Monday, 15 May 2017

TV Review No. 48 Doctor Who: Thin Ice (S10, Ep3)

Strong Points:
Justification for actions and reactions
Subtly dealt with racism
Twists and turns
Telling the story with no speech
The Doctor's monologue
The paper which can make you part of any organisation

Weak Points:
Some 'off' bits of CGI
The final choice
Still odd reactions from The Doctor to death

In-depth Review:
The setting for this week's episode completes the trio of the present, the future and the past of the last three episodes, being set in the 1800's in London, during one of the great frosts which froze over the Thames allowing for fairs to occur on it, complete with elephants. One of the main themes of this episode was race, with Bill asking whether she was allowed in the past London due to her complexion. The episode deals with this question well, not by hiding Bill and her race behind some faked 'profession' using The Doctors magic papers (which do make an appearance) but by simply showing that there were blacks and other races with privilege and status in the 1800's, just not as much as one would've liked.

Remember, the less humanoid a monster is, the less evil and more wondrous it is (helps if it is huge). It's odd, really, but unsurprising that our biggest fears are with monsters of the human variety or at least with humanoid characters - look at The Weeping Angels or Cybermen as examples, and that monsters which are larger and could potentially do more damage, like the river monster in this weeks episode are treated with awe - I guess we know more about human's thoughts and reactions than giant river creatures. All in all, though, I liked this monster of the week, even if the CGI was sometimes a bit worse for wear.

More 'red-shirts' dying this episode, but finally with some reaction and justification which is good. Bill, who has often been used to question some of The Doctor's rules and habits, questioning The Doctor about how he can just move on from the death of the child in the opening half of the episode was almost tough viewing as we realise (not for the first time) that The Doctor isn't this omnibenevolent, omnipotent creature who can and will save all (The Doctor turning it round on Bill and asking why the dead people from last week were any different to the kid this week was also a great piece of writing). It was nice to have this outburst as I've found it frustrating in the last couple of episodes about The Doctor's apparent disregard for the other humans besides Bill and to see that it was a story point and not an overlook was nice. And then they moved on, because as The Doctor says, 'you just have to' which to me still seems a bit odd but I guess I can't imagine the pain The Doctor feels at his age and the amount of death he has witnessed.

We had two great moments with the Doctor in this episode, both carrying power and gravitas but administered slightly differently. We had the quick punch towards Lord Sutcliffe after the beginnings of a racist remark and provoking a 'yeah' from the living room and another classic Doctor monologue, this time about the value of life and like his monologue in the Zygon Invasion shows just how impressive Capaldi is in his acting and the quality of writing Doctor Who has - two things which some people have called into dispute in the past couple of years.

We also had two moments of reflection in this episode, one loud and fast, the other quiet and atmospheric. The first moment of reflection was the clever underwater scene when Bill and The Doctor decide to check out the monster in the Thames and slowly realise the scale of the beast. Dodgy CGI aside, I really liked this part and showed that the show could tell a story without lots of exposition, questions or even talking as well as allowing us to reflect on the majestic nature of the caged beast, and why someone would want to cage it. The other moment of reflection was the final choice Bill had to make, referencing the choice Clara had in 'Kill the Moon', and, at least for me, changing my opinion on who should be responsible for the beast and its actions at least five times.

Conclusion: overall, I think this was the best episode of the series so far, balanced and well paced as well as finally justifying some The Doctor's more controversial actions to some extent.

Rating: 80%

Thanks for reading, Satamer.

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