Series 10, Story 03 (Overall Series Story #268) | Previous - Next | Index
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The question comes up all the time, "What's a good episode of Doctor Who for a newbie to start with?" "Thin Ice" may be my new answer.
If you've read this blog or my twitter, you know where I stand on the "Should Nazis Be Punched?" question. (My position, in case you don't me, is yes. Yes, Nazis should be punched, no-platformed, heckled, jeered and otherwise made to feel Nazism is unacceptable behavior.) When the Doctor decks a white supremacist, this became my instant favorite of the new season. The speech -- people are calling it a speech, but it isn't exactly the "The Zygon Invasion/Inversion," Black Archive speech -- is that comes a moment after the punch made we want to leap off the couch and punch the sky.
SUTCLIFFE: Girl, you show the ignorance of all your kind. Without that beast, my mills would rely on coal mines, and men die in coal mines all the time.Such fisticuffs and moralizing, it's feeling very Pertwee Era up in here. (As Sandifer notes, the first death, a drunk who wanders away from the crowd, is also reminiscent of the Pertwee era where local color fatalities were often used to establish the menace in the early going.) There's one other way this episode put me in the mind of tail end of Pertwee's run ... it has to do with the companion.
DOCTOR: I preferred it when you were alien.
SUTCLIFFE: When I was?
DOCTOR: Well, that explained the lack of humanity. What makes you so sure that your life is worth more than those people out there on the ice? Is it the money? The accident of birth that puts you inside the big, fancy house?
SUTCLIFFE: I help move this country forward. I move this Empire forward.
DOCTOR: 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. The boy who died on the river, that boy's value is your value. That's what defines an age. That's what defines a species.
SUTCLIFFE: What a beautiful speech. The rhythm and, and vocabulary, quite outstanding. It's enough to move anyone with an ounce of compassion. So, it's really not your day, is it?
Bill's anguish upon witness her first death is heart-breaking. She's great here. (Bill, the character, and Pearl playing the role of Bill.) It's early, but as much as I've loved Rose, Martha, Donna, and Clara, Bill is the first companion I've found myself feeling the same way I felt (gulp) about Sarah Jane Smith. There, I said it. Just a few days after the anniversary of Lis Sladen passing away it feels like there is another character on the show capable of inspiring the same affection.. Still, it's early, and thanks to all the information/rumor we fans have available to us about the production, I'm already accepting that she's meant to be a one season companion who'll be replaced, along with this Doctor, in the change to a new showrunner for Series 11. I don't expect she'll have enough time to fully inherit that mantle, much as I find myself wishing now she'd be allowed the time to do so.
This season's start is significantly strengthened by the third episode, surpassing the introduction and rebounding nicely from the slight misstep of the second episode. Next week's has a bit of the look of the Series 7 haunted house story, "Hide." Or maybe it puts you in the mind of the house where Sally Sparrow finds the Angels?
- There were maybe two wrong notes struck in the episode. First, Bill's appreciative glance at the Doctor after his mini-speech was how we all felt, but shooting that to really draw our attention to Bill's reaction, right in that moment, felt a bit over-the-top. Weirdly, because as I said, I think every viewer with an ounce compassion reacted exactly as she did. Second, the Pete joke would've totally worked for me in any episode prior to Rory being disappeared and Amy forgetting he ever existed. Sure, the Doctor moves on, as this episode makes clear but given how he's seen that actually play out ... and moreover knowing that his memory of Clara had been expunged, it just didn't seem like joke he could make at this point in his timeline. Then again, Capaldi is always reminding us the Doctor is alien, a Time Lord, and to expect human reactions or inhibitions from him is a mistake.
- Sorry, a third off-note, the Jesus name drop. Don't get me wrong, I love that he references the whitewashing of history. It's just I don't ever want to see a show that does this many Christmas specials go anywhere near a Jesus story, or even imply such a story could happen. When the Doctor mentioned Jesus, it immediately made me think of mawkishness in "The Romans," and that awful Third Doctor Puffin e-book, "The Spear of Destiny."
- This episode was written by Sarah Dollard. If Chris Chibnall doesn't bring her back when he takes over the show, shame on him.
Tardis Wikia Entry
There is of course a thin line between this and just saying I like the episode because of its politics. And to be fair, I do like the episode because of its politics. I mean, the Doctor literally sucker punches a racist. Of course I like it. Shit, I suspect even Jack is going to turn out to like it. Yes, most of its overtly political statements are very right-on and generic ones that are easily traced to common social justice rhetoric on Twitter. But Smile’s politics were just as generic. The difference, and the reason this works as opposed to just being a confused mess, isn’t just that the politics are good, it’s that they’re coherent. This is a story where all the ideas are actually pointing the same way. The story is about exploitation, and so Bill talks about slavery, points out the erasure of black people from history, and confronts a racist shitlord. Where Smile spent most of its time having no idea what it wanted to be, taking up and discarding ideas willy nilly, Thin Ice knows exactly what it wants to do.AV Club review (A grade)
After a pair of introductory episodes that established a promising new TARDIS team amid only so-so adventures, the Doctor and Bill finally get a story and a script worthy of them with Sarah Dollard’s brilliant “Thin Ice.” There’s much to celebrate about this episode, but more than anything else is just how much watching it made me smile. Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie are a brilliant comedic double act, with the Doctor especially getting a ton of great lines. Their early exchange about the temporally deleted companion Pete has fun with what could otherwise be standard companion questions about the perils of time travel.TV Tropes recap
The Guardian recap