Sunday, 18 October 2015

The Girl Who Died - Review

Naturally - don't read on until you've seen this.
Another excellent episode. Last year, Jamie Mathieson scooped all the plaudits for his two stories, and if this episode is anything to go by he might do well in the polls for this series as well.
In a way it is the first single episode story of Series 9, in that the Viking / Mire plot was wrapped up within these 45 minutes. In 35 minutes, actually, as the last 10 minutes were there to set up next week's story.
We started with one of those openings where we are seeing the tail-end of some unseen adventure. The Doctor and Clara then arrive in Viking territory. Two days later they find themselves in their village, and the Doctor's efforts to pretend to be Odin are ever so slightly undermined when another Odin turns up in the sky and the armoured Mire show up to transport all the virile males away - plus Clara and young Ashildr, the local tomboy.
The Mire just like to pick fights, and feed off testosterone. I can think of a few northern towns where they would feel right at home.
Clara is about to get them to leave, when Ashildr provokes them into sticking around - so the Doctor has just 24 hours to turn the non-combatant villagers into a fighting force. Cue some funny scenes with what he has to work with. The aftermath of their first practice with real swords is hilarious.
Being the Doctor, he eventually comes up with a number of non-violent methods to defeat them.
Unfortunately, one of these involves Ashildr putting on a Mire helmet and using her imagination to conjure up the image of a dragon.
The Doctor threatens to upload footage of their defeat on-line, galactically, so basically he You-Tubes the Mire into retreating.
Then, the story's title comes into play. Projecting the dragon using alien tech has killed Ashildr.

The Vikings might be heartbroken, but we know that this is not the end of her story. We already know that she appears in next week's linked episode, set centuries later.
Even though it never really needed an explanation, we then see the Doctor realising why he chose his current visage. (They never felt the need to explain why the Sixth Doctor looked like Commander Maxil of the Chancellery Guard).
We get to see a few scenes from Deep Breath, where he wondered where his face came from, then some from The Fires of Pompeii. (Lovely to see David Tennant again).
It is all because sometimes the Doctor decides to save someone. You'll recall that the Tenth Doctor was going to leave the family of Caecilius to their fate, but Donna talked him into saving them.
There was a lot of talk up 'til this point about how, as a time traveler, the Doctor feels he is allowed to make ripples - just not tidal waves.
What he does with Ashildr might possibly prove to be a tidal wave. That's because he uses a bit of Mire technology to bring her back to life - as an immortal.
There are obvious parallels between the Doctor's life and how Ashildr's will unfold. The Doctor leaves a second Mire medi-kit in case she ever wants to gain an immortal partner for herself - something the Doctor can't - or won't - take for himself.
Some beautiful direction from Ed Bazalgette - special mention for that final sequence with Maisie Williams, witnessing the passing of the years. All those theories about her being Time Lord - Susan, Romana, or even Jenny - all crumble to dust.
A great performance from her. David Schofield, as Odin. didn't get to do anything subtle, sadly - playing an alien warrior imitating a Viking God does inevitably lead to a more scenery-chewing performance.
In some ways I wish they weren't revisiting Ashildr's story in the very next episode. It might have been nicer to have stretched out this plot, and for her to turn up again a bit later in the series. Space things out a bit.
Death, and the loneliness of longevity / immortality, are bubbling through this series - which I assume are all leading us inexorably towards Clara's imminent departure.
Next week, more Maisie, Highwaymen (or rather Highway-persons), an alien artifact, and a flame-breathing lionesque being.

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