‘THE GIRL WHO DIED’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Ashildr, Vikings and the Mire with the Doctor and Clara
I missed seeing this episode when it was originally shown on TV. I was attending ‘Dimensions 2015’ that weekend in October and even missed it then. I caught up on it via BBC iPlayer later in that week.
I thought long and hard about whether to consider this and the next episode as a two-parter or just two separate stories. In the end, I decided to consider these as two separate stories for this season.
The ‘Series Nine Facts’ DVD booklet and ‘The Complete History’ books I’ve got list the two stories as separate ones, despite them being loosely connected. So I will honour by that listing. It makes sense.
‘The Girl Who Died’ is where my discomfort about Series 9 of ‘Doctor Who’ takes place. It starts here but I’ll get into more about this discomfort I have over Series 9 in my review for the next TV episode.
Well let’s find out! The episode begins with Clara floating in space in a spacesuit. This is following a previous adventure they had. The Doctor rescues Clara by getting rid of an alien inside her spacesuit.
The TARDIS then lands in the woods on Earth and they are captured by Vikings. I did like that moment where one Viking breaks the Doctor’s sonic sunglasses in half. The screwdriver is better! 😀
This isn’t the first time the Doctor’s encountered Vikings in his lifetime in ‘Doctor Who’. The first time was in ‘The Time Meddler’. He would later discover some Viking runes in ‘The Curse of Fenric’.
But the Vikings aren’t the highlight of this episode. Oh no! For you see, we meet Maisie Williams as Ashildr, a young Viking girl. Maisie Williams is so well-known playing Arya Stark in ‘Game of Thrones’.
Now I’ve not seen ‘Game of Thrones’ at all, so I can’t really claim to know Maisie Williams as an actress. Her performance as Ashildr is great. That is not reflected in her character, but I’ll get to that.
The Doctor seems to recognise something in Ashildr when he sees her for the first time. If you’re wondering what the Doctor sees in Ashildr…it’s complicated. You need to watch the rest of Series 9.
Anyway, the Viking village that the Doctor and Clara are taken to gets under attack by space warriors from the future led by…David Schofield as Odin. Wait a minute! David Schofield! What’s he been in?
Oh yes! He played Nostradamus in ‘The Doomsday Quatrain’ with Sylvester McCoy by Big Finish. He was also in the Big Finish audio, ‘Death In Blackpool’, with Paul McGann. How uncanny is that then?
Actually now I come to think of it. Why wasn’t Anthony Hopkins cast to play the role of Odin from the ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’…oh wait! It isn’t the real Odin, is it? Yeah. He’s an alien in disguise.
The Mire are deadly armoured warriors, purported to be one of the deadliest in the galaxy. They look like armoured walking tanks. They’re okay I guess, but we don’t see them doing a lot of action.
The Viking warriors of that village get captured by the Mire and are taken to their spaceship. Clara and Ashildr get transported too. The Viking warriors get slaughtered whilst Clara and Ashildr are spared.
Clara and Ashildr meet up with the fake Odin. Clara tries to negotiate with the fake Odin but Ashildr in her Viking vibrancy declares her village at war with the Mire. It’s something Clara wanted to avoid.
There was speculation that Ashildr was meant to be the new companion for the Doctor and that would’ve been interesting to see. That is not what happens here but that’s something for next time.
Clara and Ashildr are returned to the Viking village where even the Doctor is overjoyed to see Clara and hugs her. Ian Conningham guest stars as Einarr, Ashildr’s father. He gets the nickname Chuckles. There’s also Barnaby Kay as ‘Heidi’
After being told what happened with Clara and Ashildr, the Doctor tells everyone in the village to flee from the Mire. But Einarr and the Vikings that aren’t warriors refuse to run away as they’ll fight on.
I liked those scenes between Peter Capaldi’s Doctor and Jenna Coleman’s Clara where they talk about the situation. It’s one of the rarest things we see with them having a conversation together.
I know I’ve criticised the inconsistent writing of Clara’s character during the Peter Capaldi era. But when she and the Doctor do have tender moments together, they are worthwhile to watch indeed.
It’s scenes like that which make me warm to Jenna Coleman’s performance as Clara, especially when she smiles encouragingly. I wish that was a constant thing for Clara in other episodes of the season.
The Doctor also starts to form a connection with Ashildr, who fights a puppet of Odin in her room to face her fears. She shares with him about her life being full of stories which has the Doctor intrigued.
I like how the Doctor translates baby talk in the episode when a baby’s crying. I know this was done in the Matt Smith era, but I feel the way that Peter Capaldi does it is subtle and believable to watch.
The idea soon comes to the Doctor on how to tackle the Mire and the false Odin. They use ‘fire in the water’, meaning barrels full of electric eels. Err…where did these come from? Did I miss something?
Anyway, the Doctor, Clara, Ashildr and the others put together a plan to defeat the Mire and the false Odin. It works especially when they use a fake puppet of Ashildr’s and create a serpent dragon.
This is done by a holographic projection which Ashildr creates by placing one of the Mire’s helmets on her head. Not sure how that works, since it gets all so rushed via explanation during the episode.
Once the Mire and the false Odin are defeated, the Viking village is saved. So that should be a victory, right? Oh no! It seems Ashildr died with the Mire helmet on her head as it became too much for her.
That’s rather sudden and pretty undignified. Surely Ashildr would’ve preferred a noble honourable death. I mean, she saved her village with her holographic dragon of course. But it’s not so Viking-like.
The Doctor is pretty upset about this too as he gets fed up about people dying around him. Soon, the Doctor sees a reflection of himself in the water before he realises why he choose his particular face.
It connects to him as the Tenth Doctor saving Caecilius and his family in ‘The Fires of Pompeii’. Oh so that’s why he became Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor! This was to remind him to rescue people.
Maybe there’s a reason why the Doctor choose to become Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor from ‘Arc of Infinity’. And why he chose to become David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor from ‘Medicinal Purposes’ and ‘Colditz’.
Or I guess not! I mean why there would be a reason for the Doctor to choose those specific faces. 😀 Anyway, the Doctor gets an alien repair kit for Ashildr to restore her. This works and she’s back alive.
However, as the Doctor and Clara leave in the TARDIS, the Doctor isn’t sure he made the right choice. Ashildr is immortal now and that she may have lost the ability to die. Yeah. Such a mistake!
The episode ends with Ashildr against a backdrop where the years pass, turning into decades and centuries, but she never dies. What will happen to the future with Ashildr? Well, that’s for next time.
‘The Girl Who Died’ is a pretty decent ‘Doctor Who’ episode with Vikings, the Mire, a false Odin and Ashildr. It’s not a great ‘Doctor Who’ story by Jamie Mathieson, but then Steven Moffat wrote it too.
By the way, remember Davros mentioning a prophecy about a hybrid in ‘The Witch’s Familiar’? Well, the Doctor seems to suggest that Ashildr, with the alien repair kit inside of her, is now a hybrid herself.
The DVD special features on this episode are as follows. On Disc 2 of ‘Series 9 – Part 1’ of ‘Doctor Who’, there’s ‘The Girl Who Died’ and ‘The Woman Who Lived’ – Doctor Who Extra’ featurette.
On Disc 3 of ‘The Complete Series 9’ of ‘Doctor Who’, ‘The Girl Who Died’ and ‘The Woman Who Lived’ – Doctor Who Extra’ featurette can also be found on there. There’s also ‘The Girl Who Died’ trailer.
‘The Girl Who Died’ rating – 7/10
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