Thin Ice
Doctor Who Logo 'Thin Ice'
(Story Code 10.03)

by Sarah Dollard
The Twelfth Doctor and Bill

“Conjecture: something is frozen under the Thames, and it’s eating people.... Proposal: we need to get a closer look at it… Plan: let’s get eaten…” – The Doctor

The Doctor and Bill have arrived on the frozen River Thames on February 4th, 1914, when Regency London is enjoying the delights of a Frost Fair. Knowing that this is the last day before the river thaws, the Doctor reparks the TARDIS safely on a bridge. Below them, under the ice, something stirs – something huge, and hungry… Having raided the TARDIS wardrobe for outfits more appropriate to the time, the Doctor and Bill head to the Frost Fair; they fail to notice an alert on the TARDIS’ monitor screen, as the ship tries to warn them of a huge life form in the River Thames… Although Bill is worried about the racist attitudes of this less-enlightened time, she resolves to enjoy herself; she and the Doctor try the delights on offer at the Frost Fair, sampling almost everything to eat, watching circus performers swallow swords, wrestle and juggle, and even see an elephant! Under the ice, small fish with strange green lights leave the creature and swim up to the surface, where they lure a drunk onto a patch of thin ice, and then pull him under the surface to his death… Bill sees the little lights under the ice beneath the pub tent, and after an encounter with a very dubious pie-man, learns that the Doctor has seen them too. But before the duo can investigate, they are distracted by a young girl named Kitty, who diverts them with a tale of a lost dog while her friend Spider steals the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. When the kids run off the Doctor and Bill give chase, but just as they corner the thieves out on the ice, green lights surround Spider; the glowing circles melt the ice and pull the boy to his death, and the Doctor only just manages to retrieve his sonic before the ice reforms. Upset at seeing someone die for the first time, Bill is horrified to learn that the Doctor has seen the deaths of countless people, and has even been forced to kill. Bill’s anger at her mentor is interrupted by the return of Kitty, who takes the time travellers to the abandoned building where she hides out with the other urchins, Dot, Harriet and Perry. After handing out some stolen pies and reading the children a bizarre bedtime story, the Doctor learns that a man with a ship tattoo on his hand employed the urchins to encourage people to the Frost Fair. Convinced of a connection to the creature under the Thames that is eating people, the Time Lord leads Bill back to the TARDIS and describes his plan to get eaten by the creature too... That night, the two friends walk out onto the ice dressed in diving suits and carrying lanterns. The green lights soon appear and surround Bill, melting the ice and pulling her under the water. As the ice starts to reform the Doctor jumps in after his student, and finds her standing on the river bed looking up at the fish swimming above, each with a glowing green light attached to its head, just like an angler fish. Behind the Doctor and Bill lies a massive sea serpent, its colossal bulk held fast by metal chains embedded in the river bed; out of the creature’s maw floats Spider’s hat – and then a huge eye opens and stares at them! The Doctor and Bill beat a hasty retreat, escaping through a fishing hole in the ice drilled by the cheating pie-man. After noting that the conman has caught some of the strange fish that provide food for the sea serpent, the duo question him about seeing anything suspicious, and learn that the dredgers at a nearby workhouse have been working all hours of the night…The next day, the Doctor and Bill pay a visit to the workhouse; using the Time Lord’s psychic paper to convince the overseer that they were sent by the owner, Lord Sutcliffe, they gain a tour of the workhouse, and discover that the workers are making bricks from the excrement of the creature, which are then used as fuel in the furnaces of Sutcliffe’s steel mill. The overseer helpfully explains that this fuel lasts a thousand times longer than coal, is immeasurably hot, and even burns underwater. Furious that someone is profiting from using the remains of people as fuel, the Doctor poses as ‘Doctor Disco’ from the Fairfield Club and gains entry to Lord Sutcliffe’s mansion; all goes well until Lord Sutcliffe appears and levels his racism at Bill, at which point the Doctor punches him in the face, is captured by Sutcliffe’s thugs, and tied up along with Bill. Lord Sutcliffe gloatingly reveals that the creature chained under the Thames has been his family’s secret for centuries; the monster is the cause of the cold, and Sutcliffe set up the recent Frost Fair to draw in more victims to become fuel for his business. The Doctor is outraged, but his reproaches fall on deaf ears – Sutcliffe sees himself as a philanthropist moving the country and empire forward, and fails to see any value in his victims’ lives. Deciding to bring his plan forward, Lord Sutcliffe has his men bundle the Doctor and Bill into a handsome cab and taken to the Frost Fair, where they are imprisoned in a tent full of barrels containing explosives of the homemade rocket fuel. Sutcliffe describes his mad plan to set off an explosion disguised as fireworks, which will destroy the ice and allow his pet serpent to kill everyone in London, and then leaves his prisoners to their impending doom. After Bill is unsuccessful at screaming for help, she helps the Doctor use his sonic screwdriver to deal with their bonds; unfortunately, the sonic’s noise attracts the attention of the green lights, and when one of Sutcliffe’s thugs checks on the prisoners, another victim is inevitably claimed. After freeing himself and Bill, the Doctor asks his student what to do about ‘Tiny’; she chooses to save the creature, so the Doctor sets about deactivating the bomb, while Bill enlists the help of Kitty and her friends in evacuating everyone off the ice. Unable to halt the mass exodus from the Frost Fair, Sutcliffe urges his men to connect the wire from the barrels to the detonator, and then pushes down the plunger – but there is no explosion from the tent, instead the barrels detonate under the water: the Doctor has attached them to the chains imprisoning the sea serpent – and now the monster is finally free! As a diving-suited Doctor resurfaces at the workhouse, Sutcliffe rushes over to search his tent, only to find it empty apart from the Doctor’s activated sonic screwdriver; attracted by the sonic’s noise, the sea creature goes after Sutcliffe, leaving a trail of broken ice in its wake; Sutcliffe tries to flee, but falls through a crack in the ice and is promptly eaten by the monster. As the ice shatters under the serpent’s movements, the Doctor pulls Bill to the safety of the bridge. The Doctor reels in the fuse line attached to his sonic screwdriver, watching with Bill as the enormous sea serpent happily swims along the thawed Thames, making for the safety of the ocean…

Later, Kitty and the urchins are called to Lord Sutcliffe’s house, where they meet Bill for a slap-up dinner; the Doctor is also here, altering Sutcliffe’s will so that it leaves everything to the man’s ‘long-lost heir’: Perry…

Returning to the TARDIS, the Doctor and Bill arrive back at St Luke’s in time for tea with Nardole. While the Doctor talks around Nardole’s indignancy at his boss’ unauthorised excursion, Bill uses her phone to look up records of their adventure; although there is no mention of a sea monster in Regency London, Bill is pleased to find that history does record how Perry the urchin became Lord Sutcliffe’s successor. She and the Doctor made a difference… Sometime later, Nardole checks the vault under St. Luke’s, and is disturbed by an angry knocking coming from within…

Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Pearl Mackie (Bill Potts), Matt Lucas (Nardole), Nicholas Burns (Lord Sutcliffe), Asiatu Koroma (Kitty), Peter Singh (Pie-Man), Simon Ludders (Overseer), Tomi May (Dowell), Austin Taylor (Spider), Ellie Shenker (Dot), Kishaina Thiruselvan (Harriet), Badger Skelton (Perry)

Directed by Bill Anderson
Produced by Nikki Wilson
Executive Producers Steven Moffat and Brian Minchin
A BBC Wales production

TX (BBC 1 & BBC 1 HD):
29th April 2017 @ 7.20 pm

*Featuring the Twelfth Doctor, Bill and Nardole