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Doctor Who 'The Girl Who Died' [TV-EPISODE REVIEW]

We have now finally returned to Mathieson Who. Sadly while we got two stunning episodes from him last series - now we have to make due with one. 'The Girl Who Died' is the fifth episode of series nine and quite an oddball in terms of how new Who usually works. It ends with a "To be Continued" titlecard - but it also wraps up the story. In a way it is a two-parter... but in another way it is not. The only thing I am certain of right now is my thoughts on the episode.

Back when we were still getting the news of who would be writing for Series 9, as soon as Jamie Mathieson's return was announced - it immediately became my most anticipated episode of the whole season. Not because of the premise - but simply because Jamie Mathieson was writing it (who previously wrote the Series 8 masterpieces 'Mummy on the Orient Express' and 'Flatline'. Now that of course might be a bit silly for me to put all my anticipation on the shoulders of one person but he had done such a magnificent job last season that I was just in such a "Mathieson" mood were I just wanted to see what he would do next on the show. Now of course I will not compare the episode to what Mathieson did previously as that would be wholly unfair and unnecessary. Especially considering that they are completely different and serve a completely different purpose. It is very clear that 'The Girl Who Died' could not be whatever Mathieson wanted it to be as he was given the order to write a more simple story to serve as a vehicle for these things to move the arc of the season forward. And in doing that, I can safely say that Mathieson DID knock it out of the park.

This is not the an episode that hinges on the plot. This is not an episode that will change everything you thought you know about 'Doctor Who'. What this episode is though, is EXACTLY what Series 9 of 'Doctor Who' needed right now. The first two stories were very dark so getting an episode like 'The Girl Who Died' is perfect because it does not take itself all too seriously and the plot is not THAT important. You might want to call this filler - but the overall implications it could have on the series may require you to give it a little more credit. And let us not forget that however silly the whole thing is - this is a very well written screenplay with so many wonderful moments that makes it stand out and definitely hold its own next to the episodes that has preceded it.

The standout in this episode is literally every single scene with Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman together. I do not know why but whenever they talked in this episode it was just the best thing ever and I loved everything about it. If you have seen the episode you will know what I mean based on *THAT* scene in the barn near the end. It is very clear they are setting up Clara for a fall when she eventually departs near the end of the season but I never imagined they would actually take it to this extent and honestly, it just works. Every episode has done such a good job of implementing the story arcs and the character arcs this season that it has peaked my interest in finding out where this is all going (hybrid, anyone?). Obviously though, both Peter and Jenna are amazing in this episode as they are proving themselves to be one of the best TARDIS teams the show has ever had. It is quite amazing just how well they work together and I cannot imagine what kind of reaction the Doctor will have when that team has eventually broken up.

Ed Bazalgette's directing is right up there with the best that 'Doctor Who' has to offer now (which is probably my favorite on television). The final 360 degree shot of Maisie Williams is one of the most beautiful shots I think I have seen this whole year and I love how it is not JUST there to look gorgeous - there actually is a story being told as in the beginning we see her looking happy - but as the camera circles around her and we see the years go by she now looks quite sad and angry. Like the years have taken a torn on her and we come back to what the First Doctor said all the way back in 'The Five Doctors'; "Immortality is a curse, not a blessing.". The rest of the episode have beautifully composited scenes and everything just complements the poetic themes and dialogue throughout. Oh, and speaking of poetic and beautiful. Murray Gold composed one of the best scores of the whole season thus far with this episode. Perfectly utilizing the Viking-esque violin sounds - which of course is an area he has not been able to use up until this point so the whole episode sounds really refreshing and it shows yet again just how good Murray Gold can be.


What this episode also continues in pure Series 9 fashion is the way it continues to take risks - and somehow make it work. This is not exactly an episode that will work for many people as it can easily come across as goofy and silly (although come on, this is 'Doctor Who' we are talking about). It is rather depressing that most people will not get the ultimate point of this episode as they most likely expected just another surface-level episode. There are people saying the villains sucked and that they definitely were not "the deadliest warrior race in the galaxy" which just proves that they did not even pay attention to what was being said in the episode. I think a lot of people missed the actual point of the villains here as we discovered they really were not as deadly as their reputation made them out to be. It is a reputation they gave themselves and now the Doctor threatened to reveal to the galaxy that they really are frauds. Really we should be applauding Mathieson for actually doing something original with the villains in this episode. For the first time they are not the most powerful beings in the universe. You could view this as his way of making fun of that trope and it really is executed to perfection.

We now also know for sure what the "story arc" is this season with the idea of a hybrid returning yet again. Of course it is way too early to tell where the hell they are goin with this but after seeing how it was used in both 'The Witch's Familiar' and now 'The Girl Who Died', I have to say I am rather interested in what Moffat have cooked up this time and I wonder if it could have anything to do with Clara's eventual departure (something they also like to tease this Series).

One of the main selling points of this episode is the inclusion of 'Game of Thrones' star Maisie Williams who plays Ashildr and she was wonderful. Yes, maybe a bit too similar to Arya Stark but you can definitely see the differences in the way she is written and portrayed. What bugged me the most about her character is actually not how she was written or portrayed - its how she has been received by the fans as they obviously expected her to get some grand reveal that she for some reason is some major returning character just based on the fact that the Doctor recognized her in the Series 9 trailer (because getting yet another reveal like that is totally the right way to go). No, I loved the way they did it here and I am rather excited to see where they decide to go with it (next episode looks excellent). The same can also be said for the Capaldi-face reveal. I was worried they were going to go overboard with it and make it a huge deal as I just wanted it to be quick so they can move on from it. Luckily, that is exactly what we got and the scene was perfectly executed. Again though, of course fans are now disappointed that the reveal WASN'T a huge deal when really it has never been set up as being a huge deal. All we got was the Doctor talking about it ONE scene in 'Deep Breath' and after that it was never mentioned again until this point.

Overall, 'The Girl Who Died' is a wonderfully heartfelt, poignant and surprisingly layered episode that just exceeds what it was supposed to be with such magnitude and maturity. For once the core focus was not the plot. For once, the core focus is 100% on the extremely genuine human emotion. We see the Doctor's character break down into just his core elements and through Jamie Mathieson's magnificent screenplay we get to see it play out in a way that makes it feel so real. The dialogue is incredibly profound, the cinematography is wonderfully complementing of its themes and let us not forget the sheer and utter Oscar-calibre performances from Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman who really prove themselves to be one of the best TARDIS teams the show has ever had. And Series 9's winning streak continues.


10/10

- Lucas

1 comment: Leave Your Comments

  1. I do agree with your assessment of the episode. Definitely poetic and poignant. Very Doctor Who-ish, because it was really a balancing act... The silly and the serious. The funny and the wise, and the both. A game of two halves. Almost... like a Hybrid!
    Rankings...
    1. The Witch's Familiar.9.8. Still up there!
    2. Under The Lake. 9.6.
    3. Before The Flood. 9.4
    4. The Girl who Died. 9.0.
    5. The Magician's Apprentice. 8.4. Still down there, 'cause it's only very good and not brilliant.

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