18 October 2015

Doctor Who S9E5 "The Girl Who Died" review

Set in a small Viking village which has lost all of its warriors, "The Girl Who Died" sees The Doctor and Clara having to come up with a plan to help the villages remaining inhabitants fight off an invasion by the Mire, a species that Doctor refers to as the greatest warriors of all time. Amongst the people of this village is a young girl named Ashildr, who blames herself for anything that goes wrong in the village thanks to her belief in prophecies and the supernatural.

Let's just get one thing out of the way before we start things in earnest - yes, it's another two-parter, the third in a season that so far doesn't have even one self contained episode. I've complained about this seasons overuse of the two-parter before, so I won't repeat that here - but it should be noted that "The Girl Who Died" has a straight forward beginning, middle and end, a complete narrative that only introduces the fact that it is a two-parter after the main story of the episode has been told. It's not an approach to two-parters that would work in every situation (for example, the excellent "Under the Lake"/"Before the Flood" episodes) but it works here and I'm glad to see an episode with an actual resolution.

"The Girl Who Died" is probably as straight forward as an episode of Doctor Who can be. There is no twists, no playing with the concept of time travel, no reliance on invented advanced technology - instead, for much of it's run time it's just The Doctor trying to teach a group of farmers how to fight. Naturally, it's the kind of episode that lives or dies based on how well written it is, and "The Girl Who Died" just about gets by on the way that it balances the natural humour of the situation with the slightly more serious look at the kind of person The Doctor is.

My only issue with this is that ultimately, "The Girl Who Died" attempts to answer a question Doctor Who has answered before. It's good that the show has decided to actually explain why The Doctor chose the face of someone he has met before (Caecilius from "The Fires of Pompeii"), but the idea of The Doctor breaking his own rules, changing set points in time (or in this instance, causing tidal waves instead of ripples) has already been dealt with - by the 10th Doctor in "The Waters of Mars". It looks like next weeks episode, "The Woman Who Lived", will be retreading some of the same ground we've seen before, and I can't say I'm a huge fan of that.

As for the actual episode itself - well, it's good enough. It has funny moments thanks to the ineptitude of the Vikings that The Doctor has to interact with and it has (slightly) more emotional moments when The Doctor decides to help them out, but other than that it's pretty much business as usual despite the appearance of Game of Thrones' Maisie Williams. Even though it's mostly used as set up time for next weeks "The Woman Who Lived" (I think), "The Girl Who Died" avoids the problems that usually plague the first half of two-parters by ensuring that it can work as it's own story, and for that alone I feel as if Doctor Who may be heading in the right direction for the first time in quite a while. Even if it isn't, it's an episode that is entertaining enough while also making me want to continue watching the show - and what more can you ask for from a show as broad as Doctor Who?

No comments :

Post a Comment