Doctor Who: Thin Ice
April 30, 2017 2:51 PM - Season 10, Episode 3 - Subscribe

Bill's crash course in how to be a Companion of the Doctor continues as she learns that the Tardis can be more inclined to take you where you need to be than where you want to go, and that 2,000 years of crisis intervention can do odd things to your humanity, especially when you're not actually human in the first place. Hard questions are asked. Hard lessons are learned. Nazis Racist imperialists are punched. And under the frozen Thames of 1814, the lights are circling...

Sarah Dollard, writer of 'Face the Raven' (previously on FanFare) returns with an episode that showcases some of the Doctor's contradictions: ruthlessly pragmatic almost to the point of callousness, after more deaths than he can remember, he is nonetheless fundamentally liberal and humane. And although Bill saw the aftermath of death in the previous story (which this one follows directly on from, as the Tardis takes a temporal diversion on the way back to the Doctor's apparent Earthbound exile), here she has to not only deal with it happening in front of her, but she has to learn to come to terms with the Doctor's no-time-to-mourn attitude in the face of a crisis.

Still no explanation of why the Doctor is apparently sworn to remain on Earth, although it's an oath that he, to Nardole's manifest annoyance, interprets very flexibly. And still no explanation of what's in the vault, although we now know a little more: it's alive, and it wants out.

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posted by Major Clanger (28 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Still no explanation of why the Doctor is apparently sworn to remain on Earth, although it's an oath that he, to Nardole's manifest annoyance, interprets very flexibly. And still no explanation of what's in the vault, although we now know a little more: it's alive, and it wants out.

Oh, that's a relief - I thought I was supposed to know already - it's been so long between seasons, I barely remember who Nardole is/how he met the Doctor.
posted by oh yeah! at 4:07 PM on April 30, 2017

Well, I decided to give this season a whirl despite my profound annoyance with recent years, and so far I'm having fun with it.

I especially liked the following exchange:
Bill: So what're the rules?
Doctor: Rules?
Bill: You know, for traveling to the past. I mean, I could step on a butterfly or something and disappear because I was never born.
Doctor: Oh, definitely! That's what happened to Pete!
Bill: Pete?
Doctor: My friend, Pete. He was standing there a moment ago, *points*, then he stepped on a butterfly and you don't even remember him.
Bill: ... shut UP! *thwaps him*
Which I thought was a really clever way to sneak in some pretty complicated ideas about how time travel works in Doctor Who without actually going for the exposition. The Doctor teasing Bill was better.

Special mention to the line about whitewashing, the Doctor congratulating all the petty crooks and the bit about the sonic screwdriver though. I really like this pairing - the two of them have some old school chemistry I've been missing.

I just hope whatever's in the vault isn't tedious.
posted by mordax at 4:13 PM on April 30, 2017 [9 favorites]

The season finales are always tedious. But they're not really for the fans. They're designed to be event television to pull in casual viewers. Used to work well, but the last few years they've satisfied almost nobody.
posted by rikschell at 5:59 PM on April 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

The season finales are always tedious.

Hm. This is fair, but I suppose I'm still hoping. As long as the individual stories are still good, it won't be too big a disappointment.
posted by mordax at 8:16 PM on April 30, 2017

I really enjoyed this, again. This series has a very strong Eccleston/Rose vibe to me. Which isn't a favourite of mine, but works very well as a reset/introduction. It feels like fun again.

We've been rewatching Capaldi's first series too. It's really noticeable to me how few of the stories are memorable to the point where I can barely remember how "Time Heist" resolves despite having watched it a few days ago.
posted by threetwentytwo at 2:42 AM on May 1, 2017

I really enjoyed this episode; my favourite of the season so far. I really love the Doctor/Bill dynamic. I love that she's in love with the TARDIS ("She has dresses and likes a bit of trouble") and kudos to the line about Jesus being blacker than history makes him out. Just a really great episode.

I have my suspicions about the vault and it seems very Moffaty (a bit too close to the Pandorica, to be honest) but since the finale is essentially Moffat's swan-song, I expect the pay off will be worth it.
posted by crossoverman at 3:55 AM on May 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

Lots I liked in this episode, only grumble was how cramped the set on the ice looked but we know the show's always on a budget so wanting something wider/more filmic is just wishful thinking.

