Written by Jamie Matheison & Steven Moffat // Directed by Ed Bazalgette
The Doctor and Clara find themselves amongst a village of Vikings. The Odin worshippers have been greeted by the god’s presence and many of their strongest warriors have been “summoned” to Valhalla. When Clara and Ashildr are teleported to ‘Valhalla’, Clara exposes Odin for what he is: the Mire – part of a warrior race who plunder the galaxy feeding on testosterone. Things take a deadly turn when the young Viking Ashildr wages war against Odin and the Mire. Now the Doctor has one day to prepare a defenceless and warrior-less village for a fight to the death.
Doctor effing Who, welcome back! I mean really, this is the first episode this season that was completely satisfying. Is it perfect, no, but was it enjoyable? Hell yes! Doctor Who, Vikings, Battles, Aliens. It was a recipe for success, really. And heck, well done to relatively new Who writer Jamie Matheison. Previous credits (Mummy On the Orient Express & Flatline – two of the best episodes of series 8 – go figure?). I find it a little insulting on Jamie that Moffat is slapping his name on the writing credit, doesn’t he get enough credit already? Nevertheless, Jamie really gets Who, that much is obviously. He doesn’t waste time with exposition, he writes good characters, and lets stuff happen. The episode was non-stop fun. This episode is a prime example of why new blood is so important to Doctor Who.
We finally know why the Doctor chose his current face. Peter Capaldi first appeared in Fires of Pompeii as Caecilius. The 10th Doctor was persuaded by Donna to save someone, and the Doctor saved him and his family. Thoughout The Girl Who Died the Doctor battles with ‘the rules’ that he can’t break but which are never really explained. There has always been a struggle with who he can save and who he cannot (Waters of Mars for example). In Deep Breath the Doctor knew his was trying to tell himself by choosing ‘this face’, but what was it? Now he knows; he chose the face of someone he saved to remind himself that that is what the Doctor does. Saves people. Let’s take this a step further, Colin Baker first appeared in Doctor Who as Commander Maxil, when Colin Baker took on the mental of the Doctor he was much darker than the first 5, despite his clown-like costume. Was the Doctor trying to tell himself that he was becoming a warrior? This would make an interesting plotline for the Time War in which the Doctor feels he has to abandon his Doctor title. While I must admit the face revelation is slightly anticlimactic and touches upon themes we’ve already seen, it was good fun to see the connections between Capaldi’s faces, though we still have the TorchWood face to be explained, one the Doctor didn’t see or save! Or did he? Plot thickens.
I’m very big on characters. If I don’t like them or feel that they are tangible, puh! I switch off. So far there have been no strong or memorable characters this series. All have felt very one-dimensional and a bit like “Stock Who Characters”. The Vikings felt real. Lofty and his baby, Ashildr and her struggle with her imagination and place in the world, even side characters like Ashildr’s father and the comedic Heidi. I bought into them. Odin and his plan was incredibly simplistic, which is great. We didn’t need an overcomplicated plot to get to know the characters; putting them in a hopeless situation was enough to flush the important ones out. And I got to say, the Electric eel solution was pretty clever.
The style of this ‘two parter’ was something we haven’t seen before, and refreshing. No typical cliffhanger. We have a complete adventure in The Girl Who Died, but there is more to come. The Doctor saves people all the time, how he saved Ashildr could have severe repercussions on the universe. Ripples that turn into tidal waves. Effectively the Doctor has now made her immortal. She no longer has the ability to die, something that can drive one mad. So what does the future hold for Alshildr? I did have some hopes that Maisie Williams was playing a new version of Susan Foreman, the Doctor’s Granddaughter. I knew that was a tall order though. That is the ultimate story I want to see, those two come back together. However Big Finish did a great job with Susan and the 8th Doctor. But they need to meet again. There are expectations that the Game of Thrones actress could become the next companion. It is unlikely but why not? Though she could be perceived as another Clara-type if that happens. They do look a lot alike, and diversity is what makes Doctor Who. I’m still hoping we get back to the trio-mix.
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