[Review] - Doctor Who Series 9, Episodes 5 And 6, "The Girl Who Died" And "The Woman Who Lived"

Courtesy of the BBC
Since this series was in production, the world has wondered who exactly Game of Thrones actress Maisie Williams would be playing on the show. The Doctor's daughter, perhaps? The Rani? The Mara? In these two episodes we discovered that she was none of those things, but instead was that most wonderful of creations: an original character. Yes, rather than dive deeper into the well, Moffat opted to invent a new character and add yet another layer to the mythology of the series. With fans clamoring all the damned time to bring back this and that from the old days, it is important to remember that those classic elements are only classic because they were once new.

And that the series has, since its return, introduced some great new aspects to the canon. Aspects which keep the show fresh and new, rather than constantly having to fall back on the old and overly used (hello Cybermen). And as for Williams herself, she was given the opportunity to play a fairly boring character in a fantastic episode, and a fairly fantastic character in a pretty terrible episode. Few guest stars can claim that. The second episode was also Clara-less, giving us a look at what Capaldi will be like once his companion exits TARDIS right.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that, unlike the Gods, always show up.

Do these episodes fall in line with my theory that each episode of this series will be indicative of a specific Doctor's genre? Well, The Girl Who Died had a strong Pirate Planet vibe to it's theatricality, but in terms of it's historical setting, the Doctor rallying the locals rather than doing all the work himself, and acting in the best interests of an individual rather than his own sense of grand scale morality does share themes with the Fifth Doctor era. And The Woman Who Lived was pretty crap, so that falls in line with the Sixth's era as nicely as can be. Maybe this theory is just me seeing what I want to see, and maybe the various eras of Doctor Who are malleable enough so that any episode can appear, with the right amount of finesse, to fall into their over all themes. Or, maybe I'm right, in which case watch out for the next episode, 'cause it'll likely be bleak.

These episodes both attempted to say something profound about the fundamental nature of the Doctor, and both had varying degrees of success with the attempt. Died felt the need to end with a revelation that the Doctor subconsciously selected Capaldi's face as a means of reminding him that, occasionally, he has the ability to change events. This revelation rings a little hollow for a few reasons. First of all, that there needs to be an explanation for why the Doctor now shares his face with a Roman merchant (and, as Moffat is choosing to forget, a former Cabinet Minister). The sixth Doctor never needed to provide a reason as to why he looked exactly like Chancellery Guard member. This is another example of Moffat overthinking an issue that, if attention isn't drawn to it, then it won't become an issue.

Secondly, the revelation that the Doctor comes to here is that, with his fourth dimensional nature, he is uniquely poised to save people he knows will otherwise die. He's constantly making ripples, despite his fears of tsunamis. This was an occasional theme of the Tenth Doctor, beginning in the Fire of Pompeii, when he saved Capaldi's Merchant and family from the lava to no apparently ill effect. However, it was taken to an extreme in The Waters of Mars when he declared himself Time Lord Victorious after saving Adelaide Brooke, rewriting time as he saw fit and forcing her to kill herself. the show never really went on to explore these implications as Ten died shortly there after, and it wasn't a thread that Moffat picked up on with Eleven.

But mostly this revelation rings hollow because, while the Doctor's struggle with remembering the individual has been an issue, it has been an issue in the Capaldi era. In my previous review, I noted that it was becoming discouraging that his Doctor was becoming incapable of sympathizing with a person in favour of helping People. He was still all about the rushing in where angels fear to tread, and saving the town, civilization, or galaxy from a menace, but couldn't be bothered to deal with the one-on-one stuff. The reasoning for selecting Capaldi's face here would imply that this was something that Eleven was struggling with this notion, which he wasn't. Eleven was likely as compassionate and individually minded as the Doctor ever has been. He wasn't the sort of person who needed cue cards to remember how to talk to people in grief, and he wasn't the sort of person who let a little thing like time stand in his way of doing what was right. Hell, he specifically saved all of Gallifrey, in direct contradiction to the outcome of the Time War, because he'd figured out how to do it.

In Lived, the analysis turned towards companions. And again, the nature of the Doctor's relationship with his companions, and former companions, and those he's left behind comes off a little hollow if only because this is the least new conversation the series could have had. Over the past 9 series, no topic has been more analysed than the notion of what it means to be a companion, and what it means when your time in the TARDIS (or more simply, your time in the Doctor's presence) is done. So, as much as it is interesting to have a character who has the uniquely Deep Time perspective that the Doctor also has, the idea that "the Doctor treats people like shit when he leaves" isn't news. really, the only reason it's coming up at all is because Clara is leaving, and they need to foreshadow that, apparently (as an aside, people used to complain when companions would all of a sudden opt to ditch, like Leela, Susan, Romana, and pretty much everyone else. But I'd rather have their embarkation be sudden and unexpected than have an entire series drenched with foreshadowing and doom-music about when they'll step off).

Me sets up the idea that, The Doctor makes himself felt, seeds his impact and his influence, even inspires others to greatness in his name. And he's always there when the Big Stuff is going down, but he's never there for the clean up. So, after several hundred years of misery and loneliness, she decides to become his clean up crew. To step in after he's doffed off, and help those he's left in his wake. This is a great way to develop a character, and really helps to thread the line between her being benevolent and malevolent. She straight up says, they are friends. And friends are the ones you need to worry about. We've seen plenty of times the influence the Doctor has on events and lives - with UNIT, Sarah Jane, Lorna Bucket, Madame Vastra, etc - but characters inspired by the Doctor usually find something in themselves to rise themselves up, or they die. With Me (and whatever other monikers she'll take over the millennia), we have a caretaker for the true civilians caught up in his wake. The poor populations of medieval villages who get shot at by extra dimensional cat people. Or, you know, whomever.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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