Thin Ice by Sarah Dollard
Warning: Minor Spoilers.
Maintaining the usual Who format, after giving a new companion a trip to the future, Bill gets one to the past as well in Thin Ice. It was written by Sarah Dollard (writer of last year’s excellent Face the Raven) who yet again showed her ability when it comes to writing dialogue – check out the tense exchange between Bill and the Doctor over his non-reaction to a young urchin’s death or the Doctor’s speech on what marks an evolved species – both were excellent character moments.
Unfortunately, unlike Face the Raven, this lacks any real oomph. It’s a fun, but ultimately forgettable run-around. There’s a fair few ideas we’ve seen before (the humans are the real villains, not the large alien monster who is merely surviving) and all the stuff about race and privilege seemed a bit on the nose (though I applaud them for including it, and I did cheer when the Doctor punched a racist aristocrat). It was just a bit too inconsequential for me, in a way reminiscent of some of Rose’s early stories. Nevertheless, Bill and the Doctor were still a delight, and it was good to see Capaldi having more to do this week.
The pacing was also noticeably more uneven than the last two weeks, perhaps to its detriment, as the plot took 20 mins to really get going and then moved so fast it skipped over anything particularly interesting. The direction also seemed a bit flat compared to Lawrence Gough’s excellent work on the opening two stories. I didn’t dislike the episode (it has a certain simple charm) but I prefer slightly more substantial stories.
Ultimately, the episode may have been better off ditching the monster entirely and just focusing on the unjust aspects of Georgian society – Bill and the Doctor’s reaction to the rampant inequality was certainly the episode’s strong point – especially considering the whole ‘monster waste as fuel’ plot was a bit crap and didn’t go anywhere. Lord Sutcliffe was also a very thinly drawn villain – lacking any real menace or interesting qualities. I guess the point was that he was a laughable figure, but after 3 episodes with weak or could’ve-been-better villains, I’m expecting the Doctor to face something more substantial next time. Fortunately, David Suchet’s Landlord looks set to provide just that…
Rating: 3 out of 5
Overall an average episode, though one with an important message and one punch the air moment. Hopefully Bill Anderson’s direction is a bit more creative next time.
Next Time: Bill gets a nightmare of a landlord (we’ve all been there) and finds herself in a Monster House…
Side Note: So there’s something alive in the Vault. Missy, John Simm or the Cybermen? Whatever it is, I’m starting to hope it kills Nardole and stops him whinging about oaths every episode (come on guys, Matt Lucas was good in the Xmas Special, give him something better to do than be a wet blanket).