Saturday, 17 October 2015

Doctor Who: The Girl Who Died

"I'm not in the mood for Vikings!"

I already liked this episode a lot when it still seemed to be a fairly low-key tale about a small CGI Viking village against metal aliens with a bit of Doctorish cleverness thrown in. The small stories are often much better than the big epics: give me The Rescue over The Dalek Invasion of Earth any day.

But then there's the twist: the Doctor has saved the day, but poor Ashildr has been killed. She would have died anyway, the whole village would. But the Doctor is consumed with guilt and a sickness of losing too many people, the curse of near-immortality. So he breaks the rules of time travel, just as he did last episode. And Ashildr is immortal which, as The Five Doctors taught us, is a curse. The Doctor instantly regrets what he has done to her; he knows what it's like to bury your loved ones again and again. Has he gone and made a big, terrible mistake?

And so we have an interesting twist on the two-parter: this episode is self-contained, but next week we will be meeting Ashildr again, a thousand years older.

It's a masterfully constructed script, with Jamie Mathieson again excelling; this is possibly the best of the season so far. Maisie Williams (I don't know her; as yet I've only seen one episode of Game of Thrones) is also superb. I can't wait until next week.

So what else? Well, the Doctor's sonic shades are unceremoniously smashed before the pre-titles sequence has even ended. Is this permanent? Clara is again magnificent, almost persuading the baddies to aid off and giving the Doctor a much-needed pep talk. And we actually get a "reversing the polarity of the neutron flow" as Jon Pertwee, er, didn't particularly used to say.

Most interestingly, though, we get an explanation as to why the Doctor now looks like Caecilius from The Fires of Pompeii, and it's actually a satisfying one: the Doctor's subconscious wanted to remind him that, fixed points on time or not, you can still go back and save one person. Nothing bad will happen. Right?

Next week will be interesting. It's starting to be clear what Steven Moffat meant when he said that this season will see a little playing around with what a two-parter is supposed to be.

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