It’s time for my most anticipated guest star on Doctor Who this season: the fantastic Maisie Williams!
Let’s bitch it out…
When I found out that one of my favourite Game Of Thrones actors would be guest starring on Doctor Who this series, I was incredibly excited. Unfortunately it seems I drew the short end of the straw by reviewing the first half of this two parter as Williams is given very little to do (the promo for next week clearly indicates she will be much more active in next week’s episode).
Yes, aas ‘The Girl That Died’ is much less about Ashildr (Williams) than it is about answering the ponderous question that has plagued Twelve’s tenure on the show since Peter Capaldi was cast. Fans will recall Capaldi was previously cast on Doctor Who as the Roman marble merchant Caecilius in S4’s ‘The Fires Of Pompeii’ (waaaay back in the Tennant/Ten years). Ever since Capaldi inherited the mantle of The Doctor, there has been speculation about whether or not the series would reference the similarities, as well as wild conspiracy theories about how the two are connected.
‘The Girl Who Dies’ gives us a definitive answer: The Doctor gave himself the face of the man he decided to save (ripples or tidal waves be damned) when Caecilius was destined to die. The Doctor took his face to remember that he isn’t beholden to the rules. Or, as he loudly proclaims to Clara (Jenna Coleman) before essentially playing God, “I can do anything!”
I’ll confess that the (re)casting of Capaldi was never a huge concern of mine, so the question didn’t hinder or contribute to my enjoyment of the show. As it stands, having an answer to the mystery feels a little shrugworthy, but perhaps it will be more significant when we get to see what the impact of turning Ashildr immortal (or “hybrid”) is in the second half of this two parter next week. Or not…perhaps this is where it begins and ends.
Rewinding back to the main component of ‘The Girl That Died’, this feels like the slightest of all of S9’s episodes so far. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because the script – penned by Moffat (as always) and co-writer Jamie Mathieson (last season’s Flatline and Mummy on the Orient Express) – provides Capaldi with loads of opportunities to ham it up for maximum comedic effect, while still maintaining the Whovian themes around violence, diplomacy and empowering the little guy in the face of adversity. The show’s take on Norse mythology (with a technology twist) doesn’t make for the most interesting villain; Odin (David Schofield) fails to make an impact in his few scenes and the henchmen kinda look like walking garbage bins. It will be interesting to see if the Mire make a return appearance (next week or in the future) since they’re touted as candidates for the title of most dangerous warriors in the universe and Odin clearly wants revenge on The Doctor after he is outplayed by a bunch of Viking farmers/fishermen.
- I think I prefer Eleven’s communication with babies over Twelve’s, though that may just be because it included baby Alfie naming himself “Stormaggedon, Dark Lord Of All”, which is admittedly more amusing than a baby who chats about electric eels.
- According to Den Of Geek US there’s some history behind The Doctor’s love of the yo-yo (I’d forgotten about the yo-yo in ‘Kill The Moon’, but that may be because that episode prompted me to abandon the series last year). The yo-yo apparently has a long Doctor Who history; it dates back to Four’s second serial, ‘The Arc in Space‘ in 1975. What intrigued me most was The Doctor’s backhanded insult that the yo-yo can be used to fool “primitive minds”, which precedes Clara’s dazzled expression when he reveals it and his discarded shackles.
- Speaking of accessories, the entire episode is the result of The Doctor’s less-than-resilient sunglasses, which are far more vulnerable than the sonic screwdriver. I think that’s a pretty compelling reason to go with the screwdriver instead of the uninspired sunglasses, no?
- When The Doctor asks for a show of hands of individuals who have held a sword in battle, Clara is the only other person to respond. A quick web search reveals that this isn’t something that we’ve seen on the show. Naturally the Internet has exploded with demands for details/fanfiction/evidence.
- Finally, I’m willing to overlook shoddy special effects that must cost a fortune (such as the imaginary serpent that Odin sees in place of Ashildr’s puppet), but what is the excuse for the really cheap looking time lapse green screen that closes the episode? Blurg.
- Edit: Some reviews are suggesting that Ashildr’s new status confers on her the role of much prophesied “hybrid of two warrior races” that The Doctor and Davros discussed back in the season opener(s) I II. I’ll admit that I heard the hybrid aspect, but failed to connect it back.
- The Doctor (after his glasses are knocked from his face): “Clara…we’re going with the Vikings.”
- Viking (explaining why he’s glad he wasn’t selected among the best warriors): “I’m not good with heights.”
- The Doctor (when Clara returns from Odin’s spacecraft): “I’m not a hugger.”
- Clara (to the Vikings, when the Doctor begins responding to the crying baby): “He speaks baby.”
- The Doctor (giving rousing advice to the Vikings): “Winning is about looking happier than the other guy!”
- Clara (showing The Doctor footage of the attack): “See all it needed was the Benny Hill theme.”
- The Doctor (when Ashildr opens her eyes): “She’ll be conscious in a day, up on her feet in three. No swimming for a week.”
Your turn: what did you think of part one? Do you think Maisie Williams got enough to do? Were the Mire underwhelming villains? Are you happy to have closure about Twelve’s use of Caecilius’s face? What does it mean that Ashildr is now a “hybrid” (aside from the obvious fact that she can no longer be killed)? Where does part 2 go from here? Sound off below.
Doctor Who airs Saturdays at 9pm EST on BBC America in the US