BBC One – 7:20pm – Saturday 29th April 2017
Written by: Sarah Dollard
Directed by: Bill Anderson
THE LAST GREAT FROST FAIR
Following immediately on from the in-built teaser at the tail end of “Smile” (reviewed HERE), series 10 roars into its third week with unabashed gusto. We began in the present (“The Pilot”, reviewed HERE), shot forward to the future and now it’s time for a history lesson! The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Bill (Pearl Mackie) find themselves in London, 1814, where the Thames is frozen over and mysterious green lights can be seen swimming beneath the surface.
When a tricksy young street urchin (Austin Taylor) is pulled through the ice, the Doctor investigates where he went and why his gang of Oliver Twist-alikes were asked to draw people on to the dangerous target area. Could the mysterious phenomena and multiple inexplicable disappearances have anything to do with a wealthy Lord’s illicit dredging enterprise?
Well, of course it could, but before the plot pieces fall neatly into place, we are treated to an immersive and impressively bustling look at Regency-era England. The period detail is thick with atmosphere and effectively well-layered; it feels varied, authentic and well lived in, from Elephants and performers to pickpockets and market traders. You never think you are on a set made for a television show, so three cheers for the designers and dressers.
“I have never had the time and the luxury of outrage.”
Pleasingly, despite the camera drinking up and drowning in an abundance of sumptuous set detail, Sarah “Face the Raven” (9.10) Dollard’s script doesn’t skimp on some slower and quieter character moments, either. Bill’s distress at having seen a dead body brings about a startlingly sincere talk with the jaded Time Lord about how he manages to see so much death yet still function, ahem, normally (“I care, Bill, but then I move on”).
By the time famous face Nicholas Nathan Barley Burns pops up as the despicable Lord Sutcliffe, using what is chained in the Thames for his own personal gain without a care in the world for the lives lost in process, the plot is going through the motions predictably. From the Doctor’s suggestion of “Let’s get eaten!” I found “Thin Ice” a rather formulaic and less interesting affair, but the necessities of tying up and explaining away the mystery do not diminish the stellar work up to that point.
CR@B’s Claw Score: