Doctor Who – “The Girl Who Died”: Hold the Viking funeral

“I’m not the police. That’s just what it says on the box.”

– The Doctor

This week’s episode seemed destined to be a fun, if not terribly memorable, monster of the week episode. It seemed like a silly little Three Amigos style pallet cleanser where the Doctor uses a little bit of trickery and science to help a town full of Viking farmers ward off an evil alien force.

But then, the end of the episode threw two big twists at us. First, the show finally justified the fact that Peter Capaldi appeared as Caecilius in the David Tennant episode “The Fires of Pompeii,” something the show alluded to in Capaldi’s first appearance last season (“Deep Breath”), but never mentioned again. Although they made us wait an exceptionally-long time for the payoff, it seemed like a good justification. He wears the face to remind him that he can make ripples in time to save people that deserve saving. (If you’ve never seen “The Fires of Pompeii,” in it the Doctor’s companion Donna is heartbroken that he won’t save the people of Pompeii from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. She eventually convinces him to save Caecilius and his family, though the rest of Pompeii still dies.)

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The second big twist was that the Doctor used this revelation as justification for saving Ashildr using Mire technology. Doing so seems to create a Lazarus situation, where she is essentially now immortal, which presumably is the issue we will deal with in part two.

I’m not sure why this season has given us three two-parters in a row. With so much of last season feeling forgettable, I’ll gladly take a season full of two-parters if it means the quality of writing is better. But I found myself feeling like the last two episodes could have been wrapped up in one week instead of two and this week’s episode didn’t leave me dying to see more of Ashildr’s world.

Still, I imagine this will be a two-parter in a much looser sense than the previous episodes have been. We are now following an immortal girl, so a time jump to a new setting makes the most sense. And it could be interesting to see how she deals with this “gift” she never asked for and what ripples the Doctor has created in time.

I liked the two twists, but the episode itself was a bit underwhelming. It had some fun flourishes and a clever enough setup, but I felt like it never really came together as well as it should have. The opening bit in space seemed unnecessary and a lot of the build up to the final battle didn’t really work for me. But I did like that final confrontation and the payoff of Capaldi’s face (and those glorious eyebrows) being someone from the Doctor’s past.

All in all, it was a perfectly-fine filler episode with a possibly-intriguing part two coming.

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And another thing …

  • So the show has justified Peter Capaldi appearing in “Fires of Pompeii,” but what about Karen Gillian also appearing in that episode as a character other than Amy Pond?
  • Are the Mire also immortal with that technology or does it just work better on humans? If they are immortal, it makes them extra cowardly for running away from Ashildr’s monster.
  • Clara’s relationship with the Doctor has always reminded me a bit of the dynamic he had with Donna. In both cases, they act as his moral compass and are (mostly) immune to his charm. So it was interesting for them to draw a parallel to that relationship this week. The show has also been dropping some hints that the Doctor is concerned about who Clara is turning into. I have to wonder if she is headed for a fate as bad (or worse) than Donna’s.
  • The sonic sunglasses seem to break way too easily. That is a big drawback compared to the screwdriver.
  • I’m not sure if it was an intentional homage or not, but “Odin” appearing in the clouds very much reminded me of Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python artwork.

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Written by Joel Murphy. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact Joel at murphyslaw@hobotrashcan.com

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