supposed to burn under water. I presume it can be detonated under water as well.
  • The sonic screwdriver is the only thing left tied to the original detonator cable. It’s used to figuratively hook Sutcliffe and attract the lights. That’s still believable. What it’s a bit hard to believe is that the cable can be used to retrieve the sonic screwdriver back without tangling on anything.
  • The pie merchant’s coin trick that the Doctor wants to see done before him is later used by the Doctor himself on Nardole to get him to leave him alone.
  • We keep going to the vault door and now we know there’s someone or something trying to get out.

That will do for now.

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