Please feel free to comment on my review.
Victorian Frost Fair with the Twelfth Doctor and Bill
Okay! First of all, I need to protest! The ‘Doctor Who’ production team can’t use ‘Thin Ice’ as a title for a television episode. It has already been used for the Seventh Doctor audio tale called ‘Thin Ice’.
Couldn’t they have given the episode another title such as ‘Thin Frost’ or something like that? Otherwise, this episode has been enjoyable to watch and it feels a lot better after a second viewing.
The episode picks up from where we left off in the previous one, ‘Smile’, where the Doctor and Bill saw an elephant coming towards them in London. It was also snowing with the Thames frozen over.
These oddities get answered. The episode sees the Twelfth Doctor and Bill on a new adventure in Regency London in 1814. So this is nice. After a futuristic adventure, it is now time for an historical.
The Doctor and Bill attend a frost fair. Wait! Hang on! This sounds familiar. Has the Doctor been here before? Oh! Yes! Apparently he has. He was at the very same frost fair when he was the First Doctor.
That was in the Big Finish audio story, ‘Frostfire’, and he had Vicki and Steven with him. In the new series, the Eleventh Doctor took River Song to the same fair according to ‘A Good Man Goes To War’.
In this story, the Doctor and Bill enjoy themselves in their Regency gear, exploring the frost fair. I liked seeing the Doctor and Bill in Victorian clothes; looking very grand, posh and almost aristocratic.
I enjoyed it when Bill asked the Doctor questions about the dangers of walking in the past. The questions asked have echoes when Martha asked them to Tenth Doctor in ‘The Shakespeare Code’.
I also liked it when the Doctor and Bill seemed to be having fun exploring the frost fair and partaking in its various activities. The Doctor is clearly relishing seeing Bill enjoying herself about the frost fair.
However, the Doctor and Bill soon discover that there’s this mysterious alien-like sea creature underneath the frozen Thames in London. This creates a big mystery for the Doctor and Bill to solve.
They have to find out how a gigantic sea creature got underneath the Thames in the first place. This soon leads them to meeting up with the villainous Sutcliffe, who is responsible for this sea monster.
By the way, this episode is by Sarah Dollard. Sarah previously contributed to Series 9 of ‘Doctor Who’ in the episode, ‘Face the Raven’. I did find ‘Thin Ice’ a better episode compared to ‘Face the Raven’.
Mind you, on first viewing, I found it fairly okay. I enjoyed the historical setting of Regency London, but the tale fell rather flat for me. It wasn’t very exciting enough as it could have been when I saw it.
Having seen it again, I did enjoy it more and appreciated the dynamic of the Doctor and Bill in their character development and their relationship. However, I wouldn’t rate this as a superb classic tale.
It’s a shame as Sarah Dollard does deliver some intriguing concepts for this episode as well as in ‘Face the Raven’. But I feel there’s something lacking from it as the concepts don’t feel fleshed out.
For one thing, it didn’t seem like the people at the frost fair were freezing cold as they should have been. Everyone takes it in their stride attending the frost fair, making it feel less historically accurate.
There was one gripping scene that I enjoyed in this episode and it’s when the Doctor and Bill go down in diving suits underneath the Thames. It was scary and eerie to see it, especially underwater.
The scene put me in mind of the ‘Doctor Who’ book, ‘Empire of Death’, where characters including the Fifth Doctor went underwater in diving suits. I wonder how Sarah Dollard gained her inspiration.
Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie are reasonably good in the episode. I enjoyed those scenes where Bill was challenging the Doctor on his morals when something terrible happened during the episode.
That was when Austin Taylor as Spider, who stole the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver, got sucked into the frozen Thames by the sea creature underneath. I found that daring of Sarah Dollard to include it here.
Bill questions the Doctor about whether he had killed anyone in his life. The Doctor eventually tells Bill that he did but insists that he has ‘moved on’. It is something Bill struggles to comprehend in this.
At this point, Bill is growing on me as a ‘Doctor Who’ companion. She works well alongside the Twelfth Doctor in the series, especially in identifying the good sides of his personality as well as bad.
I did wonder though whether we should have four-part adventures back on our TV screens by this point. I seem to enjoy four-part adventures more than I enjoy single hour episodes in ‘Doctor Who’.
The reason why I bring this up is because we didn’t get to see enough of the monster in full form on TV. Having ‘Thin Ice’ as a longer two-parter could’ve helped to allow us to see more of the creature.
