Sunday, 25 October 2015
THE GIRL WHO DIED - THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE NERDY
During the build-up to The Girl Who Died?, the majority of hype was about Maisie Williams guest starring on Doctor Who, exciting and enticing fans of all ages and fans of Game of Thrones alike. But did this episode live up to said hype? Or did the fans (and the production team) blow one actress’ guest appearance out of proportion?
I might be in the minority here, but I usually enjoy lighthearted – or ‘filler,” or bottle episodes. While this episode can’t quite qualify as “filler” on account of it planting plot points for later episodes, as well as referencing previous plot points, The Girl Who Died did manage to succeed in making an arc episode look and feel like a good filler one, even when it was clearly not.
One of the complaints against Doctor Who is the fact that every new warrior species the Doctor faces are made out to be the most powerful force in the universe. Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, Sycorax, (insert other generic alien warmongering race etc here). This gets old really quickly so imagine my surprise when it turned out the Mire are mostly just bark. Subverting tropes and giving us a villain that isn’t actually as terrifying as the plot thinks it is something original and I applaud that, even if it takes away some of the episode’s tension. But let’s be honest, even the Mire can take down the Vikings in a normal fight. We’ve seen it so tension sticks around I suppose.
I’m going give special mention to Clara’s failed badass boast because I’m not sure what it actually accomplished. Did she try and make it sound like the Doctor and she were this inexorable force and her words inspired Ashildr to go all Leeroy Jenkins on Odin, or was Ashildr always planning to bust out the Jenkins Stratagem? Nonetheless, it was comical seeing what would have been a very boring scare speech – which usually works – be cut down by another character.
I mentioned a few weeks back that I preferred stories where my enjoyment (or resentment) remains at a consistent level, regardless of how many times I watch it. The Girl Who Died feels like one of those stories. Having seen it three times now, I still find the jokes funny, I still find my attention moderately (not fully) invested in the episode and I still adore the unusual resolution to the piece. The bad bits do not improve, nor do the good bits, but the episode feels like a regular Doctor Who episode. It doesn’t set the bar too high so unlike other episodes that have been hyped to infinity+1, it doesn’t have to do much to be considered a victory in its own right.
The last ten minutes of the story and the revelation of the Doctor’s face was nicely done. I will admit that the above paragraph perhaps dampens its charm a little because while the “where did this face come from” question hasn’t been hyped by Steven Moffat as the biggest reveal ever, the fans on the other hand have taken over this position and in our endless speculation and constant hype, I admit that while I was satisfied, I couldn’t help but think: “So that’s all? Bit of an anti-climax.”
Unlike Kill The Moon and In The Forest of the Night which completely treated viewers as idiots who’ve never opened a science book before, the liberties taken against science this time were easier to digest. Most people do not know to which parts of the world electric eels are indigenous to (myself included), although I will admit to the visual representation of eels actually emitting sparks (only used to signify to viewers that electricity is indeed being discharged) and somehow creating electromagnets are just plain silly. Thankfully the episode makes it very clear that if you’re thinking about it too hard, you’re not watching it the correct way.
Maisie William’s guest appearance in the episode resulted in a very “meh” response from me, as again, fan-hype about her appearing set the bar too high for her to live up to. I don’t watch Game of Thrones so to me she just felt like another famous guest-star-normal-character appearance. Plus her character was not very well developed.
The biggest source of nerdy moments would have to be the “face” revelation and the flashback to Fires of Pompeii with Donna and Ten. It’s always nice to see/hear previous Doctors in newer Doctor Eras. Then we have Twelve paraphrasing and/or quoting his Second, Third and Seventh incarnations. “Barring accidents, she may now be functionally immortal” is a paraphrase of the Second Doctor’s description of the Time Lords in The War Games. Twelve also uses the “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow” phrase and this incarnation seems to have an especially soft spot for, Seven as he again makes the “advanced technology is like magic” reference, previously used in Battlefield. He also uses the famous “ripples in time” speech from Remembrance of the Daleks. Heck, he even ends the episode with “Time will tell. It always does.”
The Doctor’s 2000 year diary must be bigger on the inside because that doesn’t look nearly thick enough to cover 2000 years’ worth of travelling. That or the Doctor writes in very-short hand.
Odin’s eye-patch and over-top the mannerisms are reminiscent of the Captain from The Pirate Planet. His hologram face in the cloud looks uncannily like God from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. And lastly, BRIAN BLESSED WAS ORIGINALLY GOING TO PLAY ODIN!!! THIS IS THE SECOND TIME BRIAN BLESSED HAS ALMOST PLAYED NORSE GOD ODIN!!!! (See the Marvel Cinematic Universe).
The closest we get to a pop culture song reference is the Benny Hill theme song that Clara overlays on the video of Odin and his men panicking at the sight of the dragon puppet. And lastly, The Girl Who Died’s plot is based on Akira Kurosawa’s film Seven Samurai.
Will The Woman Who Lived be able to survive the continued hype surrounding Maisie Williams’ presence in Doctor Who or is this episode doomed to the same hype-backfire that engulfed The Girl Who Died?