Monday, October 19, 2015

My Review of Doctor Who'x 9x05: "The Girl Who Died"

Written by Jamie Mathieson And Steven Moffat
Directed by Ed Bazalgette

Clara (to Ashildr, re the Doctor): "He hasn't got a plan yet but he will have and it will be spectacular."

If the opening episodes with their multiple returns weren't the most anticipated ones for this series, then second on that list would probably have been the episodes to feature Game Of Thrones actress Maisie Williams and for those who were hoping for something heavier, this episode might have disappointed a tad. For me though, it's quickly become one of my favourites.

The Doctor and Clara wind up in a Viking village, mainly by being captured by a group of them at the wrong time and it's not long before the main threat looms over the entire episode. The threat being a war like robot race known as the Mire, led by someone posing quite badly as Odin and it wasn't until a young girl said the wrong thing that the Mire declared war on the Viking village in question. Nope, it wasn't Clara but instead the character of Ashildr as played nicely by Williams.

Ashildr's words of war (appropriate considering the name means "battle") against the Mire forced the Doctor and Clara to stay in the village and try to train up the villagers so they didn't get slaughtered. The funny thing was that there was less actual fighting on the day of battle in question and more a clever use of diversion and threats of viral humiliation instead.

I've seen a fair amount of criticism for the humour in this episode, even with some fair enough comparison made to last series Robot Of Sherwood but considering that the first four episodes this series were relatively darker (albeit with some lighter moments in them), I actually enjoyed the humour in this one. Yes, the use of a certain theme was a bit of a WTF moment and even the not so great 'Doctor speaks baby' thing was given another whirl but even that came into actual good use for once.

It also helped that most of the characters were likeable enough and while 'Odin' and the Mire were arguably a little too quickly defeated, they weren't really the main story. The main story was Ashildr and not for the reasons people were probably expecting. Anyone (including myself at first) who thought the character was going to be revealed as someone familiar - that didn't happen but maybe that was a good thing.

As a character, Ashildr really didn't need to be anyone we already knew. Pushing the hype of Maisie Williams casting for the character to one side, the character was genuinely interesting, strange and had plenty of wonderful moments with both the Doctor and Clara before she ended up being killed during the battle with Odin and the Mire. I even found her death pretty sad even without the Doctor lamenting to Clara about losing people/hammering home the latter's imminent departure.

Then there was the Doctor playing with Ashildr's death. Giving her a new lease of immortality due to an alien chip has got to blow up in his face by next week and the one thing I've noticed aside from the hybrid theme is that both the Doctor and Clara are behaving extremely reckless this series. Needless to say in seven weeks time this is going to end badly for both of them.

Also in "The Girl Who Died"

The explanation for the Doctor's current face along with a flashback of the 10th Doctor and Donna from The Fires Of Pompeii worked better than expected but again, this wasn't something that needed explaining.

Clara (re spider creature): "It's halfway up my leg."
The Doctor: "Don't worry, it's just hungry."

The opening sequence with Clara in a space suit dealing with a spider creature was amusing but wasn't needed for the episode.

Odin: "Your mightiest warriors will feast within the halls of Valhalla."

Clara (to Odin): "The universe is full of testosterone. It's unbearable."

How does a Viking village have electrical eels? Of course, plot convenience but it did stand out though.

Clara (re villagers): "Turning them into fighters, that's not you."
The Doctor: "I used to believe that too."

Ashildr (to the Doctor/Clara): "I know I'm strange. Everybody knows I'm strange but here I'm loved."

I keep mentioning it but seriously, BBC sort out the Doctor Who Extra and the timeslot for this series, even though this episode went up a bit in the latter category.

Odin (to the Doctor): "This humiliation will not go unpunished. We will meet again."

Clara: "What is wrong with your face?"
The Doctor: "I know why I chose it."

Standout music: Murray Gold really came up with something beautiful when Ashildr's immortality kicked in at the end of this one.

The Doctor (to Clara): "I'm the Doctor and I save people."

Chronology: Viking times, no specific chronology given onscreen.

This might have been a polarising episode for others but for me, I absolutely loved it. The Girl Who Died had humour that actually worked for me, a wonderful guest character in Ashildr whose immortality will have actual consequences for the Doctor. Not to mention a flashback to one of my favourite past episodes and more allusions to Clara's imminent exit from the series.

Rating: 10 out of 10

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