The Woman Who Lived is the unofficial second part to The Girl Who Died. And it is about a girl who becomes a woman while still looking like a girl. Oh, and she lives. And then lives. And just when you think she has lived long enough, she lives a bit more.
I have not posted this unreview with The Girl Who Died because these two stories are not a two-parter. There are two episodes which connect to each other. Plus they are both written by different people. I would have shown the first episode after the Dalek two-parter and this one before the Zygon two-parter. By the way, spoilers! If you were unaware of the Zygons, um, just ignore what I said.
The Doctor arrives in England, 1651, near Hounslow. Already this story has got off to a bad start for him. Hounslow? It is lucky that Clara isn’t there. She wouldn’t be too impressed either. Her mouth would fall off due to heavy sarcasm overload. Clara is teaching the pupils of Coal Hill School about the three R’s: Rutons, Rassilon and Racnoss.
Thankfully, things are improved when a highwayman called the Knightmare robs a chinless fop and his equally chinless wife of all their shiny baubles. The Doctor, whose curioscannery thing has located some kind of alien fizzgig in a chest belonging to the chinless two, interrupts much to the rough-voiced criminal.
The Knightmare is not happy with the Doctor hijacking his hijacking but the Doctor really is quite insistent and rude. Events are made worse when the fops escape with the alien thingummyjig still in the chest.
The alien maguffin is called the Eye of Hades. With a name like that, it is really unlikely that this artefact hypnotises kittens or creates hallucinatory unicorns to entertain the family. Come on, at least try to fool us into thinking that this Eye might not be evil. Really? Hades? With a name like that, I expect some evil cat-faced alien will turn up for it as well.
The Knightmare, who has been all gruff voice and bravado reveals himself to be Ashildr. Wow, immortality must be hell on the throat. She now calls herself ‘Me’, which is a lot easier to spell than ‘Ashildr’ but for the purposes of this unreview, I will refer to her by her given name. Mainly because my spellchecker insists that she should be called Splashily.
Ashildr is oddly pleased to see the Doctor… She thinks that he is her ticket off-world.
Ashildr’s life hasn’t been all that good since she last saw the Doctor. She has lost children to plague and old age, and has lost people whom she loved very much. She claims to have forgotten her past but if that was true, how would she remember Clara or the Doctor? Jack Harkness never forgot, did he?
When she takes the Doctor back to her mansion. She shows him the books where her memories reside. With these diaries, we get to see some of the events of Ashildr’s life since the previous episode. She sold swords to both sides at Agincourt, she worked as a serving wench in Irongron’s castle, she licked syrup off Richard III’s hump, she trained farting gibbons to seduce the crowned heads of Europe with their bananary farts, she gave birth to William Shakespeare…
Also we see the bad memories such as losing her babies to the plague. Ashildr has isolated herself from people and company because of the pain that their passing causes her. But by doing so, she has become cold with age and almost beyond humanity. As mentioned in the previous episode, immortality is a curse and this is why.
Ashildr has also waited for the Doctor to take her away. Somehow she knows kinda what he is, a space traveller. She asks to go with him but he refuses. Remember how he ran away from Jack Harkness? Part of his reasons for not taking her must include the same fear, the same sense of wrongness that he had with Jack. Also, she would cramp his style.
Ashildr has a back-up plan and a marooned alien friend with eyes that light up. Just imagine how much money she is saving on candles with a friend who can light up a room with his glowing eyes. This friend is a lionish alien called Leandro. Guess what? He wants the Eye of Hades as well! So unsurprised.
The Doctor and Ashildr manage to steal the Eye of Hades but after an altercation with a highway man called Sam Swift, she then betrays him and leaves him tied up while she and Leandro go off to find a sacrifice to power up the Eye of Hades. See? If it had been named the Eye of Fluffiness, you would never has suspected it of being some kind of evil artefact powered by death.
The death she will use will be that of fellow outlaw Sam Swift who is destined to die since he has just been caught for, er, outlawing. But she thinks that Leandro will take her with him to the stars when in actual fact, he will just invite more of his kind to come and kill the population of the Earth. Still not surprised by the way.
The Doctor tries to save Swift but he is a little too late and his jokes are too poor. Ashildr whacks the Eye of Hades onto Swift’s flesh and the portal to Leandro’s dimension opens…
When Leandro tells of his intent to subjugate the planet, Ashildr feels horrified, all her lost humanity bubbles up and she knows that she has to somehow rectify this. If only she had a microchip capable of giving life… Yes, now you see the importance of the second chip in The Girl Who Died.
Ashildr never found anyone worthy to share her life with. What? Not even the child she lost to the plague? Really? Seems odd that. But it is all for the good because giving Sam Swift the chip causes him to come back from death and the rift closes but not before Leandro’s fellow aliens vaporise him.
But does this mean that Swift is immortal too? The Doctor says not. Probably not.
And that is basically it. We do get to have a good scene between the Doctor and Ashildr where she tells him that if she can’t go with him, then she will look after the people in the aftermath of his adventures. Maybe she is responsible for UNIT later on in the twentieth century? Not sure why I am guessing that but I do know the modern UNIT is full of women. Who knows?
When Clara returns at the end, she shows the Doctor a selfie that one of her pupils sent her. In the background of the picture is Ashildr. Cue ominous music…
Peter Capaldi is wonderful in this. He is always on the back foot and so not a man with a plan. He shows great presence whenever Maisie Williams is with him, allowing her to out-act him on a few occasions. If Clara was the magician’s apprentice in the first story of the season, this story shows that the Doctor is still learning as well. Superb acting from Capaldi.
Maisie Williams is phenomenal. I was very tempted when I first saw her to just think of her as another child actress but that is insulting. Over this and the last story, I have seen this remarkable young woman acting rings around half the cast. I am very excited to watch such an actress act so well, especially since she will only get better with age. Maisie is one to watch. Will she be back? I hope so.
Rufus Hound, the comedian/presenter with the Jacobean name is…ah…much like the comedians who appeared on the show in the late 1980s. Sometimes they are good and sometimes they are bad. In this case, Hound is just on the good side of the scale. Terrible jokes aside (his not mine), I rather liked him. I hope he returns as well.
This is a great little tale with pleasing references to the Fifth Doctor story, The Visitation and fellow immortal Jack ‘Face of Boe’ Harkness. I imagine the Whovian community punched the air a few times. Highly recommended and well worth a watch or two or three or four…