Last week, we saw The Doctor and Bill accidentally land on the frozen Thames, confronted by an elephant. If you spent the last week wondering exactly what that was about, we’ll finally be getting answers in this episode, “Thin Ice”.
Bill thinks that they must be in a parallel world because it seems so unfamiliar to her. They’re meant to be back in The Doctor’s office, waiting for a cup of tea. He shows her that it is, in fact, her Earth in 1814.
When The Doctor suggests checking out the surroundings, Bill makes note that she might not get on well given that slavery still existed. She gets to raid the TARDIS wardrobe! We’re getting a lot more information on where things are located within the TARDIS this series. I wonder if it would make any sense if someone drew out a map…
Both Bill and The Doctor are “low-key in love” with the TARDIS. They aren’t the only ones.
A man runs into The Doctor and drops his vegetable basket off the bridge where they’re standing. It hits the ice, cracking it, and a shoe drops through the frozen water, waking up a beast! Are we waiting for the other shoe to drop now? (Sorry.)
Big eyes, big teeth, antennae – yep, it’s the Monster of the Week!
The Doctor and Bill are looking very dapper, but they miss the TARDIS’s warning that a life form is detected in the Thames – like, a super massive life form that seems to take up miles of the river. Bill is preoccupied with the Butterfly Effect, and The Doctor teases her that she’s already lost a friend that way. Don’t you remember Pete?
A little girl is selling flyers into the Frost Fair. They bite, The Doctor gives the wee dote his fancy hat, and they step down onto the river. Bill says she is going to try everything there is, but she quickly regrets that statement when she sees what food is on offer – lots of offal in the Frost Fair. They stop to take in some theatrics, and Bill notices there are other black people in fancy clothes. It’s not what she expected from the movies.
The creature in the river appears to be sending out little emissaries that are balls of light. Bill notices a couple of them as she’s winning at skittles, but she is distracted by The Doctor thieving a new hat. Bill buys a fish pie – it’s really fish; she checked – but not before losing a coin to the pie man in a trick. The Doctor wants to see how the trick is done and bets he can steal anything from the man’s shop – in theory only!
Bill is worried that she might be hallucinating the lights from time travel side effects, but The Doctor has seen them, too. He says he figured they’d get to work eventually. At the same time, a drunkard is wandering alone in a foggy patch of ice to follow the lights. A lovely sound effect later, we see the drunkard’s bottle spinning on the ice, the man nowhere in sight. Did the lights take him?
Another young girl asks The Doctor and Bill for help finding her lost dog. Bill believes her, but The Doctor notices that her story doesn’t match up to the lead and collar she is holding. A boy runs up and pickpockets them, stealing the sonic screwdriver! They give chase but get halted by some more theatrics and lose the kids. When they spot them again, the lights are chasing the boy (Spider), too. The girl shouts that the lights will pull him under and “have him transported”, and Bill and The Doctor arrive just in time to see him pulled mostly under. His hand is still above the ice, clutching the sonic. The Doctor grabs it just before Spider completely disappears, and Bill is very angry that The Doctor is doing nothing to bring him back. He says the boy is gone, but, when he tries to get the girl to give him more information, she points out that Bill has left.
When he finds her, she is crying because she’s never seen someone die. He argues that she shouldn’t see a difference between dead and dying; after all, they were only just standing in a garden full of dead people. She wants to know how many people he’s seen die. He should know if he cares so much. He doesn’t know the answer, though, because he has moved on, and Bill asks if he has ever killed anyone. He tries to explain that there aren’t always other options … that the circumstances might mean … but the short answer is yes. He doesn’t know how many of them, either. He says he HAS to move on because, if he doesn’t, more people will die. Those cute little street urchins might be next, so does she want to help or stamp her foot.
“Because, let me tell you something: I am 2000 years old, and I have never had the time for the luxury of outrage.”
The girl with the dog con has overheard a bit of their conversation, and she brings them to where they live. Kids come out of the woodworks, lost boys-style. The girl with The Doctor’s hat is there, too. The Doctor says he knows they lure people to the fair to rob them. Bringing people to the fair, though – that’s a legit job they have. They get paid for it. When a girl asks after Spider, The Doctor distracts them by offering them stolen fish pies. (We also learn that the girl with the dog con is called Kitty, which is good to know because “the girl with the dog con” is unwieldy to keep saying.)
After the kids eat, The Doctor is reading to the smaller kids by a fire. Bill tries to comfort Kitty that The Doctor helps people. Kitty wants to know what Bill does other than shout at him; Bill replies that they were fighting – it happens, but she’s moved on.
The Doctor is trying to get information about who paid Kitty and the kiddies to bring people to the Frost Fair. They tell him there is a man with a ‘drawing’ of a ship on his hand.
Also, The Doctor is super down with the kids.
The Doctor’s plan is to get them eaten by whatever is under the ice. He finds them old-fashioned diving suits, and Bill asks if they’ll be defenseless under there or if he has alien superpowers. Walking on the ice, the lights surround Bill and take her under, but she manages to throw her lantern and get The Doctor’s attention just before he goes. They are tethered to each other, and The Doctor smashes through after her.
The lights are bioluminescent fishes, and they are circling around the monster. They climb out of a hole in the water where the fish pie con man is fishing. Bill comments that she couldn’t hear The Doctor under the water, but she felt the sound the monster made in her bones. He says it was despair in chains. Poor Monsty.
