‘The Woman Who Lived’ (TV)

 

‘THE WOMAN WHO LIVED’

Please feel free to comment on my review.

Lady Me Is Ashildr Whether She Likes It Or Not

I saw this episode when it was on shown on TV on a Saturday evening. This is where I feel it really went downhill for me with regard to Series 9, as things became less interesting and more frustrating.

The episode is by Catherine Tregenna, who previously wrote four episodes of ‘Torchwood’, including ‘Out of Time’, ‘Captain Jack Harkness’, ‘Meat’ and ‘Adam’. Catherine’s writing is not so bad.

I don’t hold a grudge against Catherine writing this ‘Doctor Who’ episode as she does a pretty good job. My grudge against this episode is towards the characterisation of Ashildr compared to last time.

The episode follows up what happened in ‘The Girl Who Died’. The story takes place in England 1651. The TARDIS lands in the woods at night where the Doctor steps out. And Clara is not with him.

Yeah that’s one of the things that frustrates me about this episode. Jenna Coleman only makes an appearance at the end of this episode. Why couldn’t she have appeared in the whole of the episode?

I would’ve liked that. It’s another one of these examples where Clara’s character gets sidelined in the season and it feels like she hasn’t got a big story for us to enjoy in Series 9. It’s very frustrating for me.

Anyway, the Doctor is looking for something as it happens to be this alien artifact that shouldn’t belong in this period of Earth’s timeline. His search leads to a horse and carriage that’s being robbed.

The robber of course is known as the Knightmare, voiced by Will Brown. The Knightmare is known to be a deadly highwayman. It’s also this kids’ TV adventure game show from the 1980s and 1990s. 😀

Eventually the Doctor soon finds out that the Knightmare is actually…Maisie Williams who returns as Ashildr. The Doctor is surprised to find her in 1651. This encounter with her was a mere coincidence.

Ashildr has been living for over 800 years since the Doctor last encountered her. She seems to have lost many of her memories and she’s isolated herself in order to avoid the pain of losing loved ones.

She also happens to have renamed herself as simply ‘Me’ due to her loneliness. Really? That’s the best you can come up with, Ashildr? I mean, I know you’ve lost your memories, but ‘Me’ isn’t a good name.

I would’ve come up with something impressive than that like…I don’t know…Super Viking Girl or…One Person…or even One. Yeah. ‘One’ would have been a better name compared to being ‘Me’.

I found it intriguing how Ashildr has survived so many years of hardship. We get to see flashbacks of her former lives in getting killed, before cheating death and getting new lives as the centuries go onwards.

Despite Ashildr referring to herself as ‘Me’, the Doctor keeps on calling her ‘Ashildr’. And do you know what? I’m calling her that despite her constant denials. Ashildr is ‘Ashildr’ whether she likes it or not.

During the episode, Ashildr begs the Doctor to take her away from this world. He refuses. This was very interesting to see as the Doctor is reluctant to let Ashildr on board as a travelling companion.

Although thinking about it, why didn’t the Doctor let her come aboard the TARDIS as a travelling companion? It was speculated even in the ‘Radio Times’. Why wasn’t the idea carried forward here?

It was also interesting to see that Ashildr has been keeping journals to write her memories, but some pages have been ripped out. She’s lost children in her life, but does not seem to care about it.

Ashildr also leads a double life in 1651. By night, she’s the Knightmare. By day, she’s Lady Me. She even has a blind butler, Struan Rodger as Clayton. Struan also voiced the Face of Boe in the TV series.

After Ashildr begs the Doctor again to take her with him in the TARDIS, he refuses again. Thus the Doctor meets Ashildr’s ally, Ariyon Bakare as Leandro, who is a leonine alien stranded on the planet.

Leandro is a combination of looking like Aslan from ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ and Biroc the Tharil from ‘Warriors’ Gate’. Leandro is not a Tharil unfortunately, as he’s actually an alien called a Leonian.

It seems Ashildr tricked the Doctor to help Leandro find the alien artifact on Earth. It’s connected to Greek mythology and is called ‘the Eyes of Hades’. Leandro can also breathe fire out from his mouth.

Leandro has agreed to let Ashildr come with him to travel the galaxy once the Doctor’s refused her. But one death is required in order to open a portal so that Leandro and Ashildr can travel the galaxy.

Ashildr intends to use her blind butler Clayton as a sacrifice for this end, but changes her mind as rival highway Sam Swift is about to be hanged. The Doctor protests but Ashildr is so resilient on this.

The Doctor argues with Ashildr that what she’s doing is wrong. But Ashildr blames the Doctor for what he did to her by making her immortal and she does not seem to care about the consequences.

(laughs ironically) “Um, Ashildr – I know you’ve called yourself ‘Me’ but I’m not calling you that. I’m calling you Ashildr whether you like it or not. Ashildr…who are you? No, seriously! WHO ARE YOU?!!!”

Am I supposed to be rooting for this character? Is there something about Ashildr’s character I should appreciate throughout this season? Well I’m sorry to say it, but I find Ashildr’s character unlikeable!

