When I saw the credits roll for “The Girl Who Died”, an episode co-written by showrunner Steven Moffat and part-time Doctor Who scribe Jamie Mathieson, I easily pictured Moffat breathing down Mathieson’s neck, almost demanding that he make the episode as bad as possible. Fortunately for them, I kicked these thoughts out of my mind when the episode got going. Unfortunately, when I watched the end credits roll, I can only guess that that’s exactly what went down.
“The Girl Who Died” finds ourselves unexpectedly arriving in a Viking village, where the war-hungry Mire have come to feed on the testosterone of the village’s biggest and best. Understandably pissed, one plucky village girl declares war on the aliens, resulting in the Doctor having just 12 hours to train a group of farmers and fishmongers into a fighting force to be reckoned with.
If it weren’t for including the word ‘doctor’ in that above paragraph, I could have easily just described an episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures. This episode felt very much like it was aimed at a far younger audience than last week’s eerie “Under the Lake”/”Before the Flood” shenanigans, but there’s two strong reasons why that couldn’t work. Firstly, Maisie Williams steals much of the episode as Ashildr, and no sane parent would ever allow their children to know what other Medieval TV show she comes from! Secondly, the BBC have wisely (!) decided to shift Doctor Who from its customary 7/7.30 PM timeslot to around half 8 PM, when all the kiddies are supposedly tucked up in bed.
But beyond the odd scheduling arrangements, there’s another reason this episode really did kick me in the emotional knackers. Apologies for the upcoming spoiler (although how spoiler-friendly do you want to be with an episode called “The Girl Who Died”?), but that flashback of the 10th Doctor and Donna Noble made me realize just how deeply I used to invest my emotions in this show. Nowadays, I just don’t do that. It may well be because I’ve matured somewhat between the 10th and 12th Doctors, but there’s also the fact that Doctor Who doesn’t stir anything inside of me. “The Girl Who Died” may be the embodiment of how I feel about the Moffat-led Doctor Who, and if Twitter is anything to go by, I’m not alone.
However, let’s detach my emotional wreckage from this episode before I drown my keyboard in tears. “The Girl Who Died” can be taken as a light, refreshing tonic after the darker pair of episode’s we’ve previously had, but it feels too light, and not all that refreshing. The Doctor would have been far wiser to simply cut his losses and leave the Mire to obliterate that one tiny village, instead of going to the trouble of preparing the villagers for war. I was given the impression that this Doctor was something of a maverick (“Am I a good man?”), who had the capability to make decisions and actions that not everyone would be happy with, but here all it takes is a baby’s crying to disassemble his dark, brooding nature?
“The Girl Who Died” is ultimately a lacklustre affair with no emotional weight. The script does its best to be big balls of fun, but it ultimately feels as if this would be a story more at home in a three-panel comic strip than a prime-time TV drama.
Overall grade: D
+ That Viking perfectly sums up how I feel about sonic sunglasses.
+ That was one eloquent baby.
– What was the point of the opening mine-spider-in-Clara’s-spacesuit-business?
– So… after being teased about it for some time, we finally know why the 12th Doctor chose that face, the same face as Caecilius from the 10th Doctor adventure “The Fires of Pompeii”. It’s because the Doctor had to remind himself that he’s the Doctor, and that he saves people.
I’m perplexed as to how this and “The Woman Who Lived” will pull of being a two-parter. The finale of “The Girl Who Died” certainly felt like there was more to tell, but it almost felt like something out of the Russel T Davies era, in that we should revisit this character at a later episode, making “The Girl Who Died” a rather standalone affair.