Peter Capaldi (Twelfth Doctor) and Pearl Mackie (Bill Potts) in "Doctor Who" season 10 episode 3 "Thin Ice"
Peter Capaldi (Twelfth Doctor) and Pearl Mackie (Bill Potts) in "Doctor Who" season 10 episode 3 "Thin Ice"

“Doctor Who” didn’t shy away from talking about race and whitewashing in its season 10 episode 3. The Twelth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) arrived in 1814 London in “Thin Ice.”

Spoilers below for the third episode of “Doctor Who” season 10. The episode aired Saturday in the UK on BBC One, Sunday in Australia on the ABC.

The TARDIS brought Twelve and Bill to Regency London during a frost fair, to the delight and initial horror of Bill, who was concerned that she would be treated abominably because of her skin colour. Slavery was still “totally a thing” at that time. But as they observe the festivities in the fair, Bill remarked that there were more black people present than what movies showed.

“So was Jesus,” Twelve responded. “History’s a whitewash.”

Later on when the Doctor was supposed to talk diplomatically with Lord Sutcliffe (guest star Nicholas Burns) because, according to him, Bill had a temper, the baron quickly belittled Bill and called her a “creature” upon seeing her. This prompted the Doctor to punch the living daylight out of the racist baron.

The ‘Thin Ice’ villain walked on land

There was a creature underneath the Thames that ate people. It would be easy to call it, which the Doctor named Tiny, the villain of the episode, but it turned out Tiny was actually chained and forced below the ice so Sutcliffe’s men could collect its poop, which they thought a stronger type of coal that could even produce fire under water.

Sutcliffe was using the fair as an excuse to draw people onto the iced Thames so his men could later feed them all to Tiny. Twelve and Bill instead freed Tiny from its chains. This caused the iced ground to break and inadvertently kill Sutcliffe.

The Doctor doctoring documents

With the vile Sutcliffe now dead, Twelve manipulated the baron’s papers so one of the street children who helped them save the fair-goers could inherit his estate. When Twelve and Bill returned to present day London, the new companion quickly searched for the 1814 creature online but found nothing. She did, however, learn that the kid got his inheritance from Sutcliffe.

‘Doctor Who’ 10x3 review

Twelve and Bill make for a brilliant comedic pair. Bill again asked the best questions (“How is that a screwdriver? How is it sonic?”), and the Doctor had to defend his answers (“In a very broad sense,” “It makes a noise.”). These two are just phenomenal together, even when they were discussing serious subjects like racism and making tough choices.

Bill, who was momentarily shocked at seeing a child drowning in the frozen river, berated the Doctor for saving his screwdriver and apparently letting the boy die. So when it was the time to make a decision on whether to kill Tiny or allow more people in London to be killed, the Doctor passed the choice onto her. She didn’t like it, but she knew which choice she should go for. They ultimately went with the third option of saving both.

Nardole (Matt Lucas) appeared at the end when the two have returned to the Doctor’s office in the university. He deduced correctly that the Doctor and Bill travelled off-world, and that was against the Doctor’s “oath,” which again wasn’t explained.

And the creature inside the vault is still there and wouldn’t go anywhere as long as Nardole is there, the Doctor’s alien companion promised. What is in there exactly? Why wouldn’t they let it out?

Overall, the episode is a fun, light way to explore the olden days without glossing over their atrocities. It tackled racism head on, not shying away from it at all. With Bill, a black girl, as the Doctor’s companion, they would probably encounter the same problem again every time they travel back in time.

Watch the trailer for the next episode of ‘Doctor Who’

Read more:
‘Doctor Who’ season 10 episode 2 recap and review: ‘Smile’ brings cute emojibots that turn sinister
‘Doctor Who’: First and Twelfth Doctors to appear together in Christmas special