With a history as long and complex as Doctor Who has, each episode can become something of a trial for writers: acknowledging past adventures while simultaneously crafting a new and intriguing story.
Unfortunately, Doctor Who Season 10 Episode 3 really strayed too far into whole plot references to be altogether enjoyable for its own sake.
"Thin Ice" featured the Doctor and Bill visiting the Frost Fair in 1814 and discovering that there was an enormous creature under the ice, being fed people in order to produce fuel for the engines of London.
If this premise sounds vaguely familiar, it should.
In Doctor Who Season 5 Episode 2, "The Beast Below," the Doctor and Amy visited Starship UK and discovered that the "ship" was actually built on the back of a massive spacefaring creature which was being fed people...
And later in this episode, the Doctor asked Bill to make the choice for what to do about the unfortunate creature, which distinctly recalled Doctor Who Season 8 Episode 7, "Kill the Moon," when he asked Clara much the same.
Both of these aforementioned episodes also featured the tiresome "humans are the real monsters" trope that has been done and done again so many times.
(Seriously, did anyone think for a minute that Tiny would actually eat everyone in sight once that actually freed it? Of course not.)
I also found myself unimpressed by Bill's moral outrage at the Doctor's inability to save everyone all the time. He's a very old time traveling alien, not God.
Do you want to help me? Or do you want to stand here stamping your foot? Because let me tell you, I’m two thousand years old. And I’ve never had the time for the luxury of outrage.The Doctor
Her reaction was more or less understandable, given that she hasn't known him very long, but she came across as rather petulant, especially given what they had just gone through on the colony with the emojibots.
The Doctor even called her on it.
Of course, if Bill really wanted to blame someone, maybe she should just blame the TARDIS herself for depositing them in 1814, as opposed to, say, when the poor beast was first captured?
The Doctor: I told you, you don’t steer the TARDIS, you reason with it.
The Doctor: Unsuccessfully, most of the time.
The Doctor's hypocrisy came across more humorously, at least, with his words of diplomacy followed by a quick punch in the face for the absolutely obnoxious Lord Sutcliffe.
Let's spend a few moments on said antagonist, shall we? Utterly unmemorable as a villain, one-dimensional in the extreme, and with no redeeming factors whatsoever.
The best villains often think they are doing the right things, or doing the wrong things for the right reasons (see the aforementioned "The Beast Below"). Lord Sutcliffe was pretty much just a total jerk, to the point where no one mourned his inevitable karmic demise.
His Bond villain exposition (i.e., telling the Doctor everything about his evil plan for no good reason) didn't help his case, either. They just needed to move the plot along.
Nardole's all-too-brief appearance once again inspired some very important questions (which will doubtless be answered in due course).
Who or what is in the vault? Whatever it is, it's knocking. (At least it didn't knock four times...)
Why is the Doctor guarding it? The Doctor previously established that he had sworn an oath to guard the vault because a "thing" happened a long time ago. This is linked to Question 3...
To whom did the Doctor swear this oath? This is actually a very curious question. Some have theorized that it may be linked to the Time Lords, who had previously banished the Doctor to Earth during his third incarnation.
In any case, I do hope they don't drag out this mystery all season long, though indications are that it won't be that long.
As for Nardole, Matt Lucas does such a fine job that it's almost too bad he's had such short scenes in the last couple of episodes. Though he's working out well enough in his current role at the moment.
I definitely enjoyed the Doctor stealing all those pies right out from under the nose of the vendor. He did say he was a thief, after all.
And him giving the pies to the urchins and then reading them a story made me think of "The Beast Below" (again!) and the statement that he never gets involved except when children cry.
Speaking of children, I was actually surprised that they didn't take back the death of the unfortunate boy Spider. (In "The Beast Below," the titular creature wouldn't eat the children.)
Here, there was no happy ending for the people fed to Tiny. They were already dinner. (Seriously, though, wouldn't it have been easier to dump cows off a barge than luring people onto ice?)
Be sure to stop by our Doctor Who quotes page for a rundown of some of the fine bits of dialogue from this episode.
Remember to watch Doctor Who online if you missed it! And be sure to tune in for Doctor Who Season 10 Episode 4, "Knock Knock," on BBC America at 9/8c on April 29, 2017!
What did you think of "Thin Ice"? Was it an enjoyable romp, or an unoriginal mess? What, or who, is in the vault that the Doctor's supposed to be guarding?
Let us know in the comments section below!