The fifth episode of Doctor Who’s sublime ninth series was a rather jarring affair. ‘The Girl Who Died’ harkened back to last year’s dire ‘Robots of Sherwood’, by painting a historical in campness. It didn’t work last year, and nor does it work this year.
Most of the cast were fodder, and the idea of the Doctor forming a plan based upon the words of a squalling child was preposterous – surely the Doctor could have come up with something much better himself?
I know that Doctor Who is a science fiction show, but what is so wrong with a historical being a historical? Why not have an episode surrounding mythology, such as using the Gorgon concept from The Sarah Jane Adventures, or exploring the Cyclops or giants or centaurs or any other mythological beast?
I just want something that isn’t historical for one half, and spaceships for the second half. I want something purely historical, and surely I’m not the only one?
The story this week was rushed and predictable. The Mire felt like the Skovox Blitzer from last year. The Skovox Blitzer was said to be one of the most dangerous weapons ever created, and it was defeated surprisingly easily. This time round the Mire were suggested as one of the deadliest warrior races in the universe, so why is the Doctor and a band of despairing Vikings able to beat them so easily? To me, this stinks of shoddy storytelling, and it makes the episode largely throwaway.
But that’s not to say ‘The Girl Who Died’ was completely redundant, because it wasn’t. This just felt like the entire episode was building towards something, and because of this everything else was just thrown in to get us to that one point.
Maisie Williams as Ashildr was, predictably, brilliant. Maisie is such a capable young actress, and she brought every bit of finesse from her role in Game of Thrones to generate a captivating character. She was somebody who the audience will likely vie for and thankfully, unalike Clara’s initial appearance in series seven as ‘The Impossible Girl’, Ashildr was made into more than a plot device. The was fleshed out and rounded enough that when she died, her death felt real.
But of course her death doesn’t stick, and I think I’m sensing a growing arc for series 9: that death can be cheated. This arc seemingly arose in the finale of series 8, if I am correct in my belief that this is the ongoing story (and, is now appears, since as far back as series 4), and it’ll likely be amped in the coming weeks so that whenever someone dies, the audience won’t believe their death is final.
I still think the Moff is going to make a bold move in actually killing off Clara later this series, and I sincerely hope that if this happens the Doctor cannot cheat her death. I love Clara, but in a show that rarely kills people off for good, imagine how much her death would matter.
There is also an ongoing theme of the Doctor not wanting to adversely affect Clara by shaping her into someone who loves danger, and I can only see this plot developing so much that Clara’s love of danger leads to her death. The Doctor will inevitably feel guilt over this, and this is something I want the show to explore. Peter Capaldi is better with darker material.
‘The Girl Who Died’ finally revealed why the Doctor chose his current face and, for me, this explanation was exceptional. The face of Caecilius reminds the Doctor that he doesn’t just have to sit back and let people die, that he can actually save them, and thus cheat death, trying in with the apparent ongoing arc.
So far this series we have seen Davros, Missy and Clara escape death in the opening two parter, the Doctor himself escape death last week, and now Ashildr has risen from death to live forevermore. I’m confident that this is the arc of series nine.
So where does this leave us? Is Ashildr the prophesied hybrid that the Doctor was running from when he left Gallifrey? Somehow I don’t think so. 52 years of mythology cannot hinge on a fusing of human and Mire.
Ashildr, of course, will return next week, but I can’t help feel that her return would be better served if it happened a little down the line, closer to the finale. Tying in with what I previously said, this, to me, feels like the entirety of ‘The Girl Who Died’ was crafted just for its followup episode.
But perhaps I can forgive this, given that ‘The Woman Who Lived’ looks exceptional.