Doctor Who Recap: “The Girl Who Died”
Sonic sunglass haters rejoice: while the hype leading up to the latest episode of Doctor Who was all about the guest appearance of Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams, the actor’s thunder was partially stolen early on in the show when the Doctor’s much-maligned Ray-Bans were unceremoniously snapped in two by an angry viking.
So far, every episode this season has taken steps towards revealing something more about the Doctor’s character and the way he views his place in the universe. With every episode he seems to care less and less for the laws of space and time if it means that flouting them will save a life. In “The Girl Who Died,” we witness the Doctor remembering why he chose the face he did the last time he regenerated—it was a reminder of he is: he’s the Doctor, and he saves people.
And save people he does—an entire viking village and, perhaps more controversially, Williams’ character Ashildr. From the beginning, the Doctor appears to have a connection with her, describing his first glimpse of her not as a premonition, but as “remembering in the wrong direction.”
As he attempts to talk himself and Clara out of viking captivity by claiming he’s Odin and dazzling his unsophisticated audience with a Yo-Yo, a far more convincing Odin appears in the sky above them, and the village’s best warriors (plus Clara and Ashildr) are transported to an alien ship above, certain they’ve reached Valhalla. They’re wrong.
After her fellow vikings are turned into an energy drink for the Mire, “the deadliest warrior race in the galaxy”, Ashildr challenges their leader (fake Odin) to a battle. She and Clara are sent back to the village to deliver the message that the Mire will attack in 24 hours—which means that the Doctor has just one day to train a village of farmers and fishermen to fight. It’s a hopeless situation and, unsurprisingly, the Doctor is quick to give up.
Luckily, a viking baby comes up with a plan to save the village (and luckily, the Doctor speaks baby). Pointing him to the “fire in the water”, the baby alerts him to the fact that the village is rich in electric eels. Using a configuration of magnets and electricity, the vikings manage to fend off—and ultimately humiliate—the Mire. The alien invaders are driven back by what turns out to be a wooden dragon puppet, enhanced by Ashildr’s use of their own technology, which she turns against them using her imagination
However, it costs her. And as we all probably guessed, Williams’ character is the titular ‘Girl Who Dies’—temporarily, anyway.
The Doctor takes her death very badly. He’s sick of losing people and the memory of why he chose his current face comes back to him. There’s a flashback to an episode from David Tennant’s tenure, ‘The Fires of Pompeii’, and we watch as Capaldi’s Doctor sees himself guest star in an episode from the fourth season of the show. “Save people” is the message he’s sent himself by choosing this face, and so he does. But by bringing Ashildr back to life using the Mire’s medical technology, he’s created an alien/human hybrid—a girl who may be functionally immortal. We’ll see how that turns out next week when Williams returns in ‘The Girl Who Lived’.
If you can’t wait that long, don’t worry: the internet is already rife with theories about who Ashildr is—or could be in the future.