The fish pie guy left his basket of catches when he ran off, and they see he has been catching the lighted fish. Upon examination, The Doctor realises the fish aren’t carnivores, so they must be cooperating with the monster. (Bill is, meanwhile, a bit upset that she has eaten glowy fish and liked it.) The Doctor tries to get information out of fish guy, but he’s asking about a man with a ship tattoo on the docks. Bill gets to the point – has he seen anyone looking suspicious since the freeze. He tells them about the dredgers, and off they go.
The psychic paper says that The Doctor works for the palace, which is their key in. Let the blagging begin! Lord Sutcliffe insisted they come; of course, he knows they’re there! They seem to be dredging Monsty’s poop. The Doctor gets the man in charge of the dredgers to speculate about what they’re doing through flattery. They use unmarked carts to take it to a steel mill. He thinks it must be fuel because they aren’t allowed to smoke in the yard. It is said to burn a thousand times longer than coal and hotter than can be measured. It even burns under water!
The Doctor and Bill pay a visit to Lord Sutcliffe. As they wait for him to enter, Bill asks if Sutcliffe is an alien (the fuel could support interstellar travel) while The Doctor rearranges the planets and moons on a model of the (known) universe. The Doctor says that the talking needs to be left to him because Bill has a temper. They just need information; this is a person – alien or otherwise – who is perfectly okay keeping a creature chained up that will eat children for fuel. No time for tempers. You get information with diplomacy and charm. “Passion fights, but reason wins.”
When Sutcliffe does enter, he is appalled that a black woman is in his house and just about screams the place down with his nastiness. The Doctor punches him; only humans can be that racist.
The room is rushed, and they are tied up. When Sutcliffe comes around, he says that Monsty has been there for generations, passed down through his family. This Frost Fair, though, is the biggest ever, and The Doctor knows that Sutcliffe has made it happen; the man holding him has a ship tattoo on his hand! The steel mills are run by Monsty poop instead of coal because good men die in coal mines (while Monsty only takes lonely drunkards and street urchins?). Sutcliffe says he was making the best of a fortuitous situation, and he is moving the country and empire forward.
“Human progress isn’t measured by industry. It’s measured by the value you place on a life. An unimportant life.” Remember that The Doctor doesn’t think anyone is unimportant! He says that Sutcliffe’s value is the same as the value of any one of Monsty’s victims.
Bill is moved by The Doctor’s little speech, as Sutcliffe says anyone with an ounce of compassion would be. It’s a shame, however, that Sutcliffe has none.
If they know about Monsty, then others must, Sutcliffe surmises. The plan must move forward immediately.
The Doctor and Bill are shoved into a carriage. Bill asks if he’s really 2000 years old because she wants to know how long it takes to just be able to make a speech like he did (and she didn’t even hear the one with the Zygon boxes!). She doesn’t get an answer, but she says that speeches like that one are worth the wait.
They are tied to a bunch of barrels of explosives – homemade rocket fuel, in fact! The Doctor says that half the fair will be consumed, meaning that everyone will know what’s happening in the water. Sutcliffe says that the city will stop briefly to mourn “a fireworks display gone awry” and move on just as quickly. Bill thinks she can scream her face off and someone will notice, but the crowd is even louder outside.
They get the sonic to help undo the ties (side note: sweet boots, Bill!), but it attracts the glowy fish, which also attracts the attention of the ship-tattoo bully. He takes the sonic from them, and the fish take him under. Bill is still affected by the death, but The Doctor directs her to talking about Monsty – err, Tiny, he’s calling her. Bill doesn’t think they can set her free because she could eat half of London. It’s a risk, he admits, but if her future is built on Tiny’s suffering, what’s that future worth? She has to decide because he serves at the pleasure of the human race, but it’s her planet.
She struggles, but she knows they have to save her. While The Doctor tries to fix the explosive situation, Bill enlists Kitty and the kiddies to tell everyone the ice is melting. Everyone begins to vacate. Sutcliffe decides not to wait until noon and blows the explosives – only they don’t break the ice like he expects. They are blowing up Tiny’s chains and setting her free! The Doctor has used the sonic to redirect the explosion, and Sutcliffe does under the breaking ice. Tiny takes off to somewhere cold. She’s no longer singing of despair.
Kitty and the kiddies rock up to Sutcliffe’s house, where Bill opens the door. There is a feast prepared, and The Doctor is scratching something out of a parchment. He asks a boy what his name is, and Bill says that Lord Sutcliffe’s “long-lost heir can’t be a girl”. The Doctor writes in ‘Peregrine Sutcliffe’ on the parchment.
Back in The Doctor’s office, Nardole arrives with the tea. He notices their clothes are different, so he knows they have left. Bill can’t find any evidence of Tiny on the internet. The Doctor redirects her to a headline that reads “Lord Sutcliffe Dies in Snap Thaw”. The article goes on to explain that Perry WAS named heir to Sutcliffe’s steel fortune after a contest.
Nardole is mumbling to himself at the vault when someone or something starts knocking from within it. Nardole gets very angry. He says that The Doctor may be distracted with his new little friend, but he’s still there, so whatever is inside is staying inside.
The knocking continues.
What is behind the door? I have my thoughts – mostly from the markings on the vault door – but I want to hear what you guys think! Also, how did Bill handle her first time in the past? Let us know using #PWDW and @PopWrapped, and we’ll see you next week for – perhaps coincidentally, based on the preview? – “Knock Knock”.