Huh. So, a “frost fair” is apparently a fair that goes up on a frozen river or something, and London used to have those. I didn’t know that. That sounds both cool and dangerous at the same time.
Especially if there’s a giant carnivorous fish under the ice.
Look, as the Doctor says, you don’t steer the TARDIS so much as negotiate with it, so as he and Bill step out onto the frozen Thames, I think it is safe to say neither expected that. But once both are attired in period gear, they can look around. That mostly seems to mean the Doctor catching on with every con around while Bill worries about changing the future. Granted, the Doctor points out she does that every day anyway, and she maybe shouldn’t have to worry too much about slavery and the like as long as she sticks close. See, Bill asks good questions and seems genuinely curious about everything around her.
That is, until a kid dies.
See, some pickpockets try to rob the Doctor with a scam involving a lost dog that the Doctor doesn’t fall for, but one kid runs off with the sonic screwdriver. That kid is followed by some lights under the ice and in turn, when he falls in, he’s sucked down and the Doctor can only really rescue the screwdriver. He doesn’t seem too bothered by it. Bill is, and since this is a kid, maybe the audience should be too, but the Doctor has been around for a very long time and doesn’t even seem capable of keeping track of how many people he’s seen die or even outright killed in one way or another.
I mean, he’s not wrong there. That’s bound to make a person jaded. Bill’s never seen a person die before, even though she did go through a garden being fertilized by the recently deceased not one episode ago, but she doesn’t see how the Doctor can just move on. Then she seems to get it later because if the Doctor didn’t, he’d probably be paralyzed with grief all the time and there’s always people needing help. Case in point, that small group of child pickpockets whose only paying job is handing out fliers to the fair for some nobleman by the name of Lord Sutcliffe.
Now, it does turn out there’s that giant thing under the ice. It’s attracted to sound, and smaller fish act as lights to find prey. However, the thing is suspicious for two reasons: 1) it is chained to the riverbed and 2) it’s waste burns better than any fuel imaginable and someone is harvesting the bricks of that stuff.
Well, the Doctor figures he should talk to Lord Sutcliffe, find out if the guy is human or not. It doesn’t much matter if the fish is from Earth or not as the thing is clearly suffering, but that could perhaps be dealt with if the Doctor can talk to Sutcliffe and get him to do the right thing. That means warning Bill not to lose her temper, and then that means the Doctor will pop Sutcliffe one himself when Sutcliffe comes out and says some hugely racist stuff to Bill. Granted, that tells the Doctor that Sutcliffe is a 34 year old human, and he’s just a bad dude all around, setting up the frost fair so he can feed a lot of the people there to the fish and then harvest all the waste and make himself even richer than he already is.
Wow, this guy isn’t just evil. He’s almost cartoon level evil.
That sort of thing doesn’t sit well with the Doctor, seeing this man dismiss the death of a poor child so easily, and that leads to a nice speech in which the Doctor explains how progress isn’t measured by science or the like but by how well people treat each other. It’s a very good speech. Sutcliffe even admires how well-rehearsed it sounds. But he’s almost cartoon level evil, so the speech doesn’t work, and he’s going to tie the Doctor and Bill up on the ice with a bunch of explosives to make sure the two are among the fish’s many victims.
Oh, wait, the Doctor still has the sonic screwdriver, and once free, he says he will leave it up to Bill as to whether or not the fish should be released somehow. Bill is concerned the thing will go berserk and eat a lot of people anyway, but in the end, she asks the Doctor to help the sea monster. And yeah, he does, in such a way that the explosions set on the ice actually blow up the chains, the orphaned thieves get everyone off the ice, and the only one that gets eaten is that rotten Sutcliffe. Then the Doctor even fixes the guy’s will to make the kids his heirs. Not bad.
Too bad Nardole wasn’t happy to see the Doctor when they got back. Whoever or whatever is behind that vault can only come out with the Doctor’s permission, and he made a vow to stick around until that time after all…