Doctor Who, Season 9, Episode 5 (The Girl Who Died).
The Girl Who Died tackles one of the biggest watershed moments in Doctor Who history. “Just save someone”, Donna Noble pleaded in Season 4’s The Fires of Pompeii; a moment in which The Doctor reveals his sorrow as he allows people to die because he cannot change history. Changing history is never good, changing history causes a “tidal wave”. So why is it that an episode based on a lighthearted Viking battle becomes a set-up for what could be a very dark continuing episode?
Game of Thrones actress Maisie Williams is a character we were and weren’t expecting. With the episode’s title being ‘The Girl Who Died’, Williams’ character was most likely to deal with the subject of death. Also with the Viking Age setting, the character of Ashildr was likely to resemble Game of Thrones’ Arya Stark. However perhaps what a lot of fans weren’t expecting was the fact that Ashildr is completely separate to a past character – she is indeed someone new.
The concept of death and immortality is juxtaposed with the lighthearted storyline. As the vikings are under threat by an alien-race, the Doctor fears the consequence of the war. His immediate reaction is to run and avoid the battle. The Doctor, who’s faced many wars, doesn’t fear losing the war, but rather the casualties that follow…
“What have I made of you?”
Clara Oswald is of course the main person the Doctor worries about in the face of battle. It seems the Doctor is becoming increasingly aware of Clara adopting his behaviour, and it worries him. Dialogue of persuading Clara to get a new hobby is intentionally repeated from Under The Lake, reminding us that Clara is reaching dangerous territory. Clara’s obsession with “running” with the Doctor to forget about Danny is increasing her chances of death. And if death happens to be the end for Clara, will it be a good one?
“A good death is the best anyone can ask for… unless you happen to be immortal.”
It’s no secret that the Doctor finds his ‘immortality’ a curse. No matter how many times he attempts to escape death, there are defining moments where he almost embraces death. It’s “the curse of the Time Lords”, seeing everyone else die yet having to live on. Yet immortality becomes the cause of the “tidal wave” which the Doctor brings across.
I will assume there will be mixed opinions on this, but the discovery of why the Twelfth Doctor took on Capaldi’s face was well handled. It’s incorporated at the end, to link back this plot to the watershed moment in The Fires of Pompeii:
“Just save someone”, pleaded Donna, and in response the Doctor saved Caecillus (played by Peter Capaldi). So in The Girl Who Died, the Doctor remembers this moment and saving Caecillus – suggesting to him that he should “save someone” now.
The consequence of saving Ashildr is immortality, in which the Doctor realises he hasn’t given Ashildr a gift, but rather a curse; An issue that will be dealt with in the proceeding episode.
Yet if the Doctor realises that saving someone isn’t always the right thing to do, how will he act if Clara Oswald does end up in the same situation as Ashildr?