Synopsis: A sinister force stirs beneath the surface of the frozen River Thames in Regency-era London.
Review: At the end of last week’s episode the Doctor and Bill found themselves in the 17th century on the frozen River Thames. This week they explore the sights, only for the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver to be lifted by a couple of street urchins. When one of the urchins gets dragged under the ice the Doctor and Bill investigate and discover a gigantic creature beneath the frozen Thames. Our heroes find out that the Kraken’s excrement is being used as fuel by the villainous Lord Sutcliffe, played by Nicholas Burns. After being captured the Doctor and Bill escape and the Time Lord releases the creature on Bill’s command. They then return to the present day, where something inside the vault that the Doctor has been guarding starts to knock on the door…
This was an excellent episode. The themes of racism and humanity are nicely touched on here, with the unpleasant Sutcliffe’s reaction to Bill and a show stealing performance from Pearl Mackie after the Doctor fails to save one of the urchins. Bill’s anger at the Doctor’s nonchalant acceptance of the boy’s death is stupendously conveyed. Peter Capaldi shows his awesome range here too, from his cold and calculated response to Bill’s anger to his charming way with the street urchins. There is humour also in this episode, from the discretion cut when Bill says “No sh-” to the Doctor claiming to be “down with the kids” and “bonding” with the Pie man, played by Peter Singh.
The tension at the start of the episode is nicely built, with the shots from the creature’s viewpoint interspersed with the Doctor and Bill enjoying themselves at the beginning. There is a gorgeous shot of the Doctor and Bill standing by the Kraken’s eye as it opens and the music when they are underwater is again a nice nod to the classic series. There are some truly amazing moments in this episode, from the Doctor’s speech about the measure of human progress being the value that is placed on life to Bill’s “How old do I have to be before I can make a speech like that.” The villain in this episode interestingly is not an alien but a corrupt human, whom Michael Moorcock claims are the best Who villains. Bill’s worries about the effects of time travel on the present are more human and feel more realistic than those of any other companion since the revived series began.
Although he is only in this episode briefly, Matt Lucas performs wonderfully as Nardole with his mix of anger and fear towards the thing inside the vault that the Doctor has been guarding. Some excellent and very Doctor like touches were when the Doctor puts the fate of humanity in Bill’s hands by making it her decision whether to kill or release the creature, as was the Doctor altering Sutcliffe’s will to make the orphan boy his heir.
Overall, a superb episode that has left me wondering, what is in the Doctor’s vault…?
- Incidental Music8.0