The two-part arcs continue in full throttle with this week’s episode, a highly-anticipated story for fans ever since it was announced that Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams would be guest-starring. While we don’t see her stray too far from her Arya character in the other series, “The Girl Who Died” certainly does some intriguing things and sets things up rather brilliantly for a wildly-different part-two episode next week.
WARNING: What you’re about to read contains spoilers about this episode and possibly other episodes/seasons of Doctor Who. Proceed at your own risk/reward!
RECAP: Short and sweet here: the Doctor and Clara, after a fun opening “save the day at the last minute” bit, get captured by Vikings and taken to their village. The Doctor pretends to be a messenger from Odin, Viking king of the gods, but the natives don’t believe him – because Odin already appears to them in the sky! Odin sends his warriors to take the best Viking fighters “to Valhalla,” which we discover is a spaceship when Clara and young Ashildr (Williams) are taken as well. Clara plays the Doctor’s bravado role and tells the testosterone-eating aliens, known as The Mire, to leave Earth; she has almost succeeded when Ashildr instead defends her village’s honor and challenges the Mire to a winner-take-all showdown.
The rest of the episode is spent with the Doctor deciding whether or not to help the Vikings; when he inevitably does, we see him wanting to help people, truly struggling to come up with a plan, and finally throwing something together at the last minute that’s so crazy that it just might work. The final few minutes of the episode bring about some major revelations for the Doctor and the promise of a time-spanning conclusion to the story in next week’s episode.
>>> Lots of scripted/quotable throwbacks in this episode, in addition to the obvious “Fires of Pompeii” and Tenth Doctor/Donna moments. A few different phrases make their return in this episode as potential ongoingDoctor Who catchphrases: “reverse the polarity of the neutron flow” was uttered (both directly and in a few other variations) by the Third Doctor on many occasions; “time will tell – it always does” was also famously spoken by the Seventh Doctor during his run; the angsty “I can do anything!” yell when Ashildr dies is the exact same thing the Tenth Doctor said after Astrid died in “Voyage of the Damned;” and the fact that Ashildr may now be immortal “barring any accidents” was also used by the Second Doctor to describe the Time Lords’ own lifespans.
>>> If you wondered about the Doctor reading from his “2000 Year Diary,” you’re not alone – turns out this is another throwback to the history of the series. The Second Doctor had a “500 Year Diary,” and the Seventh Doctor had a “900 Year Diary,” so it appears that as our favorite Time Lord ages, so too does his reference guide!
>>> Rather auspiciously highlighted at the end of the episode was the fact that the Doctor said he had created a “hybrid.” This certainly seems to tie directly into his conversation with Davros in the two-part season opener, where the two spoke of the Gallifreyan prophecy of two great warrior races coming together by the Doctor’s hand to create an even stronger race. The initial assumption, of course, was that it was the Daleks and the Time Lords being referenced, but here we see a human/Mire hybrid created by none other than the Doctor himself…
>>> Did anyone else think that the large serpent/dragon creature that Ashildr created at the climax of the battle looked suspiciously similar to the sea serpent we kept being given obvious shots of in the canteen of the underwater base in the previous two episodes?
>>> While we’re on the subject of “did anyone else think” stuff – am I crazy, or did anyone else draw an immediate mental parallel with Ashildr’s name sounding almost identical to Isildur, the Sauron-banishing human warrior from Lord of the Rings mythos? Is it just a case of close-sounding nomenclature, or might there be a bigger parallel being drawn here?
CLOSING THOUGHTS: Some may see these two-part episodes so far this season as a bit of a lull in the overall mythos of Doctor Who action – myself sometimes included, depending on how deep I dive into the “deeper meaning of what we’re being given in these episodes. It certainly feels like we’re building towards something bigger this season, and it may just be that the clues are being a bit more subtly buried than in seasons past. To quote my favorite Doctor, now re-quoted by Twelve: time will tell… it always does.
PRINCIPAL CAST FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE:
Peter Capaldi as The Doctor
Jenna Louise Coleman as Clara Oswald
Maisie Williams as Ashildr