TV Review: Doctor Who Season 9 Episode 5 “The Girl Who Died” (UK, 2015)

Upon first seeing that picture of Maisie Williams in the TARDIS, I was overwhelmed with excitement; ‘the clash of the fandoms’, I call it – Game of Thrones meets Doctor Who. Combined with my high expectations of her ridiculous acting ability and my dissatisfaction of the past few Who episodes, I had mixed expectations for the fifth episode of the season “The Girl Who Waited Died”.

As the narrative goes, this story was pretty weak. Long story short, a fake version of the Norse god Odin appears and steals a bunch of Vikings. The vikings are real angry and challenge the fake God to a battle (because they’re vikings). The Doctor almost leaves because the fake Odin guy turns out to be a real good battler. The Doctor ends up staying because he hears a baby cry. The Doctor performs some sort of weird electrical thing and brings down fake Odin’s army and convinces them to leave to save them the embarrassment of losing a fight. In the process, Ashildr (Maisie Williams) dies. Now that we’re up to date, we can get to what really worked in this episode (and there’s actually a lot).

Earlier in Season 8, we were presented with a question – why did the Doctor ‘choose’ this face? Since Peter Capaldi had already appeared in “The Fires Of Pompeii” back in Season 4, fans have questioned his reappearance, especially with Steven Moffat stating that there actually is an explanation – to remind himself that he can break the rules, a theme that seems to be pertinent to this season.

We were treated with this revelation upon Ashildr’s death, which did not come as much of a surprise given the title of the episode. What did come as a surprise was how the Doctor treated this death. He’s been fixated on abiding by these seemingly non-existent rules that he seems to be losing the essence of who the Doctor is. This revelation is done perfectly, as a flashback featuring David Tennant reminds the audience that the role of the Doctor has always been “to save people”. What ensues is – in my eyes – the real ‘Doctor’ speech that Capaldi has needed. Albeit fleeting, this is the moment that I think Capaldi-deniers will shake their heads and say ‘I was wrong’.

However, in bringing Ashildr back to life, the Doctor has committed her to a life in which she cannot die. I’m excited to learn of the repercussions of such an action, and I’m hoping that this isn’t the last we’ll see of her (given next weeks preview, I don’t think it will be). There were several moments in the episode that foreshadowed Clara’s death, so I think this rule-breaking will come to an end soon, especially following the consequences of Ashildr’s impending very, very long life are fully realised. This may be insensitive of me, but how great would it be to have Williams and Capaldi travelling time and space together?

Overall, the whole battle plotline detracted from the real strength of this story – an exploration into the morality of the Doctor. If Ashildr turns out to be a recurring character then I think we’re in for a real treat for the rest of the season, especially if Clara goes how I think she will. There has been so much set up here that there’s potential for the next few episodes to be the best of Capaldi’s yet. Until next week.

REVIEW SCORE: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

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