Continuing the archetypal start to a new companion’s journey, a story largely set in the present is followed by one in the future, and now one in the past. Exploring British history presents more dangers for some companions than others, and this is addressed head on here, with much more depth than the similar scenes in Martha’s third episode. The Doctor’s acknowledgement that history has been whitewashed not only establishes his credentials as an ally, but also gives the series a free pass to cast whoever they want to in historical stories – a magic wand to dispel the closeted racists who complain about that sort of thing.
I didn’t think the theme of racial politics would culminate in the Doctor punching a racist in the face, but I’m glad it did. In the first series of Who to be produced after the Brexit referendum, and the first to air after Trump’s inauguration, there’s no finer way to address the worrying change in societal attitudes than by having TV’s greatest hero respond to these attitudes being espoused by knocking the perpetrators the fuck out.
This was soon followed by an absolutely first rate Doctor speech about how society should be judged on the value it places on life, and how all lives should be treated equally. Later, after Nathan Barley has been hoist by his own giant fish, he falsifies a will in order to redistribute the scumbag’s wealth to a bunch of street urchins. The Doctor is basically Jeremy Corbyn here.
Meanwhile, Bill’s trait of constantly questioning everything has moved on from simply covering the practical aspects of time travel, and has started to become personal. Despite the Doctor being a lot more like his old self these days, and the teacher-student dynamic between the pair, Bill’s not blind to his darker side, and not so in awe of him that she can’t ask questions that cut to his very hearts. It’s always worth examining the Doctor’s morality, and the show isn’t afraid to address the casual attitude towards death that the pursuit of storytelling sometimes necessitates.
Plus, you’ve got a giant fish that shits rocket fuel. It’s a good episode.