- The Doctor
So, I have to admit I’ve been a little iffy on this new series of “Doctor Who”. I found the premiere pretty boring and the second episode a bit repetitive but I thought this week’s episode was a proper episode. It had mystery, saving the day with a little moral dilemma for the Doctor and it was a way to give us more insight into Bill’s character and how she thinks. We p8ick up where the second episode left us: on the frozen Thames. After ducking back inside, the Doctor confirms they are there at the end of the last great Frost Fair in 1814. Bill is (rightly) concerned about strolling while black but for most of the episode it doesn’t seem to matter too much. She gets all dressed up in period garb and heads off with the Doctor at her side making quips about her nervousness about being in the past. I mean, for someone who has really only had one adventure to the future, she had legitimate questions about what she could do.
Before long, we see why the TARDIS brought her passengers to this time and place. We get a glimpse under the ice and something is alive and before long we see a drunk man stumbling along the river (past where it’s safe) and he gets dragged under. This doesn’t catch the Doctor’s attention, not until someone else disappears. He and Bill are enjoying the fair (although she’s a bit grossed out by the all meats) when two little pickpockets nab the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver (I swear it looks different than it did last season and I don’t like it!). The kids make off along the ice until little green lights start circling the little boy. He goes under but the Doctor manages to grab the sonic back.
About the time the little boy gets dragged under we start to see Bill really question the Doctor. She demands that he save the boy and then goes on this outraged rant about how many people he’s seen die and when did he stop caring about them and then gets into how many people he’s killed. Maybe it’s me or how much TV I watch but I half-expected a little montage of people who have died at the Doctor’s hand. Anyway, he points out he doesn’t have the luxury of outrage but he’s going to try and figure out what’s going on. After getting a little help from the street kids, he whips out the good old psychic paper to gain access to the docks and the dredging crew. He and Bill have also taken a nighttime dunk in the water and seen that giant monster is chained up. Because the Doctor is good at getting people to talk we learn that the mud is actually probably human byproduct from the monster that is being used as fuel to power the factories owned by a rich guy. This is where the racism and Bill’s skin color come into play. The Doctor warns Bill to let him do the talking because it could require charisma and charm and he ends up decking the guy in the face after he was racist to Bill. And like any good villain, he gives his Evil Speech of Evil and explains that the monster has sort of been passed down generation after generation and he’s making profit and moving humanity forward. The Doctor gets to give a passionate speech about what really marks a society and species; move forward but that has no effect on the guy. He decides he’s just going to move his plan to blow up the river and kill a bunch of people forward.
The Doctor asks Bill what she wants him to do but he phrases it as taking an order. That’s a new one for him. I can’t remember the last time he’s actually willingly taken an order from a human, not even UNIT. But she wants him to save the monster and so while he goes off to fiddle with things, Bill gets the street kids to get everyone off the ice. The rich guy tries to blow thing sup anyway but the Doctor has taken the charges and put them on the chains on the monster so it’s free. And just when the rich guy goes to see where the Doctor and Bill have gone, he falls through the ice and gets eaten. Good riddance! Then Bill and the Doctor help out the street kids by changing the guy’s will to recognize a lost heir.
When they get back to the Doctor’s office at the university in the present (and Nardole just brings in tea), Bill is surprised not to see any mention of the monster online. The Doctor points out that humans are good at ignoring things right in front of them. But they did get the win with the kids getting to stay in the fancy house and inherit all his money! Nardole is pissed that the Doctor is taking his oath so lightly not to go off world (or time hopping). The Doctor suggests the flip a coin to see whether he’ll honor his oath or go galivanting about with Bill. By Nardole’s reaction as he heads down to the vault, the Doctor will be continuing his adventures. And then we hear someone or something knocking from inside the vault. Nardole warns that he’s still there even if the Doctor is a bit distracted and whatever is in there isn’t getting out. Intriguing!
As I said at the start of this post, I thought it was felt more like a proper episode of ‘Doctor Who” with the Doctor and his companion just off seeing the world and having adventures. I shouldn’t be surprised that Moffatt’s last season has an overarching plot woven in. That has always been his big thing. He doesn’t just do stand-alone episodes. We’ll see if his farewell tour is worth it or if he tries to go out by making everything too twisty and ridiculous. I want to really love Doctor Who again.