Maisie Williams is back in The Girl Who Lived. She’s around 800 years old but hasn’t aged a day. Time has not been a friend to her, loss and grief taking their toll so she’s now calloused to humanity. That story should sound a little familiar now. Will the Doctor be able to get through to her before it’s too late?
Our episode begins with Ashildr dressed as a highwayman robbing a coach for an amulet. The Doctor was also lead there by his curio finder in search of the same amulet and accidentally thwarts her attempts to acquire it for herself. They team up to retrieve the amulet but what the Doctor doesn’t know is that she’s working with another creature from Delta Leonis. His name is Leandro and he claims to be the last of the Leonians. He claims his wife and children were killed when their home planet was attacked and he claims the amulet will bring him home. Leandro is pretty much a fire breathing lion man who appears to have some rage issues.
Ashildr has changed over time, in fact she now goes by the name “Lady Me”. She is no longer the young girl filled with stories and dreams. She’s hardened because of all she’s seen and lived through. Much like the Doctor, she keeps journals. They are to help her remember, though if something saddens her she will tear out the pages. She’s left a few painful entries, like the death of her children as a reminder not to have anymore. In all that time, she’s never used her second chip on anyone. She claims no one is worthy although it seems she doesn’t want to doom anyone to the same fate. The biggest difference between Ashildr and the Doctor is not having the Tardis. We’ve seen the Doctor unable to sit still for a few hours, never mind being doomed to take the slow path here on earth. The Doctor can skip to all the good bits using the Tardis. She begs the Doctor to take her with him but in the end he’s trying to have her understand the benefits of having a mortal, human companion.
Now of course we know Leandro is going to double cross her. In the madness and chaos of his betrayal she realizes she still does have the ability to feel. That drive pushes her to help the Doctor and save the town from certain death. A well known local thief is almost killed by the amulet as it uses his life-force to open a portal to another dimension. Ashildr decides to use her second chip to save his life. We don’t know if this Sam Swift will be immortal like her or if, given the amount of energy the chip used to heal him from the amulet, it will allow him to be mortal. Only time will tell with that one.
When the dust settles she and the Doctor make amends. They part as friends and she decides she will be there for the companions once the Doctor his gone. She feels for the people he leaves behind and wants to help them when the Doctor inevitably leaves them. She tells the Doctor she’ll be watching him.
Maisie Williams was a fantastic addition to the cast of Doctor Who. We got to see her range as an actress over these two episodes and I can’t wait to have her return and continue her role in the future. In The Girl Who Died, Maisie played a wide-eyed young girl who was innocent and caring. In The Woman Who Lived, it’s like she’s a different person. Cold and calculating, uncaring of the mortals around her so long as she gets what she wants and needs. It takes seeing the horrific consequences of her actions that she finally understands what the Doctor was trying to tell her. Both sides of Ashildr were played convincingly and brilliantly. The pain in her eyes on losing her children, her screams as she begs the Doctor to take her, her defiant sneer as she reveals she’s working with Leandro, all beautifully conveyed. Williams has given us a taste of what she can do and I’d love more.
Peter Capaldi gives a strong performance in this episode. The back and forth between him and Ashildr is fantastic. They seem to have a little bit of a rivalry at first until the Doctor realizes she has lost touch with humanity. His plight is then to bring her back and make her understand. Since he spent so much of series 8 in a pretty similar way it’s like he has a fresh perspective. 300 years shut away on Trenselore with no Tardis made him pretty detached after his regeneration.
It seems Clara helped bring him back around. While Clara wasn’t in much of this episode, she was mentioned when Ashildr asked how many “Claras” the Doctor has had and lost. We know we’re working up to the end of Clara’s time on the Tardis and I feel like all season they’ve been hinting at something pretty big. I’m still under the belief that the current version of the Doctor we’ve been watching is a future version of the Doctor. The events leading to Clara’s demise have cause him to loop back or something and take her to a few important places before it’s truly done. For example, 11 knew when River would die so he took her to the Singing Towers of Darillium the day before she went to the Library. Maybe I’m over thinking things but there has just been a feeling of foreboding surrounding Clara. The Doctor keeps giving her knowing glances and looks `so sad. What does he know that we don’t? All will be revealed soon as we are now halfway through series 9.