Mildly (pleasantly!) surprised that there isn't (yet?) a "Ban This Sick Filth" campaign over the Jesus line. I enjoyed that there was a bit of an edge to the episode, Bill pinning the Doctor down with her questioning was great, the villainous Lord being called Suttcliffe, the aforementioned Jesus line and accompanying exchange about historic/pop-culture representations, etc. Also, Capaldi threw out a serious Tom Baker shit-eating grin a couple of times, I liked that as well as the humorous/informative discussion about poor old Pete.

nthing the comment about something feeling very Rose-y, or RTD-era Who. Although I think part of that is that we haven't had the "standard" new companion introduction since Amy Pond back in 2010 (i.e. the familiarisation episodes of present>future>past including an "OMG you really are an alien, morals and all" experience).

If it's alright to drop pet theories and general speculation here, I'll go for this. the Doctor is already regenerating and the entire series is set during his Ten-style meet'n'greet session but ludicrously-extended, hence the oath to stay in one place (probably because his Five-ish Watcher is in the Vault). Final story he'll probably end up getting weaker and weaker One-style before having to do-the-do with the Watcher. No less daft than anything that's gone before, although mechanically a bit like the old Hammer Horror The Asphyx now I think about it.
posted by comealongpole at 6:16 AM on May 1, 2017

The definition of a Moffat payoff is that it's not worth it. The man writes great-looking checks, but he can never cash them. It is good to see the show having fun and backing off on the self-importance. If Chris Chibnall could do one thing to improve the show, I'd love for the production to be a little less in love with itself, to bring its head a bit out of its own ass.
posted by rikschell at 6:40 AM on May 1, 2017 [7 favorites]

I'm guessing its Missy in the vault. The Doctor has "threatened"/offered on more than one occasion in the new series to basically just lock the Master up and "keep" him.

From "Last of the Time Lords":

The Master: You still haven't answered the question. What happens to me?

The Doctor: You're my responsibility from now on. The only Time Lord left in existence.

Captain Jack Harkness: Yeah, but you can't trust him.

The Doctor: No. The only safe place for him is the TARDIS.

The Master: You mean, you're just gonna... keep me?

The Doctor: If that's what I have to do. It's time to change. Maybe I've been wandering for too long. Now I've got someone to care for.
posted by Servo5678 at 8:04 AM on May 1, 2017 [7 favorites]

I hope it's Meglos in the vault : "He's been in a very persistent vegetative state and he's feeling a bit prickly."

But it's going to be something pants and too clever by half: it's the Master and they're attempting to stop him to stop him regenerating into Missy.

This episode was silly and dull except for the Doctor/ Bill interactions which were good. Capaldi looks more relaxed than he has in the role and probably because he has a good foil.

There wasn't a thread last week, but I liked that one a lot more. But partially because my wife and I watched it with my son (daughter not interested for now). That felt like a moment, particularly when after the episode I took him to my laptop and showed him a episode of The Power of the Daleks (newly animated) that's on iView, and said "that was from before I was born".
posted by hawthorne at 8:13 AM on May 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Is anyone else in the US having trouble hearing the show (or nearly any other show) on BBC America? I keep missing whole chunks of dialog, and turning up the volume doesn't seem to help.

(Sorry if this doesn't belong here...mods, please remove if necessary.)
posted by PlusDistance at 11:01 AM on May 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Britannia has always had a different standard for miking and sound editing. So much so that my mother would tell me not to mumble by commenting, "You sound like you're on a British TV show!"
posted by rikschell at 11:36 AM on May 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

The sound mix is brutally bad. We watch it with subtitles on.
posted by fimbulvetr at 11:49 AM on May 1, 2017 [6 favorites]

I also always watch Doctor Who with the subtitles. I'm glad I'm not the only one.
posted by wittgenstein at 1:55 PM on May 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

The sound mix is brutally bad. We watch it with subtitles on.

