Doctor Who 9×6 Review: “The Woman Who Lived”
If you read my review last week, you’ll know that I was a little nervous coming into this episode. Sure, I really enjoyed “The Girl Who Died”, but I wasn’t completely sold on Maisie Williams’ character, Ashildr, and to be perfectly honest I wasn’t entirely sure they were going to be able to pull off a conclusion worthy of the idea they introduced. I was wrong to be worried because “The Woman Who Lived” turned out to be one of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who ever.
This episode picks up where last week left off, sort of. It’s not really a two-parter in the traditional sense because both “The Girl Who Died” and “The Woman Who Lived” work as stand alone episodes, but there could have been years between them and they still would have made sense. Anyway, hundreds of years have passed for Ashildr when she finally crosses paths with the Doctor again. She’s not the girl he met in that viking village anymore; she’s lost perspective, just like the Doctor feared she would.
The main point of this episode seems to be why the Doctor continues to connect with human companions, despite the fact that their time together is so fleeting. It’s a question that’s been answered before, but it’s one that is constantly in consideration, so I don’t mind devoting as many episodes as necessary to it, especially when they do it well.
Ashildr, who is now calling herself Me, has had a long life filled with the misery of loss that comes with the lonely existence of an immortal. In order to cope with this pain, she has shut herself off, embracing loneliness and telling herself that it’s not worth getting attached. This is what she tells the Doctor, at least, but her actions contradict her words. She has not given up; she’s just waiting for a reason to keep going, a reason to care. By the end of the episode she finds that reason, although it’s not what she was expecting.
One of my biggest fears after last week’s episode ended was that Ashildr’s story would conclude with her finding a romantic partner she wants to spend an eternity with. When the Doctor stumbles across her, purely by accident because he was avoiding her – the Doctor doesn’t like to deal with the messes he leaves behind until they come back to bite him – Ashildr is trying to hitch a ride to the stars with a lonely lion man. The lion man is lying, of course, but if Me had really stopped caring she wouldn’t be trying so hard to leave the place that was causing her so much pain.
The success of this episode lived or died on Maisie Williams’ performance, and she blew everything out of the water. I’ve become so complacent with her performance on Games of Thrones that I think I forgot that she is really a genuinely good actor. For someone so young, she manages to inject so much depth and history into the character to the point where I believe every word she says. In fact, she sells the utter agony of immortality better than anyone that has played the Doctor.
“The Woman Who Lived” was Clara-lite and although I have enjoyed her character a lot more this season, I didn’t really miss her. She was there like a shadow, a constant reminder of her inevitable departure, but if she had been around throughout this episode it would have lost some of its impact. Because the Doctor is not very good at explaining why it’s important to care; that’s why he has his companions – they help him understand compassion. Clara may have been able to get through to Me in a way the Doctor could not, but it would not have had the same impact.
The final scene between the Doctor and Ashildr/Me sets up their future interactions and I can officially say that I am super pumped for her to return whenever she wants to – especially if it involves her hanging out with Missy. I also love the idea that she decided to dedicate her life to cleaning up the Doctor’s messes. She finds her reason to continue, and that reason is to be there for all the people the Doctor leaves behind when he runs. It took her hundreds of years but Me/Ashildr understands the Doctor better than most, and she knows the Doctor’s darkest secret – that he cannot handle the pain.
The Best Bits:
- Everything and anything Maisie Williams does, especially when she got all swashbuckly and also that dress she was wearing.
- The continued appearance of the Doctor’s sonic sunglasses. I know a lot of people think they’re silly but I love them.
- Gallows humor… nuff said.
- Captain Jack Harkness mention because I wasn’t emotional enough already – also loved the hint that he and Me were totally gonna get it on a some point.
Author: Undie Girl
Undie Girl (aka Von) has a BA (Hons) Major in Cultural Studies. The title of her honours thesis was “It’s just gay and porn”: Power, Identity and the Fangirl’s Gaze. She’s currently pursuing a Masters of Media Practice at University of Sydney. Von’s a former contributor The Backlot’s column The Shipping News and a current co-host of The Geekiary’s monthly webcast FEELINGS… with The Geekiary.
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