Jerry: Welcome back to Second Opinion, where we will be looking at Doctor Who Series 9, Episode 5, “The Girl Who Died.” As you mentioned last week, this episode features Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones fame.
Brent: I think she did a great little job. So what were your thoughts this week? Did you enjoy it?
J: It was entertaining. I like the fact that they took away the sonic device from him. I still want to call it a screwdriver, but it’s not a screwdriver, at least not this season. I don’t know if it has any other official name.
B: I’ve only ever heard Sonic Sunglasses and I don’t even know if that was official.
J: Part of me really liked hearing the Doctor’s thoughts about the moral quandary that he gets himself put in. When he intervenes to help someone or protect someone but he can’t stay there forever. What happens to them when he leaves? What’s to keep another alien race from coming right back in and finishing the job? it was a fascinating look inside, but at the same time, that was a lot of sitting and talking with very little action.
B: That was very much the case with this episode. So much so, I had to go back and re-watch the episode before we talked. I wanted to refresh myself on the little things that I liked about it, because it did seem like there was an awful lot of exposition. It was cute to see the Doctor put in that role of having to train people to fight, since he’s normally very anti-soldier, with a few exceptions of people he’s known along his lifetime like Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and the U.N.I.T. characters. So, I thought that was interesting, but I feel like, once again, the entire season of two-parters is letting us down a little bit. I still can’t get away from the fact that if it were a whole season of single episodes, we would have a lot more adventures to choose from, as opposed to being locked into the same place or a similar situation for two weeks straight. It’s hard to imagine that in 1965-66, viewers were locked into The Daleks’ Master Plan, which lasted for twelve episodes (with an added prequel episode)!
J: All right. So, have we seen these aliens before. or is this their first appearance?
Now, the Mire’s leader with the winged helmet and electronic eyepatch reminded me a lot of Brian Blessed’s character in the Flash Gordon movie, Prince Vultan. I kept expecting “Odin” to yell, “Flash Gordon approaching!”
J: I can definitely see that!
I love the nicknames the Doctor gave everyone because he was too busy to learn their names.
B: And that’s the thing I love about Capaldi’s Doctor. Fandom seems to cast him as the “grumpy” Doctor, but he seems to me to be one of the funniest Doctors, yet.
J: It’s funny, but for this entire episode, I kept hearing Tennant and not necessarily Capaldi. I just seems like this would have been the perfect episode for Tennant to be in.
B: That would have been a great episode for Tennant; I agree. The episode was written by Jamie Mathieson and Steven Moffat. I have always heard Moffat say in interviews that he does not write for a specific Doctor. That pretty much he’s constantly writing the same voice in his head and everything is left up to how the actor interprets it. But with Capaldi having been a fan for so long, and such a hardcore fan, I felt there were moments in the episode where Capaldi was almost hitting a David Tennant note himself. Allowing a little bit of the Tenth Doctor to peep through to the Twelfth Doctor.
J: I really think Tennant would have gone through the moral anguish of what to do. It seems strange, but I kept wanting to see Tennant in this episode just for his facial expressions. He can really make it work with his eyes. Maybe I just haven’t watched enough of Capaldi to appreciate what he was doing with the episode.
B: But then again, David Tennant made such a mark on the role that it’s hard sometimes not to hear his voice in the back of your head as the Doctor.
So speaking of Tennant, I thought it was very interesting that we got a call-back to Calpaldi’s first episode as The Doctor, Deep Breath (2015) which I know you haven’t seen, but in it he sees himself in a reflection. He recognizes his newly regenerated face, but he can’t place where he’s seen it before, saying “Why did I choose this face?”
At the same time, we also got a call-back to “The Fires of Pompeii” episode, where Capaldi played a role. The writers actually found a way to work the fact that the actor has played another role in the Who universe as a plot device. I thought that was brilliant.