The sound mix is great if you want to listen to Murray Gold's score without any of that pesky dialog getting in the way. Can't even hear the dialog half the time.
posted by nathan_teske at 1:58 PM on May 1, 2017 [6 favorites]

Could someone tell me what happened in the final scene with Nardole tending to the vault? My dvr stopped recording exactly on the hour so I missed part of the scene.
posted by nathan_teske at 1:59 PM on May 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Special mention to the line about whitewashing

Yes, that was lovely. It reminded me of Martha's "not exactly white" conversation with the Doctor on her first trip, so I looked it up. S3E2, The Shakespeare Code:
MARTHA: Oh, but hold on. Am I all right? I'm not going to get carted off as a slave, am I?
DOCTOR: Why would they do that?
MARTHA: Not exactly white, in case you haven't noticed.
DOCTOR: I'm not even human. Just walk about like you own the place. Works for me. Besides, you'd be surprised. Elizabethan England, not so different from your time.
Another bit of new-companion-establishing-the-ground-rules synchrony: Bill and the Doctor talk here about the butterfly effect. Martha and the Doctor back then:
MARTHA: I mean, can we move around and stuff?
DOCTOR: Of course we can. Why do you ask?
MARTHA: It's like in the films. You step on a butterfly, you change the future of the human race.
DOCTOR: Tell you what then, don't step on any butterflies. What have butterflies ever done to you?
MARTHA: What if, I don't know, what if I kill my grandfather?
DOCTOR: Are you planning to?
DOCTOR: Well, then.
(I do wonder if A Sound of Thunder is as pervasive a reference as Doctor Who's writers think it is. )
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 2:05 PM on May 1, 2017 [5 favorites]

We had a deal, Kyle :(I do wonder if A Sound of Thunder is as pervasive a reference as Doctor Who's writers think it is. )

Well, there was also that Simpsons episode
posted by coriolisdave at 3:09 PM on May 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

I don't think the Bradbury story itself is particularly well known, but "the butterfly effect" as a concept is fairly culturally ubiquitous. There's even a few movies about it.
posted by Roommate at 6:51 PM on May 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

"I really enjoyed this episode; my favourite of the season so far."

This was my favorite episode in a long while. I think it was very well written, it held together (unlike usually), it flowed well, it had several really nice and revealing character scenes, and it mostly didn't have any hidden fridge moments (later: "wait, what?") And no facepalming sexism. If this was how the show was most of the time, I'd be thrilled.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:21 PM on May 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

Much like Ivan, I really enjoyed this episode SO MUCH and I wish Moffat could have given us more like this instead of the unwatchable dreck that we got most of the time.
posted by miss-lapin at 8:09 AM on May 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

Thanks for picking out that bit, We had a deal, Kyle.

It's really sad: it's the same commentary, but when The Doctor says it to Martha it's about the past but when he says it to Bill it's about the present.
posted by hawthorne at 8:57 AM on May 2, 2017

I haven't seen anyone mention the name of the writer yet, so while I don't have a lot to add that others haven't said already, I am going to say that Sarah Dollard (also the writer of Face the Raven) is a gift and I hope when Chris Chibnall takes over he hires her back to do at least one story a season and then passes on the showrunner baton.
posted by bettafish at 3:53 PM on May 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

That punch was pretty good. I guess that billion years of wall-punching paid off.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:56 AM on May 5, 2017

Just wanted to bring up that the Doctor has mentioned a couple times this season that he is 2000 years old. Not sure if it's just because New Companion, or if there's something to it.

It also seems that, in the past, he has never been quite so certain about his age. And shouldn't he be older than 2000 anyway?
posted by 2ht at 2:25 AM on May 7, 2017

And I find the commentary about the audio mix weird - last season, maybe last two has truly been utterly awful for mix, but this season has seemed like they've managed to push the score down in the mix so we can actually hear the dialog again.
posted by Kyol at 12:10 PM on May 9, 2017

I don't think the Doctor is counting his time in the Confession Dial as actual aging, since technically the version that escaped was only in the dial for, what, a few hours? A couple of days? Not very long, anyway.
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:03 PM on January 31, 2023

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