Doctor Who’s new season is here, and Twelve and Bill are off on new adventures. Here are three things we’re thinking about after “Thin Ice”.
The third episode of Doctor Who Season 10 took us back to the past. Twelve and Bill had a fairly rollicking adventure through London’s last great Frost Fair, and freed a trapped alien sea creature to boot. While the story itself was fairly straightforward, the episode gets high marks for its further exploration of the Doctor and Bill’s relationship. And though it’s an episode we’d definitely watch again, it still didn’t do too much in terms of moving the big season arc forward. Unless you count leaving us with just as many questions as we started with.
Here are three things we’re thinking about as we look forward to Season 10’s fourth episode, entitled “Knock Knock”.
What is behind that door?
Not only did the Doctor and Bill make it back to 2017 before Nardole returned with their tea, Twelve managed to use a coin toss to get “permission” to continue running around time and space with his new companion instead of staying permanently on campus. Sure, he kind of cheated to do so, but we all know an Earth-bound Doctor is both cranky and not that fun to watch. The cheating seems okay, just this once. Other than that, the mystery of the mysterious vault wasn’t a big plot focus in “Thin Ice”. At least…not until the very end of the episode.
Right before the credits rolled, we saw Nardole visit the basement vault. And he definitely communicated with whatever is inside it. Back after “The Pilot” aired, we sort of guessed that the thing in the vault might be a person. Well, now it seems like that is definitely the case. Not only does Nardole address the thing inside the vault as though it’s a person (or alien, possibly), whatever it is actually answers him back. Its communication is limited to knocking three times, but the fact that it can understand what Nardole says and “talk back” in this way makes it seem pretty clear. Now, this is Doctor Who, so I wouldn’t exactly be surprised if whatever’s in there turned out to be a piece of sentient jewelry. But that seems very unlikely.
“As long as I’m still here, you are going nowhere!” Nardole says to whoever is inside.
So who is in there? The obvious guess seems to be some iteration of the Master. We know both John Simm and Michelle Gomez are coming back this season. So that’s got to be the the even odds pick. But it is such an obvious guess, though. Would Steven Moffat and company really build the season’s biggest mystery with an answer almost everyone could guess? Maybe. Everyone guessed the thing about Amy and River, after all.
Wow, the Doctor has a mean right hook.
The Twelfth Doctor punching a nineteenth-century racist in the face is definitely one of the most iconic moments in the new-Who era. If not in the entirety of Doctor Who as a whole. We all know the Doctor is generally a pacifist, but not above embracing violence when it is necessary. And punching a malevolent trash pile like Lord Sutcliffe certainly counts in my book.
Not only was it a nice moment of Twelve defending his companion’s honor, so to speak, but it also neatly undercut his previous argument that Bill is the one who should remain silent because she had a temper. (And might lose it and blow their cover, so the unfinished part of the argument goes.) We all know that a good seventy-five percent of what keeps the Doctor going is passion, in some form or other. Where do you think that speech about the worth of humanity came from? That’s not the reasonable part of his brain talking; that’s his heart.
Moffat promised that Doctor Who would address race this season, and “Thin Ice” is an admirable start down that road. Beyond literally punching a racist, the episode also brought up the idea of historical whitewashing and Bill’s discomfort with the idea of visiting a time period when slavery still existed. Let’s hope that it isn’t the only episode that will tackle this issue, because it’s definitely something that the show has not been the best at in the past. (Remember that time Martha Jones went back to Shakespeare’s England and Ten dismissed her concerns about race? Let’s not do that again, ever, shall we?)
Did the Doctor almost run into himself at the Frost Fair?
This season of Doctor Who seems to involve quite a bit of the Doctor namechecking his past adventures. In “Smile”, there’s a reference that’s almost certainly about classic episode “The Ark in Space”. And it happens again in “Thin Ice”, though the story referenced is much more recent.
When they arrive at the Frost Fair, Twelve mentions he’s already been to this event “a few times”. Which seems possible, given that he is a time traveler and there were at least five separate Frost Fairs between the 14th and 19th centuries. However, on at least one other occasion, he went to this specific Frost Fair, which means that there are probably at least two versions of the Doctor running around this event. Awkward, right?
Back in Season 6’s “A Good Man Goes to War” we learn the Eleventh Doctor and River Song had a rather memorable date there. According to the lady herself, Eleven took River ice skating at this very same event for her birthday. He apparently even got Stevie Wonder to sing for her under London Bridge. Does that meant that the Doctor could have run into himself again? Maybe. Maybe not. This final Frost Fair did last for four days after all. And “Thin Ice” is very specific that Twelve and Bill visit on the final one. But it’s still kind of fun to think about.
Doctor Who season 10 continues Saturday, May 6 on BBC One and BBC America.