The Girl Who Died
review by Eddie McGuigan
Doctor Who, we know, has to be everything to everyone. It has to be a space adventure, it has to be historical drama, it has to be a romance, a horror story and it has to reflect its past with a nostalgic glow.
Of course, there are people out there, feral, skitter people who live on The Internet, who will tell you that Doctor Who better not be a bloody romance/horror story/soap opera. They’ll tell you it hasn’t been the same since Dicks/Saward/RTD left and they’ll tell you, without a doubt, that You Are Wrong. Then they’ll throw a teddy at you and stomp out.
The Girl Who Died is going to scatter these Internet Dwellers like skittles on a Friday night in France. It’s going to make others punch the air in excitement and it’s going to make others scratch their head a bit and go “Really? OK then…”
Usually with an episode I can pretty well judge the way people are going to take it. I can say “lol” (for I actually say “Lol”), “that’s going to annoy folks!” or “People will love this!” With this episode I really don’t know what people will think. So I’ll just tell you what I think. There. I’m so narcissistic!
Anyway, Peter Capaldi is superb in this episode. He’s really hitting his stride in this series now he’s free from the restraints of being too much like Matt, which basically means just being Doctory, and he is this in spades. So much so that he channels other Doctors throughout this episode, both in deed and word, as he uses old catchphrases with abandon. Behold the polarity of the neutron flow! And time, of course, always tell! Again, so many time sidelined in s8, he’s the centre of attention again here, but with Clara as his moral compass, despite her slightly aloof, Time Lady detachment to terrible situations. Again though, he shows his duty of care for her as he struggles to find his own conscience. But he looks at the Vikings with a detachment that is almost lampooning, and indeed, in their deeds the Vikings themselves almost lampoon, being pretty stereotypical in nature and more cyphers for the much more highbrow conceits the episode considers.
Clara is as Clara does in this episode, and does a little Doctory turn (which won’t irritate) in his place when coming face to face with the Mire, a warrior race posing as Gods. Not the first time this has happened.
The plight in itself is fairly domestic, in this episode, and even the Doctor acknowledges this, particularly with his initial lack of empathy or will to help, but it’s Clara’s driven morals – channelling Barbara or Sarah – which drive the narrative until the Doctor picks up the baton and runs.
This is an episode of bits which is at times arch and melodramatic and at others deep and philosophical. It will either thrill fans or infuriate them. Oh, and it answers the reason the Doctor has the face he does and why, with a fangirl pleasing cameo from an old familiar face.
Maisie Williams joins the cast in not the role everyone thinks but in one which will resonate throughout this series and beyond, probably, definitely in the next episode, and is the realistic centre amongst some Vikings with horny hats, Noggin The Nogs and Teletubbie Sky Faces, and even though the Mire are arched and melodramatic (we should boo and hiss when they appear) she elicits sympathy in her and her family’s plight.
It’ll be interesting to see fandom’s reaction to this episode, and I await Saturday night with anticipation to see it.