Episode five, ‘The Girl Who Died’, brings us the first half of another two-parter (which, at this point in the latest season of Doctor Who, you should be fairly used to!).
We start with Clara floating panicked in space, while the Doctor scrambles around the TARDIS, apparently under attack. While he attempts to get the situation under control, a brain-eating space bug crawls inside Clara’s spacesuit, making its way up to a tasty meal. Just in time, the Doctor saves her, left with squashed bug on the bottom of his shoe.
They make a quick pit stop and Clara calls him, always seemingly choosing what he can and can’t do. He enlightens her that they’re time travellers, which means they can make ripples, but not tidal waves.
And suddenly, they’re surrounded by a pack of Vikings. Of course!
The Doctor pulls out his sonic sunglasses, informs them just how technologically advanced they are and…oh, now they’re broken. Snapped in two by the Viking leader. Oh, well.
In a small town, the Viking villagers cheer as the party returns with the Doctor and Clara in chains. One of the villagers is Arya Stark, er, I mean, Ashildr (Maisie Williams), the daughter of one of the returning men. She says she dreamed they had all died. She must be great at parties!
In an attempt to escape, the Doctor does his best Odin impression, but the Vikings aren’t buying it; even with a yo-yo! Why? Because the real Odin appears in the clouds above telling them that the brave men among them are going to be transported to Valhalla right now!
With that, a fleet of Hasbro-looking armored soldiers appear and begin teleporting the strongest fighters away. As Clara tries to get free she is taken too, along with Ashildr. When they look around, they’re now on a space ship with the taken men, facing a rather suspicious corridor.
The Viking leader steps out into it, thinking that Odin’s going to make good on his Valhalla promise, and is zapped into nothing more than a pile of armor. Maybe he should have listened to the girl in the space suit?
With that, the back wall begins to move forward, slowly pushing them all towards their zappy deaths. But Clara has an idea! She and Ashildr run to the other end attempting to open up the doors, but it’s shut tight and the zappers are warming up. It’s too late!
Back in the village, it seems the only Vikings left are mostly the annoying ones that actually believe their people have gone to Valhalla. The Doctor chides them appropriately.
Clara and Ashildr find themselves waking up on a metal grate, somehow still alive. Odin stands opposite, surrounded by his Hasbro-soldiers, and goes on about the technologically fancy sunglasses that Ashildr had been holding on to as his reason for sparing the two.
He then chugs a vile of nectar, which is actually grinded up men turned into a green testosterone slurpy (and let’s note here that Clara doesn’t even blink at how weird this is or the fact that all of those men are now dead!).
Clara tries to use this to her advantage, selling him on just leaving the village peacefully and not getting themselves caught in a fight with people that have such advanced technology. However, Ashildr is having none of this and immediately tells him they will crush him, which only seems appropriate seeing that half the men of her village are now sitting in his stomach.
Unfortunately, Odin loves a good fight and declares war, sending the two back down to the village to prepare.
With this news, the Doctor seems ready to leave, but after hearing the cries of a baby (and translating them [remember he can talk baby]), he decides to stay.
He gets to work training the remaining men to fight, although the more successful Vikings include one that faints at the sight of blood, and another who immediately hurts himself with his own sword. But after some training, the Doctor hands out the real swords and… chaos.
“That could have gone better,” he notes.
While the Vikings have their last feast in the hall, the Doctor and Clara have their heart-to-heart for the episode. She comments that turning the men into fighters isn’t like him, and he replies that he thought that too until she came along. This really seems to be the running focus of the season.
The Doctor decides to also have a chat with Ashildr, who tells him she likes to make up stories. He asks her why she doesn’t leave, but she says she won’t because even though she’s different and strange, she is loved here and that leaving the village would be death itself.
Then, in a rather awkward attempt to get the story from point A to B, the Doctor becomes perplexed by where Lofty is carrying the baby and, anyway, the Vikings luckily have electric eels in their barn. Which means the day is saved! Or at least according to the Doctor.
As scheduled, Odin arrives with his Hasbro-soldiers, but instead of the Vikings ready to attack, they’re all partying in the hall. They think it’s a trap but the Doctor assures them it’s not.
That is, until his trap is put into action, resulting in some of the Hasbro-soldiers being electrified, while others lose their helmets to the magnet above.
Ashildr takes one of the helmets and puts her storytelling skills to good use; by making all of soldiers see a serpent creature that scares them off. This makes sense, because apparently their perception is all linked. Yeah…
With Odin left alone, the Doctor totally Mean Girls him, having recorded his soldiers fleeing. With their reputation on the line, he’s transported away, and the Vikings have done more damage then they could have with swords.
The villagers rejoice, except when they look for Ashildr she doesn’t respond. The helmet killed her while they celebrated.
Of course, the Doctor is beside himself, and fed up with losing people. Then his reflection seems to catch his eye and the question of why this regeneration has this face seems to be answered.
Suddenly, we flashback to the ‘Fires of Pompeii’ episode, and to Donna Noble begging the 11th Doctor to just “save someone”. The Doctor finally remembers where his face came from: the Roman, who was also played by Capaldi.
His face is a reminder that he is the Doctor and that he saves people! And, in his words, if you don’t like it “then to hell with you”! Chills!
He immediately gets to work on re-jiggerfying a piece of tech from the Hasbro-soldier’s helmet that works as a body repair kit. He places it on Ashildr’s forehead and it’s instantly absorbed into her skin. They wait in anticipation until she abruptly takes a breath. She’s alive!
As they make a quick exit, the Doctor gives her an extra repair kit, not because she’ll need it, but because he believes that she’ll be close to immortal and one day she’ll want to keep someone alive.
As Ashildr stands, the world changes around her with the passage of time, and her smile slowly turns to a face of distress and anger. It seems the Doctor couldn’t help but make a tidal wave.
- In terms of story, this episode is probably the weakest so far this season. We seemed to just completely skip over some of the bigger plot points, like half the village being killed and it being dealt with fairly quickly and the enemy being little more than a threat, and then providing the necessary magic-tech at the end. It kind of seemed like we just jumped between set pieces, too, without the necessary story to join them all together as the previous two-parters did (that’s without even mentioning the overly convenient electric eels).
- This was the first two-parter that didn’t really feel like one. The episode could have stood on it’s own, even with the story ending on a rather tragic note.
- The explanation of why the Doctor has the same face as the man from Pompeii was good, but I thought they would have been a little more creative in tying it all together. A reminder that he can save people made sense, but it seemed such a small point to make out of something that they could have had a lot more fun with.
- Capaldi’s look as the Doctor continues to get better, and as of this episode, it seems it’s finally becoming iconic.
- Maise Williams as Ashildr was good, but it seems that her they relied more on her celebrity from Game of Thrones than actually creating a fully-fledged character. It’s a shame, she obviously would have been a memorable character given the right material, especially given her talk with the Doctor. We’ll see what she gets to do in the second part, which might provide her with more to do seeing that being immortal probably didn’t work out so well.
- Is there a connection between the sea serpent in this episode and the one painted on the underwater bases wall?
- There seemed to be special emphasis put on Ashildr being a hybrid of human and technology at the end. We already had the mention of Clara being a hybrid when she was inside the Dalek. Possible theme of the season?