Published on October 19th, 2015 | by Brad0
Doctor Who – The Girl Who Died
Series 9 of Doctor Who has thus far had a preoccupation with mortality, and that theme is very much carried on in The Girl Who Died. The titular girl, Ashildr (Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams), is a member of a tribe of Vikings, shorn of their warriors by the invading aliens and on 24 hours’ notice before they are slaughtered in response to her insulting the enemy leader. The Doctor has to train these farmers and fishermen to defeat one of the deadliest armies in the galaxy.
Though the impending doom weighs heavy on proceedings, The Girl Who Died is a surprisingly light affair for the most part. The villain’s first appearance brings to mind the appearance of God in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, rather than any sense of real menace, and his soldiers look like they belong in 1980s TV adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Though I understand the urge to lighten the mood given the morbidity of the series so far, this feels like a slight step too far.
The stench of death clings ever closer to Clara Oswald. The episode opens with her in mortal peril, floating out in space with no lifeline and a deadly parasite crawling up the back of her leg. Though she’s never in that degree of danger again, later scenes have us much more fearful for her. When The Doctor tells her that someday she’s going to be a very painful memory for him, it’s a line dripping with foreboding. I think his rage at the rules and his desire to cause a tidal wave hint at something darker than even the surface shows. I think there’s a very real possibility that The Doctor has already seen Clara’s death, and that he’s trying to prolong his time with her by going back into her time stream, perhaps in an attempt to beat time and save Clara’s life. Time will always tell though, unfortunately.
In Maisie Williams the folk at Game of Thrones have uncovered a bona fide star in the making, and she is very good here. Ashildr’s optimism and awkwardness can’t help but recall Arya Stark in happier times, but Williams does well to keep those comparisons to a minimum. Her speech to The Doctor about how alienated she feels is a powerful moment, and you can see why he was spurred into action. In spite of the title, The Girl Who Died’s fate is yet to be resolved, and I look forward to seeing her again next week.
After a very strong start to series 9, The Girl Who Died feels a little flimsy in all honesty. The villain is weak, not helped by the almost dismissive nature of his defeat. It never quite gets the balance of morbidity and humour right, either, so it feels a bit clunky. It has some sensational scenes and performances, though. Not the best episode, but one can’t help but feel it will prove crucial in the weeks to come.