The Woman Who Lived – Doctor Who Review

Series 9 Episode 6

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This week’s Doctor Who review takes us to see The Woman Who Lived and it is the second outing for Maisie Williams’ character. A highwayman, a nightmare in the shadows and a stand-up comedian – a very odd ensemble in any other show, it seems to fit in quite nicely in Doctor Who.

The main takeaway from this episode is generally the feeling that the Twelfth Doctor is becoming a lot more compassionate and concerned for others. There is a feeling that he wants to put things right when he gets things wrong and is worrying more and more about personal tragedies, where before he was focussed on ‘the greater good’. We see this brought to the forefront in his confrontations with ‘Lady Me’, Williams’ new persona.

Maisie Williams Doctor WhoAshildr has lived for over eight hundred years and those years have made her bitter and jaded in many ways, and yet she maintains a thirst for adventure and a longing to explore beyond the world. This is a rather overt mirror to the Doctor, especially during some of his more lower moods.

We are very much retreading a lot of ground covered in previous stories such as School Reunion. What happens to the people that the Doctor saves, what happens to the people he leaves behind after showing them the wonders of time and space? Does this episode really do anything with that theme that we’ve not seen before? Does it shed any new light on the issue?

Well, I’m not sure it does. That’s not to say that the episode is boring or uninteresting – it is neither – but I did feel a little bit like I’d heard it all before. What’s more, the way Ashildr turns at the end did not feel too convincing – surely it would take longer than a few seconds to turn away from several hundred years of feeling jaded and annoyed at the world? There is the betrayal of the Lion-Faced man, one who had built up her hopes of escape and adventure, only to dash them to pieces. But I was wondering why didn’t this further her rage? Perhaps it will in time. Perhaps she is waiting for an opportune moment to return and wreak havoc in the Doctor’s life. Indeed, the ending seems to suggest that she is still watching him, and watching his companions.

Rufus Hound’s Sam the Swift was an occasional delight, bringing to life a character that it was difficult to feel truly affectionate for at times. It was a nice balance of funny and a bit creepy with some shades of real fear as his death loomed large. Hound has suggested that he would love to be the companion of a future female Doctor and I can’t see why not. It depends entirely on the direction the show wants to go, I suppose. It is not the first time the show has showcased comedians in its cast – Alexei Sales, Mitchell and Webb and others come to mind – and often these guests are great fans of the show. And I don’t think we can blame any fan for wanting to be the Doctor’s companion.

Maisie Williams gives a truly haunting performance at times, giving a lot of depth and a sinister twist to

Peter Capaldi: Guitar Hero

her character. Her character has changed an awful lot in 800 years, but she maintains a glimmer of her old self. Much like the Doctor. If nothing else, this episode has showcased Williams’ talents to a much greater extent than last week and I hope that it won’t be long before she is known for more than just Game of Thrones.

Capaldi continues to delight and excite – his Doctor has so much potential and he keeps upping the ante on what he can do with him. This week he showed an enormous range – from the funny dismissive and self-centered Doctor we’ve known often enough, to the deep and thoughtful one who always hides behind that thin mask. This week I really felt like I was watching the Doctor again after a few years of not being sure. Long may it continue.

Next Week, the Zygons invade!

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Joel Cornah
Joel Cornah is an author, journalist, and blogger. He is the author of a number of novels and novellas including; The Sea-Stone Sword, The Spire of Frozen Fire and The Silent Helm, with the upcoming novel The Sky Slayer, expected some time in 2016. He is an editor for The Science-Fiction and Fantasy Network, head of the Doctor Who department, and member of the Tolkien Society. He is a frequent blogger for the Pack of Aces blog, focussing on issues of Asexuality in media, specialising in sci-fi and fantasy.