Doctor Who: Series 9, Episode 5
The Girl Who Died
Written by: Jamie Mathieson and Steven Moffat
Directed by: Ed Bazalgette
Broadcast Date: Saturday 17th October at 8.20pm on BBC One
The Gallifrey Times have seen The Girl Who Died and have put our spoiler free preview together.
So far in Series 9 we’ve had Daleks and we’ve had ghosts. Now it’s time to enter the world of Viking warfare in Jamie Mathieson’s The Girl Who Died. With Mathieson’s two contributions to season 8 – Mummy on the Orient Express and Flatline – having become firm fan favourites, there is no doubt some pressure on him to deliver with this episode. Thankfully, he certainly does just that, with yet another strong episode.
The story sees the Doctor help a group of Vikings prepare for a battle against an army of aliens called the Mire, who are lead by Odin. Whilst the promise of Vikings sounds exciting, these are not your traditional Vikings. Instead of the bloodthirsty warriors we are used to in books and films, we have the farmers and blacksmiths. This means we don’t get to see much Viking culture or learn anything new about them.
The most talked about aspect of this story has undoubtedly been the casting of Maisie Williams as the young Viking, Ashildr. Whilst characters played by guest actors can sometimes feel forced or tailored to the actor’s style, Ashildr is a perfectly suited role for Maisie Williams, who stands out as a well developed, instantly likeable character amidst the almost pantomime Vikings.
This episode has many lighthearted moments, with some great lines and typical Doctor humour, but there is also a good amount of drama, with the scenes between Ashildr and the Doctor in particular providing really special moments in the episode. One running joke in the series is also flipped on its head in this episode. Whilst the Doctor being able to ‘speak baby’ has been used as a throwaway joke in a couple of episodes, this episode uses the idea to show the affect of war on those we cannot understand.
The aliens in this episode were teased quite early on, with photos of the cumbersome beasts presenting a fearsome new foe for the Doctor. Whilst they are a credible army, they are sadly quite underused in this story, with minimal screen time depriving them of a chance to really show off – not unlike the Fisher King in Before The Flood.
However, the aliens are not really the focus of the story. The focus is on the Doctor and how he interacts with the Vikings and helps them win the battle.
The Girl Who Died also finally answers a question that has been floating around since Capaldi was announced as the Doctor. In this episode we find out once and for all why the Doctor has the same face as The Fires of Pompeii’s Caecilius. Though the answer may not be what viewers are expecting, it is a perfectly good explanation that is wholly appropriate for this episode, nicely drawing in parallels with The Fires of Pompeii.
Moffat stated before the series aired that they would be challenging what constitutes as a two parter. This is the episode he was talking about. Whilst there is an obvious link with the upcoming The Woman Who Lived, this story could stand alone as an individual episode in its own right.
Overall, The Girl Who Died is what Doctor Who should be. There is a real mix of humour and drama, with Capaldi at his best, accompanied by a guest star whose character is sure to be a hit.