Doctor Who Recap Series 9, Episode 6 – “The Woman Who Lived”
In the final part of the latest two-part episode, The Doctor meets “The Girl Who Died”, Ashildr, 800 years after saving her life. She now has a secret identity as the “Knightmare,” a smart thief though she has no need for money (it’s really more of a hobby). She remembers the Doctor but has large gaps in her memory from living 800 years. Consequently, Ashildr is looking for a new adventure on a new planet and since the Doctor has resisted taking her along in the TARDIS she teams up with an alien who promises her a ride to a new planet.
I really liked this episode; of the three two-part episodes we’ve had so far, this one was by far my favorite. While “The Woman Who Lived” wasn’t as objectively exciting as other episodes, it was still really well-written and acted. There wasn’t a lot of running, there wasn’t a time limit, and no one was really in danger of being killed until the end, but the dialogue between the Doctor and Ashildr (aka “Lady Me”) was really interesting and thought-provoking. I think one of the things that made it great was that there was no Clara, which allowed us to see the full scope of the relationship between the Doctor and Ashildr. We got to really look at the consequences of the Doctor’s actions from “The Girl Who Died” and see the dynamic between two people who have to deal with immortality. We see how Ashildr tries not to feel, and how that turns her cold. The Doctor tries to save her, less so from an alien threat and more from herself, from her sadness from being alone and losing the people she loved. Ashildr was interesting in this episode because her characterization felt in direct conversation and contradiction to Donna Noble, the Doctor’s companion in season 4. The Doctor remembering Donna’s plea to “just save someone” even if he couldn’t save everyone is what prompted him to save Ashildr in the first place, and while Donna was warm and caring, turning Ashildr immortal initially made her cold and lonely. I really love these last two episodes because they are really the first time we’ve gotten a true connection to Russell T. Davies’ seasons of Doctor Who more than just a mention of the Doctor’s previous companions. Having Peter Capaldi as the Doctor is awesome because it connects him to the Tenth Doctor in the way the Eleventh didn’t. I only had a few issues with this episode, namely the return of the sonic sunglasses, the really hurried alien attack (though it wasn’t truly the point of the episode so it wasn’t terrible), and the alien Ashildr was rolling with that looked like the Cowardly Lion from the Wiz except that he for some reason breathed fire but only used it as a scare tactic. While that part was strange, this was definitely a great episode and I would watch it again.
I really enjoyed this episode. It was reminiscent of the episode “The Girl in the Fireplace”: the Doctor is there, but neither his story nor his companions are the most important. Clara doesn’t even appear in the episode until after all the action is over. The point of this episode is what happens to the people who encounter and are changed by the Doctor but are left in his wake. Unfortunately, the sonic sunglasses are back but besides that, I felt this episode and this two-part story were definitely the best of the season. Ashildr’s story is very thought provoking – if you know that you will outlive and outlast everyone in your life how many people do you lose before you lose the ability to care? We see this question posed to the Doctor pretty often, but it’s a different question to ask of someone who is human. Unlike Captain Jack, Ashildr is stuck in this time and place without the means to travel great distances. She is cold and calculating, making decisions such as becoming a thief for enjoyment rather than necessity. Maisie Williams really shows off her acting abilities. I very much hope she makes another appearance. Also, sorry Bayana but I would also love to see her take Clara’s place as the next companion. I don’t know what that would mean for her role in Game of Thrones but TARDIS > Direwolves, right?