In the episodes that she’s in, she comes across as being selfish, flat and less interesting than Captain Jack Harkness when he became immortal. At least he was a likeable rogue and he had some moral values.

The Doctor gave Ashildr an immortal life and she’s ungrateful about it. She blames the Doctor for trapping her in the life she’s had and is about to do something awful regardless of the consequences.

Yeah that’s something that’s bothered me about this season overall. I get an impression Ashildr was supposed to be a focus for Series 9. That she was meant to be the companion instead of Clara here.

That would make sense, considering Jenna Coleman initially intended to leave but changed her mind afterwards. Perhaps Ashildr was meant to have this focus as a character compared to what’s shown.

If that’s the case, why couldn’t they have done a season of ‘Doctor Who’ where Peter Capaldi had two companions in Clara and Ashildr? They would rectify this by having Bill and Nardole in Series 10!

I’m sorry if there are fans out there for Ashildr, but this character doesn’t do it for me. Looking to how she is depicted in the later stories of this season, she, for me, is a difficult character to root for.

And yes, I know she redeems herself in this episode by the end. But after watching this season overall and seeing how she behaves in the later episodes, I get this uncomfortable feeling about her.

Anyway, Rufus Hound as rival highwayman Sam Swift, who provides the comic relief of this episode, gets saved by the Doctor. But Ashildr puts the alien artefact into Swift to open the portal, killing him.

ARGH!!! Again, how can I root for this character when she does some awful things?! And that doesn’t end in this episode! She does something awful in a future episode, but we’ll get to that soon.

The portal opens and it reveals to be an invasion of Leonians. Leandro has been lying to Ashildr all along and was just using her. Ashildr realises the error of her ways and she has her conscience back.

She and the Doctor work in closing the portal together and save Swift’s life. Ashildr uses the second medical chip given to her by the Doctor to save Swift’s life. The portal closes and the invasion is over.

Later at a pub with Sam Swift, the Doctor shares to Ashildr in secret that the immortality chip she gave Swift didn’t make him immortal. The power has been drained. A shame as Ashildr will still be lonely.

Ashildr tells the Doctor that she will remain his friend and will look after those companions he had left behind. That doesn’t seem to get reflected in a future episode of this season, but that’s for later.

The episode ends with the Doctor picking up Clara in the TARDIS before they go and have an adventure. It’s a shame that Clara wasn’t in this story as she would have made it less painful for me.

The Doctor takes a look at a selfie of Clara with one of her pupils on her mobile phone and he spots Ashildr in the background. I didn’t know we would see Ashildr again in the series, but I should’ve guessed.

‘The Woman Who Lived’ is not one of my favourites. It’s decently written by Catherine Tregenna, but I’m afraid Ashildr didn’t appeal to me as a character and I wish she could’ve been written differently.

The DVD special features on this episode are as follows. On Disc 2 of ‘Series 9 – Part 1’ of ‘Doctor Who’, there’s the ‘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 ‘The Woman Who Lived’ trailer and there’s also a commentary with Maisie Williams and producer Derek Ritchie.

The first half of Series 9 of ‘Doctor Who’ is okay. It has a fairly impressive explosive Dalek two-parter to open the season and it was good to have some more two-part stories compared to previous seasons. But I felt that the season began to sag when Ashildr’s character got introduced in the series.

It wasn’t enough to make me regard this season as one of my least favourites, but my feelings of discomfort for this season would be experienced in the second half. Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman fare well as the Doctor and Clara and I was looking forward to seeing the future adventures they would have together.

Oh yeah, um…about that! Zygons anyone?!

‘The Woman Who Lived’ rating – 4/10


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2 thoughts on “‘The Woman Who Lived’ (TV)

  1. Timelord 007

    Hate this episode, I literally detest the character of Ashildr who i suspect would’ve been the next companion if it wasn’t for Masies Game Of Throne commitments, weird i love her GoT character but detest her performance as Ashildr who i find self centred & unlikable despite her redemption at the episodes end..

    Weak characters, poor story, not a fan of this season at all…..can you tell.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Simon.

      Glad you share my opinion on this ‘Doctor Who’ episode.

      It’s such a shame as I would’ve liked it if Ashildr became the new ‘Doctor Who’ companion. But as it turned out it didn’t happen and she ended up being unlikeable and self-centred like you said. I’m not looking forward to Ashildr’s future episodes in this season where she becomes even more unlikeable.

      I didn’t know Maisie Williams was still committed to starring in ‘Games of Thrones’ at that time. Like I said, I’ve not seen ‘Games of Thrones’, but it’s interesting you like her character in that compared to disliking her character in ‘Doctor Who’.

      Yeah I can see you’re not a fan of Series 9. I’m glad it’s not just me. I am looking forward to seeing the Zygon two-parter next, but as for the rest of the season. My discomfort will increase further.

      Thanks for your comments, Simon. Glad you enjoyed my review on this episode as well as my reviews on the first half of Series 9. I will be getting onto the second half sometime soon.

      Tim. 🙂

      Like

      Reply

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