Along those lines… There’s been a lot of talk about that we were going to find out why the Doctor has this face. There was a brief period of time while they were filming the season that David Tennant and Russell T. Davies visited the set. That started a lot of rumors going around that Tennant might show up as the Tenth Doctor in a cameo, or something like that. I had thought it would have been interesting if the Twelfth Doctor got caught up in an adventure with a random human, like he normally does, but the random human that he’s caught up with has David Tennant’s face. Then you find out that this is a human that the Doctor had met a long time ago and made an impact upon the Time Lord, and that’s why the Tenth Doctor “chose” that face. So now I’ve got a story to submit to Big Finish, or as a novel, I guess.
There were a few continuity call-outs that I thought were really charming. There’s one point where the Doctor is flipping through a 2000-year diary, which is a call-back to the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) who had a 500-year diary. Capaldi’s Doctor pulled out the very same yellow Yo-Yo that Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor used on several occasions, underlining the fact that this is still the same man, even though he has a new face. My favorite callback was when the Doctor told Clara he was “reversing the polarity of the neutron flow”, which was a phrase that Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor used very often. Also, it was mentioned in an Eleventh Doctor story that the Doctor could speak “baby.” Honestly, that was really used to a haunting effect in this episode. It really unsettled me to hear the primitive language of what a baby’s feeling translated into our own language. I thought that was very, very well done.
J: OK, looking ahead here. As I picked up on the story, and you’ve gotten to watch it twice, so hopefully you understand it more, Maisie Williams’ character died as a result of putting the big funky helmet on and projecting the image to help her tribe defeat the aliens. The Doctor was able to revive her, but as a result of that action, she’s now immortal, she can’t die.
B: That’s a perfect take on it.
J: So looking ahead to the episode this week, “The Woman Who Lived,” it’s going to take place sometime in the future where they encounter her character again. We’re not going back to the age of Vikings, right?
B: No, the story is jumping ahead. That reminds me of the very first trailer shown for Series 9. We saw a little exchange between Maisie Williams’ character and the Doctor, where they see each other again, and she says, “It’s about time, old man.” And the Doctor looks at her and says “You!” When that was shown on the first trailer, a lot of people (myself included) thought that possibly she would be the Doctor’s granddaughter, Susan, regenerated into a younger body. Susan was one of the First Doctor’s first companions, and we’ve never seen Susan again since a brief return in The Five Doctors, a 20th Anniversary story in 1983. So I was a little let down in the fact that it was an original character and not Susan. That would have not only been a neat moment for a long-term fans, but it would have also been a very big ratings spike if Susan had come back to the program after so long. It would have really pushed the ratings up in the U.K.
J: Piggybacking on what you were just saying, but getting away from this episode and looking at the big picture of the season. There’s been rumors that this might be the last season of Doctor Who for a while, that they might take a break, or bring this production run to a close. You mention the ratings in the U.K. But is that really the driving factor for keeping the show in production? Is it just the ratings in the U.K. that matter? Is it ratings worldwide?
B: It’s definitely become a worldwide situation. And although I’m not privy to all of the details, I know that the BBC is a privately-owned channel authorized to operate by the government, but they are under attack. Different political factions are wanting to limit or close down the BBC in favor of a cable television-type approach. So with Doctor Who being as big of an international success as it is, I cannot see the BBC resting it or taking it off the air for very long, because that’s the linchpin in their strategy to maintain a network.
J: So part two is “The Woman Who Lived”, which mirrors “The Girl Who Died” this past week. They seem to be having fun with the titles.
B: Yes they are! But not as much fun as I have with That Time on Doctor Who, your one-stop-shop for your weekly Doctor Who fix! We apply the MST3K riffing-model to Doctor Who, one frame at a time.
J: All right. Come back next week for our Second Opinion on episode 6, “The Woman Who Lived.”
#ThatTimeOnDrWho is created mostly weekly by Brent Kincade for Word of the Nerd Online!
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