There was a lot to take in and there weren’t that many action-packed sequences for us to enjoy. I had expected the massive sea creature to come bursting out from the Thames to attack London city.
The monster did seem to be underused a lot in the episode and you can clearly see it’s a CGI creation. I wouldn’t mind this so much, but the monster could have at least provided a threat in this.
Also where did this sea creature come from? It’s not clear whether it’s an outer-space alien or a native being like a Silurian. I don’t think it’s properly explained. Was there an explanation for it here?
ROWAN ATKINSON’S DOCTOR: “I’ll explain later!”
(scoffs) Oh well, that makes perfect sense. Trust me, you might see Rowan Atkinson’s Doctor pop up once and while in my Series 10 reviews. It occurs when something’s not explained at all in the series.
The villain for this episode is Nicholas Burns as Lord Sutcliffe, a Victorian businessman who purchased the sea creature. He is that person who placed the sea creature underneath the Thames.
And I found Sutcliffe wasted in this episode. Oh Nicholas Burns does a fine portrayal of the character, no doubt about that. But again, like the monster, we don’t see enough of him in the tale.
He appears rather late during the second half of the episode. There does seem to be this build-up to the reveal of the villain’s identity, yet there wasn’t enough time for us to appreciate his own villainy.
The story focused a lot on the Doctor and Bill’s characters before we get to the heart of the matter with the villain. Not that I’d mind a focus on our main stars. We are supposed to like them of course.
But again, had ‘Thin Ice’ been longer and there was more time spent on the villain’s plans as well as the monster in two episodes, this could have been a great story. So that’s a missed opportunity here.
It was suggested to me that there could’ve been more in Sarah Dollard’s script that was cut out in the episode’s final edit. I hoped that’d be the case when we came to the deleted scenes on the DVD.
However when I checked the DVD box set to see the deleted scenes from Series 10 of ‘Doctor Who’, there was only one deleted scene for ‘Thin Ice’. And it didn’t develop Sutcliffe’s character. I just…No!
I mean, Sutcliffe’s plan is to see the people at the London frost fair being fed to the sea creature to increase his own power and wealth. Okay. Um…why would Sutcliffe want to do such a nasty thing?!
ROWAN ATKINSON’S DOCTOR: “I’ll explain later!”
(unconvinced) Right. (Pause) It would’ve been nice to have seen more of Sutcliffe’s character in this episode and also see him developed further as he seemed to have potential. Sadly that wasn’t to be.
However, there was this superb scene in the episode.
Yes! The Doctor punching Sutcliffe was pretty good, especially as he seemed racist towards Bill’s presence in his own house. It was a good defining moment for Peter Capaldi’s Doctor to defend Bill.
The episode also features Asiatu Koroma as Kitty; Ellie Shenker as little Dottie; Kishaina Thiruselvan as Harriet and Badger Skelton as Perry. These urchin children help the Doctor and Bill in the episode.
This is when the Doctor and Bill are trying to evacuate everyone out of the frost fair area before Sutcliffe unleashes his diabolical plan. The urchin children assist in evacuating everyone out of here.
Thankfully, the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver in order to free the sea creature out from the trap it’s in, breaking the ice in the Thames. Sutcliffe also gets his just deserts when he falls into the river.
The four urchin children that helped the Doctor and Bill are rewarded when Bill and the Doctor invite them to Sutcliffe’s house. They have a meal and the Doctor also gives the house ownership to Perry.
The Doctor and Bill eventually return to the present day back in the Doctor’s office at St. Luke’s University. Matt Lucas makes a small appearance as Nardole when bringing in cups of tea at the end.
Nardole is pretty annoyed with the Doctor for breaking his ‘oath’. I became curious as to what was inside that vault that the Doctor’s supposed to be guarding. Was it dangerous? Was it very significant?
‘Thin Ice’ is pretty average as a ‘Doctor Who’ story goes. There was a lot to take in and I don’t think the sea creature and the villainous Sutcliffe were that fleshed out. But the story was decent enough.
The DVD special features on this episode are as follows. On Disc 1 of ‘Series 10 – Part 1’ of ‘Doctor Who’, there’s the ‘Thin Ice’ – Inside Look’ featurette.
On Disc 2 of ‘The Complete Series 10’ of ‘Doctor Who’, the ‘Thin Ice’ – Inside Look’ featurette can also be found on there. On Disc 6, there’s the ‘Doctor Who: The Fan Show – The Aftershow’ edition for this episode.
‘Thin Ice’ rating – 7/10
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