In Doctor Who 10×03, the Doctor and Bill traveled back to 1814. Picking up right where the previous episode left off, the Time Lord and his companion exited the TARDIS to find a world so different than their own that Bill thought it might be a parallel reality. It wasn’t. It was the last big freeze of 1814, just before the thaw. While there, Bill and the Doctor found a monster lurking below the ice. And the monster of the week was making people disappear (as monsters do).
The Doctor may have saved the day, in his own way — as always — but not before having to relive the demons of his own past with yet another companion. He found himself in the position of having to explain that he didn’t have time for outrage. And it was obvious, at least to anyone who paid attention, that the Doctor didn’t have time for the racism of the time period either.
The Doctor has no time for outrage. Or so he says.
Bill and the Doctor’s trip was going so well. Street performers! Fancy dresses! Food! The Doctor even got himself thrown out of a shop because he told a con man he could steal whate-…Ok, maybe that wasn’t a high point. The Doctor still seemed to be having a good time at that point, though. Just taking a trip to the past before returning to the present. No big deal.
When is the TARDIS’ chosen destination ever not a big deal? Exactly. Never.
It was all fun and games, right up until the point where a little boy stole the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. When the boy went out onto the ice, the noise attracted the cause of the little green lights Bill had noticed: fish. It was how they picked their prey; and that meant the little boy was to be sucked under, never to return. When the Doctor refused to save the boy and seemed to be completely unaffected by his death, Bill was shocked. She was hurt.
You might even say she was outraged.
The Doctor’s newest companion said she was upset because she’d never seen anyone die before. So, the Doctor reminded her of all the dead bodies she’d just seen on their trip to the future. The more rational the Doctor tried to be, however, the more emotional Bill became. She demanded to know how long it took before the Doctor lost count of how many deaths he’d seen; and then Bill wondered whether the Doctor himself had ever killed anyone.
I’m over 2000 years old, and I’ve never had the time for the luxury of outrage.
Evidently, for the Doctor, a trip to the past meant having to justify his history to yet another human. The thing was, as he tried — and failed — to explain, sometimes, there just isn’t another choice. In the case of, say, the Time War? That is absolutely true. He’s destroyed bad guys, across all of time and space, to prevent them from destroying innocents.
The Doctor…He…helps people. It’s what he does
Sometimes, helping people means witnessing bad things. It can even lead to doing bad things, but the Doctor couldn’t waste time being upset about them. He simply had to move on.
Sometimes, that’s all you can do.
Bill was able to get past her initial upset and work with the Doctor on stopping the monster from killing more people. She even told one of the locals that she had moved on from their argument. But given the horror with which she looked at her former hero when she learned that he wasn’t as “purely good” as she thought he was, this could become a frequent area of friction between the two characters.
The thing is, though, the Doctor has been around long enough to know that life is one big gray area. Sometimes, you have to choose the lesser of two evils because there’s no solution that falls into the realm of good. We’ve seen it time and time again. And as much as the Doctor claims to have moved on or lost count of the victims he’s seen, we all know that almost certainly falls under rule one: The Doctor always lies.
It is possible to move on without becoming uncaring, to go forward without forgetting.
The Doctor is not here for racism in Doctor Who 10×03. (And he never was.)
Race became an issue pretty early in “Thin Ice.” When Bill realized she was visiting the 1800s, when race relations were quite a bit worse than they are even now, she was concerned. At one point, she even remarked that 1814 was a bit blacker than she had expected it to be. The Doctor’s deadpanned response was everything:
So was Jesus.
Doctor Who went there. As they should. To anyone on social media crying about SJWs taking over the series: You haven’t been paying attention. At all. Were the genocidal Daleks as the Doctor’s sworn enemies not enough of a clue? No? It must be hard work to maintain so much willful ignorance.
Anyway. Back on topic.
Always remember, Bill: Passion fights, but reason wins.
When it was time for Bill and the Doctor to confront the man responsible for the monster’s state of being, the idea of racism reared its ugly head yet again. Before visiting with Lord Shitstain — or whatever his name was — the Doctor gave Bill this whole pep talk about keeping quiet and letting cooler heads prevail. In order to get information, they’d have to use “diplomacy and tact. Charm, if necessary,” which meant that all of Bill’s earlier emotional reaction to death had to be bottled up. Lord Schmucky was not opposed to hurting children for profits, but it was a “pick your battles” sort of situation.
As it turned out, the Doctor’s chosen battle was punching racists in the face. (Hashtag, so blessed.)
Lord Needstotakeseveralseats greeted Bill and the Doctor by screaming about Bill’s very presence in the room. He called her a “creature” and demanded to know why she wasn’t standing in the face of the superior race.
The Doctor wasn’t here for that. I bet he’d be here for punching nazis, though. I’d like to join him.
And then they saved the day.
Punching the head guy in the face didn’t exactly lead to a warm reception for our heroes, who found themselves tied up and under guard. The Doctor used his sonic screwdriver to attract the fish, sending said guard to his icy doom. Proving she really had learned to move on, Bill wasn’t exactly upset about that particular death.
From there, it was time for yet another heated discussion: The Doctor wanted to save the creature below the ice, seeing as how it was wrong for it to be held prisoner by humans. But Bill was worried that unleashing the thing would end all human life.
I don’t know the answers. Only idiots know the answers, but if your future is built on the suffering of that creature, what’s your future worth?
Everyone’s favorite Time Lord refused to make the final decision, telling Bill it was up to her because he serves only at the pleasure of the human race. Luckily, she did the right thing.
And it paid off.
The creature was finally free, and the poor street urchins that had faced so much hardship now became the heirs to all of Lord Sutcliffe’s property. And they all lived happily ever after — as much as human history would allow, of course.
Additional thoughts on Doctor Who 10×03:
- Bill never saw anyone die before. Really? How soon we forget Heather. Since when was Doctor Who about continuity, though?
- “I said you don’t steer the TARDIS, you reason with it…Unsuccessfully, most of the time.” The Doctor and his TARDIS have a lot in common.
- “It’s just time travel. Don’t overthink it.” It’s all wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey, after all, right?
- Peter Capaldi rocks the period attire far better than should be allowed. So does Gillian Anderson, which is yet another reason why she belongs on our list of preferred women — yes, women — to take over when Capaldi is done.
- Several times, the Doctor commented on humans’ inability to notice things. He’s not wrong.
- “You can always rely on the papers to miss a headline.” Or get it totally wrong.
- It’s that simple to steal a sonic screwdriver? Really????
- Pearl Mackie during the whole scene about witnessing deaths, guys. YES. Just YES.
- On the flip side, I will FIGHT Bill because she has no idea what the Doctor has been through or how hard that decision to kill was.
- Let’s revisit this: “So was Jesus.” Take that, people who claim to be “Christian” but are racist AF. Think about where your boy supposedly lived. People there don’t exactly have the palest skin. But rewrite the Bible however you want to suit your white supremacy, I suppose.
- Bill’s awkward, grossed-out moment with the “other end” of the monster, though. Classic.
- Write “only idiots know the answers” on my grave.
Be sure to watch the next all-new episode of Doctor Who next Saturday at 9/8c on BBC America.
Maybe Nardole will be able to control whatever is in that box…I’m guessing not, though. You only get three knocks?1 of 1