Bill learns it’s not all fun and games on the TARDIS. She begins to see who the Doctor really is when he’s on Thin Ice, and couldn’t care less about the elephant!
The Doctor Is On Thin Ice When Bill Sees His True Self
With two adventures under her belt Bill thinks she has a good idea of what traveling on the TARDIS is like. She also thought she knew who she was traveling with. Thin Ice gives Bill a chance to see the Doctor’s true form: the man who does what needs to be done.
A mystery threatens to upset the Frost Festival on the frozen Thames in 1814. People are disappearing, and the Doctor really doesn’t like when that happens. Bill thinks it’s a normal adventure until a child dies. She’s shocked by the Doctor being more relieved about saving his sonic screwdriver than he’s upset about losing the child. Bill questions the Doctor’s familiarity with death, and doesn’t quite like what he tells her. It’s a gorgeous moment of writing making Bill one of the most beautifully human companions of all time. The way she challenges the Doctor about his role in the deaths of others is haunting, and full of bittersweet Whovian memories.
Doctor Who Has Always Handled Difficult Themes
Bill does come to terms with the Doctor’s past, and falls back in the role of assistant investigator. But she faces other challenges during their adventure. Thin Ice directly addresses racism far more than any other episode of Doctor Who ever has. With overt examples of racist behavior, and some harsh introspection on the part of Bill, racism becomes a secondary, yet prevalent theme throughout the episode.
The weight of responsibility has always sat heavy on the Doctor’s shoulders. It’s how the Doctor chooses to stand up for what is right that makes him a hero. By making the difficult decisions he has always stood as the audience’s moral compass. When the Doctor punches a racist aristocrat in the face for calling Bill his lesser, the Doctor becomes the person we all wish to be. It’s a poignant moment lightened by comedy, but the sting of the insult lingers. It’s a surprisingly sharp moment in Doctor Who.
Have We Seen This Before?
Thin Ice is yet another episode who’s plot is far from novel. There have been several episodes tackling the “enslaved giant creature” idea over the years. While they’re usually quite good, it’s almost becoming too familiar. I liked Thin Ice, but it was easy to see what was happening very early on. While many of Doctor Who’s moral themes have been repeated decade after decade, using the exact same plot device again and again is a little disappointing. In the case of Thin Ice, the idea was already perfected in Torchwood.
As much as I’d like to see Season 10 stop rehashing older episodes, at least they are still really good. I especially love how the Doctor and Bill’s relationship has been unfolding. Their chemistry is the strongest between any Doctor and companion in the modern era, becoming the focal point for every episode. Bill is a strong, brave, and fiercely clever character. The Doctor chose her because of this, and the times they go back and forth with each other are exceedingly fun. Thin Ice was a solid episode that served more to make Bill and the Doctor’s inevitable split far more painful.