“The Girl Who Died” was all right. Not awful, but a little disappointing after the last four. For starters, it’s all very strange and more than a little silly. It’s corny jokes interspersed with heart-rending infant poetry as translated by the Doctor, with a heavy helping of odd characterization for him and Clara.
There’s no paradox or philosophical question driving this episode. Instead, its a rehash of SO MANY other Doctor Who arcs. Should the Doctor save this town or not? Can the Doctor interfere with time or not? Even if one were to call this a “classic” setup instead of a derivative one, the answers to the questions are still exactly the same as they always are. I’m bored with this, stop showing me the same speeches over and over! Really there was a lot of speechifying in this episode, most of it pulled from other episodes. While I’m a big fan of talky episodes, these speeches really didn’t hang together into an affecting narrative, and I blame that on the lack of a central theme.
The characterization, as I mentioned, is also odd. The Doctor as drill sergeant? Really? Yeah, it was funny, but the Doctor would not do that. I’m not talking about “my preferred characterization,” the Doctor WOULD NOT DO THAT. The Twelfth in particular goes ON AND ON about his dislike of the military and unwillingness to be a commander. Even though he’s softened somewhat since then, it just doesn’t make sense. I’m also disappointed that Twelve’s choice of face wasn’t actually a plot point, just some random “reminder” that apparently hasn’t been important until now. However, I should note that Peter Capaldi is in fine form, delivering a performance with real weight and sadness.
Clara, for her part, is cast back into a totally subordinate and supportive “wifely” role, encouraging the Doctor, knowing him better than he knows himself, becoming an object for him to worry about protecting, and generally not doing anything in the episode. Not only is that annoying on its own, I just wish to high heaven that they’d write Clara as a person who’s the SAME from one episode to the next, but she’s just an inconsistent dramatic device.
And to top it all off, they BROKE THE SHADES! For very little reason that I can see. Poo.
It sounds like I disliked the episode more than I actually did. It was fine, I’m just not seeing much that’s new, and it’s missing the coherence of the last few. I’m interested to see the second half next week though, because it’s a clever “cliffhanger” to tie up this episode and then revisit the Viking girl Ashildr (the much-awaited Maisie Williams) in a totally different setting next week. It could well be that this whole episode was setup and something awesome awaits!