TV Review: Doctor Who – Series 9 Episode 5: ‘The Girl Who Died’

With a story-line that is not too complex, this episode about Vikings is a refreshing change to the usual style of Doctor Who, says


Image: BBC

Image: BBC

I will preface this by saying that I am not a Doctor Who fan, merely someone who has followed the story from Christopher Eccleston in 2005 and who has found no reason to stop watching it just yet. I do enjoy this sci-fi drama that is interlaced with witty lines and parables. It has been a joy to witness the changing character of the Doctor, depending on who was playing him and how they chose to represent him. Apart from Capaldi, I was hesitant for each new Doctor, but grew to like them in varying degrees.

‘The Girl Who Died’ supports my opinion of Capaldi as the ideal Doctor. The narrative has taken on a darker and more confused tone compared to earlier seasons. There is a constant reminder that the Doctor has to follow these unknown and unspecified rules, and every action he takes must abide with them. As the Doctor mentions in this episode, every action has a consequence, be it ripples or tidal waves. The notion that there are limits to the Doctor’s powers and the fact that he must continually struggle against these limitations are both crucial aspects of this week’s episode. We see a vein of this limitation developing and changing shape, which is fantastic because finally you can excuse the Doctor for not saving everyone and not doing everything within his power to keep Earth or other planets safe. The Doctor is now more human!

Looking at the episode as a one off story, I am slightly biased, as I am very interested in the Vikings, even these ones who seem to be straight out of the Jorvik centre. There is no time wasted over mourning the entire village’s loss of their best fighters and warriors, the focus spins straight onto these poor fishermen and blacksmiths whose fighting talents are next to none. This confused me somewhat, but then again these fighters were going to Valhalla Virtual, so they had a good death. It is hard to ever find an episode of Doctor Who really tense, since the majority of people will always survive and the only real questions are what trickery will be used and who will be collateral damage. If you treat Doctor Who as a mystery drama it will make the episodes far more fun, especially if you’re someone who is not interested in sci-fi or the backstory. Approach it like a puzzle, picking up on the clues that the Doctor peppers the episode with on how he will eventually save the day (before it’s too late), and pay attention to those characters who are getting more screen time and development than the others.

As always, a lot of stories and backstories were set up and discussed: speaking the language of a Baby, the snapped sonic-glasses, plus the alien technology that will eventually be used against them. Often I find it a little tiring, watching this show without encyclopaedic knowledge, as there seem to be many elements that are only really accessible to the super fans. However, I enjoyed this episode mainly because the storyline was not too complex and was able to stand alone away from the longer running story arches. I still miss the utter terror that Doctor Who used to be able to instil in me after watching the episode, but as the bad guys become more robotic and separate from myself, the less potential there is to fear them.

It was also nice to see a familiar face, and I understand why this episode has received a lot of hype in the media prior to the broadcast. I don’t think I need to sell Doctor Who at this point, because you are most likely reading this out of sheer boredom or genuine interest as to how different my opinion of this episode is from yours. One final point, the dual episode structure is a relief. It is a pleasure to watch the show go from strength to strength, and having two episodes dedicated to one issue means I no longer feel as if I am watching children’s TV as an adult. Let’s see if the Doctor made the right choice.

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