I doubt I’m the only one welcoming Jamie Mathieson back to the DW writer’s room this series. His episodes last year stood head and shoulders above everybody else’s and he’s showing no signs of slacking here either. Thankfully The Girl Who Died is a lot better than last week’s trailer would have had you believe and has the Doctor at his best (i.e. doing something clever and making everything alright – or, if you’re a Cabin Pressure fan, finding his inner Douglas Richardson*).
[Spoilers below the line…]
There’s a lot to like this week – the swift cutting off of the Doctor from both Tardis and those godawful sunglasses; the progression through five well-executed acts** (the Doctor swaggers and is thwarted; the Doctor fails to persuade everyone to run away from the murderous Mire; the Doctor tries to train the villagers to fight; the Doctor has epiphany and uses his wits to save the day; the Doctor faces the consequences of his actions); the tiny glimpse of the Tenth Doctor and the tying up of why Twelve chose Lucius Caecilius Iucundus’s face; Clara’s “the universe is full of testosterone, trust me, it’s unbearable”; the Dad’s Army scene with the Doctor in full-on headteacher mode; and “Immortality isn’t living forever – that’s not what it feels like – immortality is everybody else dying”.
I also love the design of the Mire armour – the Cybermen could learn a thing or two from these guys – and the Doctor’s pragmatism about gods (“they never actually show up”). I imagine the testosterone extraction chamber will be giving younger viewers nightmares for a few nights too.
Clara confronting Odin is also one of those rare moments when I quite like her – not entirely surprising as she’s basically channelling the Doctor, right down to his insensitivity to the recently bereaved (can’t you hear the ‘mash up Vikings to make warrior juice’ line in his mouth, and see him shushing the distraught Ashlidr?). It would be ironic if I finally mourn her leaving because she’s become a copy of the Doctor (especially if that’s what gets her killed).
So, has the Doctor made a mistake? (It wouldn’t be the first time he’s let his emotions get the better of him.) Ashildr’s no Captain Jack (and even he struggled with immortality from time to time) and it’s clear from the start that she deeply fears losing members of her community. We can only hope she learns from her rash reaction to the deaths of her warriors and *watches the trailer for next week* … Ah, well.
See you next week for a spot of ‘stand and deliver’ then…
Jo the Hat
* Don’t get me wrong, I love Peter Capaldi (and I’d be delighted by a female or PoC Doctor), but wouldn’t Roger Allam make a brilliant Thirteenth Doctor?
** Even if you don’t like Leverage, if you have any interest in how TV gets made, you should listen to the show’s audio commentaries.