Sunday, October 18, 2015

Doctor Who 9.05: "The Girl Who Died"

“I’m sick of losing people.”
- The Doctor

It’s hard to believe that we are nearly halfway through this series. But we are. And as the previous four episodes, this one looks to be the beginning of yet another two-part episode. I may have said this before, but all of these two-part episodes are getting very tiring and feel a bit lazy. It’s really just six stories spread out over twelve episodes. Anyway, this is the episode which Game of Thrones fans have been waiting for thanks to the introduction of Maisie Williams’ character. Before we meet her, the Doctor and Clara are in a spot of trouble. The TARDIS is having all kinds of problems and Clara’s stuck outside in a space suit with some kind of alien spider crawling up her back (which reminded me of the thing on Donna’s back in “Turn Left”).That isn’t going to be the only series 4 reference this episode I’m guessing because once the Doctor rescues Clara and they touch down on Earth they are kidnapped by some Vikings.

The Doctor doesn’t quite have a plan as of yet by the time they get back to the village. We do finally meet young Ashildr (played by Williams). To be honest I’ve never seen Game of Thrones so I didn’t know the actress was only 18. She looks so much younger. Anyway, she’s relieved that the men have all returned because she had a dream where they all died. That’s com9ing right along, honey. Just as the Doctor tries to convince them he’s Odin in human form (to take control of the situation), a giant Viking head appears in the sky and transports all of the warriors away (claiming to be Odin). Because Clara can’t listen for five seconds, she and Ashildr get dragged along for the ride. The Doctor is rather cross about Clara getting nabbed but he shouldn’t worry too much. She’s alive and so is her young companion. The warriors, not so much. They get distilled into pure testosterone which the leader of an alien race called the Maya drink. They love fighting. Clara nearly talks him into just letting them go but Ashildr demands blood and promises the aliens will be crushed in battle.

So that whole let’s fight the nasty warrior aliens isn’t such a bright idea since all that’s left are women and farmers. The Doctor tells them all to run away but they aren’t having it. They are Vikings damn it and proud of it. We get some interesting speeches from the Doctor as he translates a baby crying. At least we get that continuity and ultimately, the Doctor agrees to stay and help train them. I don’t think he expected it to quite as poorly as it does but yeah…it’s a mess. They can’t use real swords at first since they just mangle themselves and then things just go horribly awry.

The Doctor is clearly frustrated by the whole situation and Clara tells him that he can’t give up he needs to find what he’s missing (because he is missing something) and that will help them win. The Doctor has been going on and on this series about how he owes Clara a duty of care (please, Moffat stop making me think about torts class!) but she insists he doesn’t. He’s wandering about when he happens on Ashildr making up stories about the battles her village goes on. She explains that she’s always been weird and everyone knows it. But she’s loved in her village and she won’t leave it. Outside, the baby is crying again and one of the guy (who turns out to be a blacksmith) is trying to calm her with looking at fish in a barrel of water. It turns out they aren’t fish they are electric eels. This revelations invigorates the Doctor and he declares the villagers are going to win the following day.

The Maya show up on time but find the villagers in the middle of party. They are playing games and dancing. The Doctor points out that they are unarmed, although the Maya leader says that doesn’t matter. The plan the villagers enact is rather brilliant. They use the electricity from the eels to magnetize one of the helmets of the warriors and the Doctor rewires it so Ashildr can tell a story and show them a giant scary monster. The warriors flee, leaving their leader to stand around in shame when they reveal it was a giant puppet. Oh and the best part, the Doctor threatens to upload the video they took to the space equivalent of the cloud and share it with everyone, ruining the Maya reputation. Probably not the nicest thing the Doctor could do but it works and the Maya leave. There’s a brief celebratory feeling before they realize something is wrong. Ashildr isn’t moving and it turns out she basically died showing the aliens what the gang wanted them to see. The Doctor is furious with himself and furious that he keeps losing people. He’s tired of it. Clara says that he saved the rest of the village and as the Doctor catches a glimpse of his reflection we get an amazing revelation. We finally realize why he has the face he does and it’s a lovely tie-in to Ten saving the one family in Pompeii at Donna’s teary bequest. He says that he gave himself this face to hold himself accountable because he can save just one person.

It turns out that he’s repurposed some of the alien tech to save Ashildr. It burrows into her and sets about fixing her. Things are looking good for the Viking village until the Doctor and Clara head off. He left a second piece of tech for Ashildr to use as she wants and he explains that the tech will forever keep repairing their young savior, making her basically immortal. This somehow leads him to analogize her with River (which I’m taking as a very future shout out to the Christmas special where we know River will be making an appearance). We end this episode with Ashildr watching the world change and pass her by. And as the time passes we see her youthful, hopeful eyes turn cold and hard. This isn’t going to bode well for the Doctor.

So, I have to admit, I know I was grumpy at the start of the episode but I really enjoyed it. I like that Moffat finally delivered on his promise to explain the Doctor’s face and the little link to Pompeii. It made me happy to see some of Tennant’s work revisited. It really was a lot of fun. I would say this is my favorite episode this season!

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