So, we’ve had an episode based in the present day, we’ve had an episode based in the future. And now we’ve been given an episode in the past. Let’s take a look at it, shall we?
*** Spoilers ahead, Sweetie ***
A Brief Overview of What Happened
After their encounter with the Vardi in the last episode, The Doctor was supposed to be taking Bill back home. But, as The Doctor tells us in this episode, the TARDIS takes you where she wants you to go. This time she wants them to go to London in 1814, the year of the last frost fayre where something sinister is lurking under the iced covered Thames.
The actual species of the creature remains unknown, but it is a giant sea/water creature (a whale? A snake? Both? We’ll leave that to debate.) that is being held captive in the Thames by your stereotypical Victorian aristocrat, Lord Sutcliffe who uses the frost fayre to lure people onto the ice for the creature to gobble up. Once those people are digested, what comes out of the creature is some sort of space fuel which Sutcliffe wants to sell off. Currently this storyline seems all a bit reminiscent of Torchwood’s episode “Meat” in series 2 (if you’ve watched it) and the star whale in “The Beast Below” in series 5 of Doctor Who.
And similarly, to “The Beast Below”, the episode does end on a happy note. Showing us he’s 100% forgotten about Clara and everything he did with her, the Doctor pulls the whole “you have to make this choice about your future” thing again and leaves Bill to decide whether to release London’s version of Nessie or not. The stakes are big; She could seek her revenge on London. But equally she might just swim away. Bill decides to risk it and save her, and it all turns out well. She just swims away to “somewhere cold”, as the Doctor said, and funnily enough no one in London seems to care/remember it happened to document it.
Not The Most Eye-catching Of Plots
I’ll be honest, when watching the episode, I did find that the plot with the big ol’ river creature was a bit small and simple. Even when writing my little synopsis, I had myself double checking, going “is that really ALL it was about?” But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes during this tenure, Moffat has favoured big, complicated plots over showing any real character development. So, while the plot of the episode may be in the back of your mind for large chunks of the episode, it means we get to take a better look at Twelve, Bill, and the dynamic of their relationship.
Like most companions are before they travel with the Doctor, Bill is naive. She isn’t a complete stranger to death; Her mother has died after all. But, similar to Rose, she was too young to truly remember it. Nor has she actually seen someone actually die before. So, when she sees a little boy die right in front of her, it comes as a shock. What comes as a shock even more is that the Doctor doesn’t even batter an eyelid. In the last episode, she was mostly in awe of the Doctor, but for a brief moment here she is angered by him. Especially when he confirms her suspicions that he’s killed people and that he can’t actually remember how many. Not entirely defending himself, but probably more trying to teach her something (he is her teacher after all) the Doctor tells her “he’s never had the time for outrage”. I mean, he’s most certainly tried to have the time for outrage, but it’s never worked out in his favour. I like to think that’s the point he was trying to make there.
Bill seems to get over her anger very quickly, though, and we got to see the more nicer side to Twelve and Bill’s friendship. This episode certainly gave us better interactions between the duo, the Doctor was a bit off with his own thoughts in the last one. This time he’s very much present, making sarcastic – if not slightly condescending answers – to Bill’s questions. Bill sticking her tongue out at him. It’s got all the making of a pairing that could potentially rival Ten and Donna.
As I’ve already mentioned, the Doctor took a step back in deciding the fate of the Earth this time around, leaving that responsibility to Bill. Although he most certainly gave her a nudge on what he thought was the right direction. I thought it was nice to see that. While I didn’t like how he went about it in “Kill The Moon”, I thought it was absolutely right of him to leave Clara, a human, to make the decision of what happens to her own planet. After all, a lot of people have argued with him about what right he has to make those decisions. Bill takes it all a whole lot better than Clara did, though. She was reluctant to make the decision at first, but the big smile of her face when she saw she’d made the right one was endearing. The Doctor is certainly a brilliant tutor.
It’s been extremely nice to have all these episodes happen one after the other. There’s been no huge gaps of time where fans are wondering what the hell happened. And, luckily for the Doctor, he did get the timing right this time and arrived just as soon as Nardole was bringing his tea in. Unluckily for him, Nardole spotted his different attire straight away. And he is certainly not happy about him breaking his oath.
I wouldn’t be happy if I was Nardole either. Whatever is in that vault that needs to be guarded. It’s alive, and it’s noticed the Doctor’s let his guard down a little bit. And, most importantly, Nardole is absolutely terrified of it. I mean, it doesn’t seem to take a lot of scare Nardole, really. But if it needs guarding by the Doctor of all people, we know it’s got to be dangerous.
So far though, I do have to say this is my least favourite episode so far. While I loved getting to see more of Bill’s character, the story itself didn’t have anything unique to give us. We’ve been to this time period many times before (most of them being in Moffat’s era), we’ve had very similar aliens with them also being held captive for the benefit of humans. It isn’t my least favourite episode ever by a long shot, but it’s a shame that a lot of the ideas behind the story seemed to be rehashed.
Also, was anyone else upset not to see paternoster gang? Whenever I see a Victorian London episode these days I expect to see them in it, and was slightly put down when I didn’t. Hopefully it wasn’t our last chance to see them before Moffat hands the reigns over.
Johanna an avid writer and lifelong Doctor Who fan living in the UK. By day she is a student, studying Media and Film Production, and by night she fangirls about all things TV/Film related on Twitter and writes posts for a variety of blogs as well as her own lifestyle blog.