Fantasy and Sci-Fi worlds collide as Doctor Who stumbles upon Arya Stark and her newly adopted Viking family. Things get a little weird when Odin shows up with some metal robots to “farm” the Vikings for their testosterone. And if all that isn’t crossing enough fandom streams, they threw in a little flashback to the Tenth Doctor to make your nerd brain actually implode.
There is so much going on in this episode, it’s difficult to even know where to begin. We have another two part story, which appears to be the running theme for this season. So far the writing has been fairly robust and it doesn’t feel like we’re sprinting through story, leaving half-cooked things laying about because there is simply no time to explain it all. This definitely seems to have given the writers more room to spread their creative wings and so far it has made for a better Whoverse.
Maisie Williams, the girl of many faces and many names, goes by Ashildr in our story. Coincidence that it’s pronounced similarly to “a shielder?” Would be a solid replacement for “a carer,” wouldn’t you say? Now that there presumably is another immortal person in the universe, aside from Missy (we miss you, Missy), wouldn’t that be the perfect companion for the Doctor who has always lamented about outliving companions? Twelve didn’t even hint around it in this very episode, he very plainly spoke about suffering through losing someone, how immortality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and that death is a privilege. Knowing that, he gave her a chip of immortality to give to someone of her choosing which brings up pretty much all of the questions. If he can make people immortal by messing with a health pack computer chip, why hasn’t he given that to his companions yet? Or anyone at all. Ten would have used it on himself and I wouldn’t even have been mad!
I will say, as soon as Twelve revealed the nature of the extra chip I immediately thought “She will use it on him.” But would that prevent him from regenerating? One would imagine the show runners would not paint themselves into a corner like that, but praise be to Moffat, we’ve watched corners un-painting themselves before.
I think the only thing that was disappointing about the episode was that they didn’t quite write Williams’ character much different than Arya Stark, despite not actually being in Westeros. Not that Williams didn’t knock it out of the park, I had just hoped for something a little more diverse from her and I know she’s capable of it. Regardless, she and Twelve hit it off fantastically and it all almost seems too obvious for her to stick around as a companion. If we pause for a moment and meta-game a bit, it’s highly unlikely Williams will have the capacity to be in both Game of Thrones and Doctor Who. Unless little lady Stark’s days are numbered in Westeros. Is that a GoT spoiler or a DW spoiler?! The world may never know. Perhaps she won’t be a full time companion but take an on-again, off-again role, more like River Song.
Clara definitely took a side role in the story at large, despite being involved quite a bit throughout the episode. Much of the focus was on the Vikings and Ashildr, however the Doctor definitely stood out this episode in a way he hadn’t before. When we finally get the explanation about why he chose his face, a face that belonged originally to Lucius Caecilius Incundus whom the Tenth Doctor had saved from the destruction of a volcano in the episode “The Fires of Pompeii.” The devastation in Pompeii was a fixed point in time and prevented the Doctor from helping the city at large, however Donna had pleaded that they at least save Lucius’ family who had been so kind and gracious to the Doctor and his companion. The Doctor taking on Lucius’ face was meant to remind him that he can always do some good, even if it’s a little bit. That revelation marked a turning point in Twelve’s career – he has a purpose. We’re not just randomly tumbling through space looking for adventures for Clara to risk her life, we’re exploring the universe trying to do some kind of good. That was very powerful and extremely well executed by both the writers and actors.
Next week we get to find out what becomes of Ahsildr in next weeks’ aptly named episode “The Woman Who Lived.” The writer will change from the combination of Moffat and Jamie Mathieson to Catherine Tregenna going solo (though the director stays the same with Ed Bazalgette), so it will be interesting to see how much of a difference part 1 will be from part 2.
What did you think about the face revelation? Has it helped solidify Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth iteration of The Doctor for you? Do you think Maisie Williams as Ashildr would be a good companion? Hit us up with your thoughts in the comments!