‘The Girl Who Died’ must have been the most hotly anticipated episode of series 9 so far. This is mainly due to appearance of ‘Game of Thrones’ Massie Williams. The fans and many involved with the show had built this episode up to the point it could only disappoint right? Luckily it wasn’t the major let down it could have been.
Ok let’s not dwell on how these Vikings managed to get hold of eels only found in South America. I’m sure that can be explained through trading or a raid or something. The main issue with ‘The Girl Who Died’ was it just felt so rushed. In old Who this story would have been across three or four episodes, here it felt almost like a prologue. There was no time to connect to the Vikings, meaning I felt no jeopardy about who lived or died. Even the Doctor couldn’t be bothered to learn their names instead giving them nick names. A shame too that Massie Williams as Arya Stark, sorry I mean Ashildr felt under developed; which is something that may be rectified in the second episode. The Vikings also felt almost caricature; more at home in ‘Horrible Histories’ then ‘Doctor Who’.
I’d like to have seen more of ‘The Mire’ too. Again their whole development felt rushed and full of gaps. I hope to see and learn more about them in future episodes.
The pace that the episode ran almost spoiled what is a great story. As with the previous episode ‘Before the Flood’ there is a real old Who feel to the ‘The Girl Who Died’ teleplay and production. Especially those that used historic town locations such as Colin Baker’s ‘The Mark of the Rani’ or Jon Pertwee’s ‘The Daemons’.
There was once again some great one liners and sight gags, although the humour felt closer to a Matt Smith era episode than any previous Capaldi ones. It’s great to see the return of the long dated diary, a long running joke in the Who universe.
One of moments that saved the episode was how Ashildrs immortal passage of time was represented. As the stars streaked across the sky and the landscaped changed you gained a real sense of how immortality was changing her. The Doctors talk of her being a hybrid seemed to hark back to something Davros had said in episode 2 of this series ‘The Witch’s Familiar’. This seems to be turning into a nice running story for the rest of the season.
The most exciting part of the episode was the clips and referencing to David Tennant’s tenth Doctor’s ‘The Fires of Pompeii’. Finally explaining why Capaldi looks like his character, from that episode, Caecilius. Nice to see Catherine Tate’s Donna again. Quite an underrated companion in my opinion.
So a great story rushed which is a shame. Massie Williams is worth more than being typed cast as her character from ‘Game of Thrones’; just look at her work in ‘The Falling’ or ‘Cyberbully’. Still it was entertaining and does give me hope that, the next episode, ‘The Woman Who Lived’ will make up for the short comings of this one.
Rating out of 10: 7