Doctor Who Season 9 Episode 6 Review: “The Woman Who Lived”

Doctor Who

One thing that Doctor Who does extremely well is analyze different types of relationships through the Doctor. The show does a great job of delivering different phases of life for the Doctor and each companion represents something he needs at the time. The ninth season has done a great job of exploring how the Doctor connects with people, mainly through the supporting characters. Last week in “The Girl Who Died,” the Doctor was able to inspire an entire village but mainly one girl with a big heart, braveness and a clever personality. The Doctor even came to care about her so much that he was willing to  bring her back to life, but it came with the cost that she would live forever.

While this is an emotionally touching thing for the Doctor to do, it also isn’t his decision to make. “The Woman Who Lived” picks up in the future and delivers a great conclusion to the story of Ashildir. The problem with the Doctor is that sometimes he doesn’t fully think about how his decisions could have a negative impact on someone. When he brings Ashildir back to life he assumes that he is doing something right for her, her father and the village, but it backfires without the Doctor knowing until he randomly crosses paths with her again.

The Ashildir in this episode is a completely different person, in fact, she doesn’t even go by Ashildir anymore because she has forgotten who she is. This episode introduces us to Me, the outlaw devoid of feelings after living forever. When the Doctor re-encounters Ashildir she’s clearly different from when we first met her; I think that they really created a great two episode arc for Maisie Williams because it allows her to play two different characters with two emotional and touching endings. As soon as Williams was announced everyone began talking about how great she would be for the next companion, and her acting in these episodes pretty much confirmed how phenomenal that would be. She just brings so much spirit and excitement to her roles and I think that she interacted with Capaldi perfectly.

That said, her change from playing a sweet mature child to a hardened empty woman was extremely impressive. Her character helped get the Doctor to finally realize his actions might have consequences which is a result of his alien perspective on situations. The scene where the Doctor is exploring all of Ashildir’s journals and notices the moments she chose to forget because they were too much to handle emotionally is probably one of my favorites. Capaldi just knows how to really quiet down his presence and really show how something impacts the character.

The writing has been very good so far this season and as a result the cast is taking full advantage and delivering some great performances. It’s interesting to have started a season with three two-part episodes in a row but the stories are strong enough to back it up. I also love that the season has been incorporating a lot of physical aliens and monsters; the first couple had Davros and the Daleks, the second story had ghosts and the Fisher King and this week we received the Leonian. The makeup, costume and special effects crews have been doing some awesome work this season.

Doctor Who is very good at creating relationships; the romance of 10 and Rose, the friendship of 11 and Amy & Rory, they are all extremely well-done. Although Ashildir isn’t a companion, she’s a new character that has the ability to turn up anywhere like a Captain Jack or River Song. This is probably the best use for Maisie Williams because her involvement with other projects like Game of Thrones might limit her availability to be a companion. This way, her character can pop up whenever the creators want, and she’s similar to Alex Kingston and John Barrowman with her amazing persona and the energy she brings to her characters.

This story was really great and I think it was a good moment for the Doctor. We are seeing him struggle with the idea of loneliness and the true longevity of immortality. I like that each episode this season has accomplished communicating multiple themes through a single story. Capaldi and Williams were really great together and I would love to see her return while he is still the Doctor. I’m curious if this season will end with Gallifrey being revealed or the Doctor learning of the location. He’s going to lose Clara and it would be interesting to see him deal with the increasing loneliness or discovery of his home planet and other Time Lords.

Other Thoughts:

  • It was cool that the Doctor referenced Captain Jack when explaining the few people who are also immortal. I miss Captain Jack. I want him to return…
  • Maisie, please come back!
  • I’m hoping to see more of a build towards a season finale point. There’s not really a huge amount we’ve been given so far.

[Photo via BBC America]

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