Stand up and deliver! All your spoilers belong to us.
On this week’s Doctor Who 9×06: The girl who lived we get Maisie Williams back. Show of hands, who guessed she was going to the highwayman named ‘the Knightmare’ by the description alone? She’s also got an ally that keeps to the shadows. More on that later, but first a robbery. The Nightmare is holding up a carriage and taking all valuables. Along comes in the Doctor, not to stop the heist but just to barge in through the coach and in front of the flintlock gun and ignore all parties concerned. The Doctor is looking for something, something alien in origin, something that the Nightmare is also after. In the distraction, the stagecoach makes a run for it.
With the robbery foiled, the Knightmare reveals herself. The girl previously known as Ashildr is no more. She goes by Me. Lady Me, if you please. That is, whenever she’s not feigning a male voice and robbing people as a highwayman. It’s soon obvious that Lady Me does not need the extra money. She’s got a mansion, an old servant, and a room full of diaries of her past exploits. She first took up a male persona to fight in the battle of Agincourt. She’s also been crowned a queen, drowned as a witch, founded a leper colony and had -and lost- children. She’s become many people but she’s lost her empathy for the human race.
Which is why it doesn’t help when she finds out the Doctor is not here for her. She resents this, as she has had enough of a life where everyone else is ‘smoke’ by her own description. Immortality doesn’t sound so attractive when you have to spent it alone. She never did find someone to give the other perennial health kit she still keeps with her. “You didn’t save my life,” she tells the Doctor. “You trapped me inside it.”
It’s an interesting discussion, because as she speaks of the people that faded away you can read volumes from the Doctor’s face. He’s obviously thinking about his companions and he’s also got Clara on his mind. We’ll know more about it later. There’s a house to break into. There’s a Macguffin to retrieve. The name of the trinket is the Eye of Hades. An alien artifact that might have inspired a whole mythology in the past. It opens a portal when it’s attached to a dying person. Conveniently, you can also attach it to a living person and it will kill it for you. It’s a hit at parties.
After some bumbling around, our would-be thieves find the amulet and scamper out. Did I mention that the sonic shades are back? The sonic shades are back. The Doctor does rely on another gadget to detect the jewel. Anyhow, they’re out and fall into the hands of Sam Swift (Rufus Hound), a rival highwayman who’s not really that quick but he has some allies. The Knightmare has no problem outsmarting him from his gun. She’s ready to finish him, but the Doctor warns her: “You’ll make an enemy of me if you do.”
Back at Lady Me’s manor, it’s time for another reveal. Ashildr… Ash has an ally of her own. Leandro (Ariyon Bakare) is the original owner of the Eye. He wants to use the Eye of Hades to open a portal to his world and has promised to take Lady Me with him. The Doctor improperly judges this as some wedding arrangement (a little too Beauty-and-the-Beast there). Ash sets him straight: “No, you oaf!” Lady Me just wants to start again somewhere new, not find a husband! The Doctor shows his age sometimes.
The appearance of Lion-o is probably an omen (see what I did there) of more bad things to come. And with that, I mean that the episode did not needed a man in a lion’s mask. It also didn’t need a kiss between Lady Me and Sam Swift. I know that I’m jumping ahead but the bad pills go down better quick. Sam Swift is captured and has to face the hangman. Lady Me wants to use his death to power the amulet into opening the portal. Technically she could have killed her servant, but she doesn’t want to do that. Some humanity is left in her after all.
Sam Swift’s hanging scene is delayed as the man comes up with jokes to entertain the crowd hoping to put off his death. A bit grim, but the actor playing him, Rufus Hound, is also a comedian so I guess they decided to give him that (I guess all these old jokes were new back then). That gives the Doctor some time to escape as Ash has handed him to the authorities as the Knightmare’s sidekick.
