Written with no prior knowledge of what’s going to be in the episode – I watch the ‘Next Time’ trailer and make sure I see, hear and read nothing else – and written immediately after my first viewing. This is my unfettered, emotional response to this week’s DOCTOR WHO fare.
I’m flipping loving Bill!
I’m flipping loving Pearl Mackie!
Her performance this week was fantastic. To be fair she hasn’t made a misstep in any of these three episodes, but she was particularly fine tonight. From the wide-eyed wonder as she stared around ice-bound Regency England, to her calling The Doctor out for his perceived callousness, to gradually understanding what it means to be him and finally the anguish of her choice and her desperation to save everyone she could from the ice. Every part of her tonight was mesmerising. There’s a freshness to her performance, an enthusiasm which is just compulsive. Part of that is, of course, that Bill is the new companion, but Pearl Mackie is selling that sense of wonder at being The Doctor’s companion perhaps better than any actor ever has before.
Actually, if we’re throwing acting garlands around, one has to say how good P-Cap was as well. His effortless mixing together of stern and playful is just superb. Plus, The Twelfth Doctor punching a racist is a moment that will live long and joyously in the memory.
The script was good, although I’m not sure how memorable the story will prove to be (it shares a lot of DNA with Matt Smith’s second adventure: ‘The Beast Below’, although there Amy initially makes a different choice to the one Bill does). But the setting was just fantastic, and I mean that in the most literal way possible for a historical story. Of course, the Thames did used to freeze and there were fayres on it, but to see it visualised with elephants and circus acts was like stepping into a whole other magical world. In years to come people might not remember the storyline, but I’ll pretty much guarantee that the kids who see this will remember the DOCTOR WHO set on the ice with the sword swallowers.
There are a few flaws: the villain is poorly written and flatly played; some of the younger kids gave line readings redolent of am-dram or an early HARRY POTTER movie; and some of the effects when the ice broke up were surely stolen from a SyFy channel film of the week. But thanks to the design and the wit of the dialogue and – most of all – the performances, I was undeniably charmed by it.
Roll on next week!
Roll on more Pearl Mackie!