Monday, 19 October 2015

Doctor Who - 'The Girl Who Died'

“The universe is full of testosterone. Trust me, it's unbearable.”

In the wake of another act of insane heroics, the Doctor runs into Vikings while cleaning his boot and discovers that they are in the process of being harvested by a deadly warrior race called the Mire. This is unpleasant, but all in all pretty harmless, until a girl named Ashildr decides to pick a fight and leaves the Doctor caught between two unpalatable alternatives: Allow a village of non-combatants to be slaughtered by blaster-wielding maniacs, or make the Mire think that Earth is dangerous enough to be worth destroying.

The Good
  • Maisie Williams is a performer well worth the price of admission, and Ashildr channels the writer's inner Who fan more subtly than Osgood or even O'Donnell.
  • The fate of the harvested Vikings was pretty grim, and somewhat reminiscent of the 456 in Torchwood: Children of Earth (which notably featured future Doctor Peter Capaldi and regular monster Nicholas Briggs as government employees.) Clara's reaction meanwhile was a key indicator that she probably ought to be spending less time with the Doctor.
  • It was good to get a call-back to the face question, and honestly just to have the Doctor reminding himself that he is the good guy.
  • I really liked the revisiting of the whole 'the Doctor speaks baby' idea, especially approached in a less zany fashion. "Turn your face to me mother, because you are beautiful," was a lovely line.
The Bad
  • In places the text got a bit too meta, with the references to the single place in time and people not getting to have names. I think it's good to recognise the limits of your format without deciding to practically write a song about it.
  • How widely available is this Mire medical tech? It seems to be a pretty standard piece of kit for them, but the Doctor acts as if making someone functionally immortal is new and appalling. Does it just do that for humans and not Mire? Why? Am I overthinking again?
The Ugly
  • Helmets with horns on? Really?
So, we're definitely building up to some drama around the departure (probably death, at least on some level) of Clara, which is a shame because a lot of this series is reminding me that what I really like to see in a Doctor Who episode is a story about the Doctor going to a place and doing something there. Thirteen fifty-ish minute episodes is easily consumed by arc plot, and I'd honestly prefer to focus on an interesting set up and resolution for each story

Top Quotes
  • "People talk about premonition as if it's something strange. It's not; it's just remembering in the wrong direction."
  • "Mother, I hear thunder. Mother, I hear shouting. You are my world, but I hear other worlds now. Beyond the... folding of your smile... is there other kindness? I'm afraid. Will they be kind? The sky is crying now. Fire in the water."
  • "I've got too much to think about without everybody having their own name, so it's Lofty. You're Lofty, you're Daphne, you're Noggin the Nog, ZZ Top... and you're... Heidi."
  • "I've always been different. All my life I've known that. The girls all thought I was a boy. The boys all said I was just a girl. My head is always full of stories. I know I'm strange. Everyone knows I'm strange. But here I'm loved. You tell me to run, to save my life. I tell you that leaving this place would be death itself." - Ashildr reflects on the condition of the young Doctor Who fan, but also comments on the nature of the series in some ways. Why do the extras always fight so hard? Because they only have one episode to live in.
  • "Oh, dying is an ability, believe me." Coming on the heels of 'Before the Flood', this appears to be another theme, presumably building up to Clara's departure.
The Verdict
'The Girl Who Died' is a decent one-off story, with its 'cliffhanger' less about 'OMG what happens next?' and more 'and then in a thousand years time, once Ashildr had gotten really hacked off with this immortal gig...' It also furthers the arc themes of hybridisation and defying death without needing a recurring villain to pop in during the epilogue and exposit like a minor Shakespearean character summing up the action for the easily distracted.

It suffers, however, from the introduction of the Mire as one of the greatest warrior races in the Galaxy, presumably somewhere near the head of Division One with the Draconians and Sontarans rather than the Premier League with the Daleks and Time Lords. It's hard for these new boys in town to cut much of a dash in a single episode of getting their arses kicked by mediaeval Norse farmers, especially dressed as they are in rusty Judoon cast-offs.

Score - 6/10

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