Doctor Who Season 9 Episode 5 ‘The Girl Who Died’ : Review

Watch Full episode here before reading this review :

The Vikings gave us a lot of words that we use in common English. I saw it on a Horrible Histories once so it’s true. One of them was ‘happy’. That’s fortunate, because it’s a great word to apply to ‘The Girl Who Died’ – 45 minutes of Saturday-morning style fun that should make fans very happy indeed. With cartoonish vigour we’re dropped into the middle of an adventure, just as Neil Gaiman wanted us to be in ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ with The Beatles or Rain Gods, but had to cut for reasons of time. Here Jamie Mathieson gives us TARDIS console pyrotechnics, talk of battle, and Clara drifting through the void while an unseen creepy-crawly makes a bid for her delicious brain. As openers go, it’s the most impressive since ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’.

Then we’re set down in a Viking village so far in the backwater that they haven’t heard that Vikings didn’t actually wear horns on their helmets. Without sonic sunnies to hide behind, Peter Capaldi’s Doctor does a top Tom Baker impersonation and whips out a familiar yo-yo. He’s softened since the last time he whipped it out in Season 8’s ‘Kill the Moon’, hasn’t he? The Heavens open, and in yo-yo the Mire (another Viking word, etymology fans): a deadly race who, like a militant Tropicana, have come to squeeze only the ripest warriors for their manly juices, with no bits in. What follows might rankle those who sat stony-faced during ‘Robot of Sherwood’, as we get a Viking version of Dad’s Army with The Doctor as Captain Mainwaring to a Homestead Guard of incompetents.

And then it becomes Home Alone as The Doctor works out a plan involving electric eels, some anvils, a ‘rubbish’ figurehead and a feasting hall. Compared to recent episodes, The Mire’s defeat is a pleasingly simple solution, But they’re simple villains; essentially tinned Sontarans or Judoon. And anyway, it’s not really about baddies this week is it? Just like The Doctor, your attention’s split between a straightforward foe and a mysterious girl. It’s a thesis for another time, but even through other writers Moffat likes to make a mystery of women, doesn’t he? River, Clara, Missy… Now Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams continues the tradition. Ashildr believes in the power of stories. That’s another Moffatism right there: the power of stories. From ‘Silence in the Library’ all the way to ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’ and the many chapters in between. It’s a sign of Maisie Williams’ envied natural talent that she lifts Ashildr above being convenience or novelty. Were it not her in the role – and had the significance of her character not been so unsubtly telegraphed by trailers – the episode would have risked being as lightweight as that other immortality tale ‘The Doctor’s Daughter’.

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