When Lady Me shows up, Sam Swift insist on a last kiss before he has the noose about his neck. At least the peck is short, but still awkward as hell and completely unnecessary. The Doctor shows up and Sam trades jokes with him while he approaches the stage and uses his psychic paper to simulate a pardon for him.
It’s a bit of a lull. Doesn’t get better. Seeing as Sam is going to be pardoned, Lady Me pins the amulet on him. That seems to start killing Sam very swiftly because a port opens. Actually, I though the Mire was going to show up here impersonating Odin again. But no, the portal is in sky and we can see stars and a large planet. Then Lion-o decides to breath fire and scare people and starts running around doing just that. Somebody explain me why that does anything. Then some unseen spacecraft from beyond the portal starts firing because blasts of energy come through and explode causing mayhem. This is just a scene where mayhem seemed like a good fit.
But if it’s an invasion, it’s really not required. Nobody on earth has anything to fire back at you. The people in peril (I didn’t see anybody getting hit or mauled though) do accomplish one thing. Ash finally realizes this is an invasion and Lion-o has no intention of taking her back to his planet. This is when she puts the other health kit on Sam Swift. This closes the portal. Not fast enough though. Leandro (guess I should get his name straight for one last time) is blasted into nothing by his brethren for the failure.
So with all things good, Sam Swift invites the beers. Is he immortal now? The Doctor explains to Ash that the portal might have drained the health kit blah blah blah. She interrupts asking him if he just made that all up just now. Yes and no. Basically it’s a way to keeping their options open to see if they bring back just Ash or have Sam along for the next adventure.
We get a nice epilogue with Clara. He has missed her, and says so out loud. She gives him a cute hug. You can see the Doctor thinking how long until she leaves as well. Not so long now, unfortunately. Clara shows her a picture with one of her students who the Doctor helped with an assignment. The Doctor notices Ash in the picture, smirking in the background.
Good, almost potentially great but fell short, episode. Let’s get to the highs and lows.
- Leandro aka Lion-o. Talk about unnecessary. You could have had just the amulet opening the portal. No need for the Thundercat wannabe running around breathing fire. Adds nothing. Ok, it puts a face to the baddie of the week, but you don’t need one. The show would have been made without his Felix Leo face and it becomes unmade because of it.
- Along the same lines, the whole portal and the whole alien energy blasts. Also unnecessary. I guess we wanted have some mayhem, but we could have gone for an even more moral dilemma and spare the effects. It could’ve been Lady Me in front of a dying Sam Swift and deciding whether to pin the Eye of Hades OR the health kit of immortality on him. Less flash, more substance.
- Get rid of the kiss. Maisie Williams is 18 years old. Rufus Hound is 36 years old. He’s literally and mathematically twice her age. A peck on the cheek would have been appropriate. At least no romance was implied. Not to mention that was a waste of a perfectly good health kit as well.
- Maisie Williams was superb and acted beyond her age as Lady Me. She was cool and daring as Knightmare. She was also written amazingly as a woman who has to face an immortal life alone, while the Doctor has the advantage of going anywhere he wishes.
- The entire morality of immortality was brilliant for the first part of the storyline. It does seem to linger in there for the epilogue. Sometimes you just wish for that part of Doctor Who to take precedence over the action-y aspects. They feel forced upon us when they come, and unnecessarily so.
- I loved the flashbacks of Ash in her past lives. I wanted more of that, less of the whole alien conspiracy.
- They could’ve picked some better jokes. Sam: “Doctor, I’m a robber!”. Doctor: “Have you taken anything for it?” Really?
- The epilogue at the end was sweet. I think it was a great move to have the Doctor alone in this adventure and have Maisie Williams acting against him. The Doctor had to bring up his own humanity to the surface while Ash was busy trying to bury hers. Clara is usually there to add the heart part of the equation but this time the Doctor had to care all by himself.
- And the sonic shades are back and back for a time, contrary to what I predicted last time. They didn’t bothered me as much. On the other hand, we’re apparently going to have to put up with some electric guitar playing too.
That will do for now.