For the third week in a row, I have come away from a new episode of Doctor Who feeling, if not impressed, but satisfied. Like the two parter before it, ‘The Girl Who Died’ was a solid, enjoyable and, most importantly for me, surprising episode that has given me gradual renewed hope in this show.
Perhaps its a fluke, perhaps once things will get just as bad as the opening two parter, but, at the moment, things are looking up.
This was certainly an interesting episode, it was very silly, bizarre and a bit weird for 80% of it, but it was the last act that really pushed it into a different realm. Now, if you don’t want spoilers then close the tab now, because there’s no way that I’m going to skirt around the big moments of this episode in any way. So here it goes.
Maisie Williams is the girl, in question, who dies, but she lives. First, we get the revelation of how the 12th Doctor looks like Capaldis other Who character from ‘The Fires of Pompei’, which is a simple, succinct and kind of nicely written piece of storytelling. He has this face to remind himself that sometimes you need to save someone even if you shouldn’t, which was the entire point of that Season 4 episode, and in the context of this episode, plays nicely after Ashildr dies and The Doctor angrily berates himself.
A long running thread of the show, that The Doctor uses other people as weapons, and then constantly runs away from the destruction he leaves, is none more evident when The Doctor scorns himself. “I’m so sick of losing… I don’t mean the war. I’ll lose any war you like. I’m sick of losing people.” I love this line because it actually reminds me of Ecclestons Coward or Killer line from Season 1. It echoes the same morals of the 9th Doctor, and how he’d rather be a coward than a killer, something only he, who has killed, can know.
Then, he figures it out. He gets the reminder from his past self, telling him that it’s ok to save someone. So, he does. He uses a bit of alien tech from The Mire vessel and brings her back to life.
Yet there’s a cost. As he later laments, he has made this girl immortal, and that was a tidal wave when it should have been a ripple. It leaves this episode on a fantastic sweeping shot as Ashildr stands atop existence, the land rising and falling, the sun spinning its orbit. First she appears to smile, then the smile fades. The price of immortality etched on her face.
It’s a thoroughly intriguing idea, one that’s been done before, but not quite in the same way. An immortal character is a great story incentive, it’ll make for fascinating viewing as this young girl becomes hardened by seeing everything end around her, watching everyone she loves die. All of these things genuinely surprised me. The hark back to Season 4 was written lightly, and with no complicated conceit and the immortality revelation genuinely surprised me, I am actively looking forward to the next episode now.
The guy who wrote this episode, (Co wrote with Moffat) Jamie Mathieson, did last series’ two best episodes ‘Flatline’ and ‘Mummy on the Orient express (Do you think he’ll be tipped to be the next showrunner, unless next weeks female writer is better?) and with this episode, he creates an intriguing final 10 minutes, and a weird but fun Viking romp in the proceeding 30.
Yes, the aliens are dumb and unoriginal. They have the traits of the alien warriors who live and die by their honour, but they were a means to an end, and what an end it was.
The humour wasn’t invasive. The cinematography had more colour in it. Coleman and Capaldi were toned down and great. Williams best will surely be next week. It was a rather interest little story as The Doctor taught a bunch of rather un Viking Vikings to be fighters, which is a nice change from the norm, and The Doctor having to face up to responsibility is always a great way to go.
Since the beginning of season 6 I have had less and less episodes that I would actually want to return to. With Season 9 so far, apart from the first two, I would actually consider watching these again. Overall, this was a silly romp, with a fantastic ending.
Please, Doctor Who, keep it up.
Rating: B 7/10
PS. Yes!!!! They destroyed the glasses for a cheap joke. Thank you!