The Girl Who Died Plot Summary:
The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) land in a Viking village. This particular village has its best warriors stolen by the mechanized troops of Odin (veteran character actor David Schofield) who uses the adrenaline and testosterone of the warriors as fuel for his own war-mongering. When a young girl (Maisie Williams) stands up to Odin, the ‘god’ gives the village 24 hours to prepare for war. It’s up to The Doctor to figure a way for a village of farmers to defeat this unbeatable army.
“The Girl Who Died” as a singular episode is probably the weakest entry of the season, but the overarching impact of this episode is fascinating, and really sets the series in a different, and unexpected path.
The immediate story is extremely been there, done that — The Doctor and companion find themselves trying to help a group of simple, indigenous people against a highly sophisticated army. All looks hopeless, until the last second when The Doctor figures out some brilliantly ludicrous plan to defeat the big bad of the episode. It’s fairly paint-by-numbers. Don’t get it wrong, this is a fun little episode with high entertainment value, but you’ve ‘heard this song before.’
Yet, it’s the big picture, that makes ‘The Girl Who Died’ such a memorable episode.
The reveal of ‘why The Doctor has the face he has’ blew me away. It’s no secret that Capaldi starred in the Pompeii episode of the David Tennant era, ‘The Fires of Pompeii.’ It’s also been something that fans have called out, and some have even been irked by. The fact that the current team behind Who decided to address this, and address this in a way that justifies The Doctor’s actions, and remedies his stress about causing ‘tidal waves in time and space’ is a stroke of genius. Tennant’s Doctor saved Capaldi’s character and his family, despite the fact no one escaped the doom of Pompeii. The use of Capaldi’s face, the same face of the now saved Roman, is a reminder that The Doctor is about helping people, about saving people — even if it means altering time and space. Some may take umbrage with this, but it was a done in such an organic way that you don’t feel this was shoehorned in for the sake of addressing a fan theory, or was some sort of Doctor Deus Ex Machina that allows him to save the day.
The second big overarching reveal from the episode was Maisie Williams’ character. She’s used sparingly throughout, and outside of boldly challenging Odin to war, she’s relegated to the usual ‘native with the most lines’ character. You know the one, they have the most lines but ultimately they are about as important as the type of shoes The Doctor is wearing. In short — they’re there, but they’re inconsequential to the series. It was actually quite surprising of how little impact Williams character had throughout the episode — until the end.
While some may groan at yet another ‘to be continued’ ending, it’s actually the best move for the series. You can’t just toss an actor of her caliber in as a forgettable cameo and then move on to the next adventure. Maisie Williams and Peter Capaldi as a team has all the makings of amazing television. Frankly, if Williams character became a recurring figure on the show, and/or was the eventual replacement for a departing Jenna Coleman, I’d be all for it. The duo, even in their brief time together onscreen have this dynamite chemistry, probably even better than Clara and The Doctor at points. Now, next week, we’ll get to see them back together, but with Williams in a more mischievous and playful role — which should lead to a much better standalone episode.
Overall, ‘The Girl Who Died’ was a nice tablesetter for a potentially awesome episode. It’s definitely the weakest entry in this extremely strong season of Doctor Who. With that being said, this is still a fun little episode, that won’t stick to your ribs but is entertaining nonetheless.