12 Great Moments From The Woman Who Lived
Mark McCullough picks out 12 faves from the 6th episode of Series 9.
There are very few episodes of Doctor Who that I can say I feel asleep during, but The Woman Who Lived now holds that accolade. Thankfully this was circumstantial, as I was away all weekend and was over keen to see the episode when I should have been going to bed. Giving it another watch this morning, I must have been shattered, because there’s a lot of top quality TV in there which as always made it difficult to pick just twelve moments.
12. “This isn’t a Visit”
With the titles rolling on the mini cliff-hanger that Ashildr had returned for the second episode in a row (thank you next time trailer) the next scene had to deal with this return. The narrative initially decided to approach it from a telling point of view rather than showing. We quickly learn that the Doctor has been keeping tabs on Ashildr, and that she herself has been a force for good. We also get an opportunity to feel sorry for her in that her meeting with the Doctor was pure chance, this is important in light of her betrayal later.
11. The Opening Sequence
Atmospheric, bonkers and just downright fun. Everything a good episode of Doctor Who should be, never mind cramming it into a single scene. In retrospect actually all pre-titles scene have been like mini episodes which end on their own mini cliff-hangers. I absolutely love it. You know what they say about a strong start setting the tone for an episode, and Series Nine in general seems to have it down to a fine art.
10. The Housebreak
This episode actually typified a lot of the recurring elements of this series: examination of the character of the Doctor, comedy, and the foreshadowing of Clara departure which grows ever closer. The housebreak scene covers them all in that Ashildr’s character is used as a direct foil of the Doctor. The homeowner (whose name I forget – remember my confession last week) provides some slapstick comedy which was welcomed within a more serious character-driven episode. The scene discussing how many ‘Claras’ the Doctor had lost was a particular highlight.
9. Ashildr’s Flashbacks
Having opted for an initial telling approach to Ashildr’s life post The Girl Who Died, once the groundwork had been established the narrative changed tact. We were shown scenes of things she had faced and skills she had learn. In my opinion I vastly preferred this to just hearing what she had been up to. Of particular interest to me was the comments on being able to do anything if you just put the time in. Easy for an immortal, but not bad advice to us mere mortals either.
8. “I Am Against Banter”
I had decided a long time ago that the Twelfth Doctor was my favourite incarnation of the character. Actually it was during Robot of Sherwood and the humorous dialogue between the Doctor and Robin Hood. The reason this scene is included is because it’s the first time in a while that I have got a wave of nostalgia while watching an episode. It just reminded me of everything I love about Twelve and brought the aforementioned back into my head. Who knows, perhaps it was the use of the same set for the castle’s exit as in the BBC’s Robin Hood that caused me to make the connection. The human brain is a strange thing.
7. Ashildr Betrays the Doctor
We knew it was coming because the narrative showed us would earlier, yet still the moment Ashildr revealed her true motives to the Doctor was still extremely effective. Why? Because the narrative had developed her so well up to this point that we felt sorry for her rather than condemning her actions. We knew the pain she has suffered on Earth (and continues to suffer) and how highly she holds the Doctor, so how hard must it have been for her to betray him. I felt nothing but sympathy for her, especially when she herself was betrayed afterwards.
6. Sam Swift’s Execution Scene
By far the funniest scene of the episode was from the moment Sam Swift was presented to be executed until Ashildr killed him with the Amulet. I’m not entirely sure what was happening, or what was said in the scene, I was actually laughing that much. Yes, I have actually watched that bit four times too. I do feel that it was needed as a calm before the storm, and it helped that the narrative wasn’t taking itself seriously before the monsters began their attack, because that was pure pitiful. Alas it didn’t matter as they were no more than a framing device for our next moment.
5. Ashildr’s Redemption
The realisation by Ashildr that she did in fact care about the lives of others was a timely one. By this I mean that she was not far enough gone that the audience were against her, but she had gone far enough to leave questions hanging over her alliances in any future appearances. Great credit has to go to Maisie Williams too who perfectly conveyed the emotional impact such a realisation would have on someone. Miss Williams is undoubtedly one of the finest talents we have we have had grace the show, and I would have her back in a heartbeat
4. “Kill him and you make an enemy of me”
Sometimes single lines can just represent everything a character stands for, and this week newcomer Catherine Tregenna gives us a line from the Doctor that is on par with ‘never cruel or cowardly’. In fact in a sense the message is the same, but this version is more obvious. The Doctor is always the champion of life and it is very interesting to see how quickly he will turn on friends who go against this. This was just one example of how well Tregenna depicted the Doctor’s character. I really hope she comes back to pen another episode in the future.
3. Missing Pages
The fact that some of Ashildr’s memory are too painful for her just broke my heart. However I am quite envious of her ability to selectively forget the worst things that have happened to her. Although that said I think the narrative gave us enough clues to reveal that this was not actually the case, the memories were still there even if not in direct form. Even more heart-breaking than the deleted memories was the fact that she chose to maintain the memory of the children as a reminder for her not to have any more. I could really feel myself welling up at that point.
2. Take me With You
Last week I mentioned that I would love to have Maisie as a companion and that it would have made sense for the Doctor to travel with an immortal after Clara dies. This week it seems like Ashildr and I have similar aspiration as she is adamant at several points in the narrative that she wants to travel with the Doctor. I do feel really sorry for her, trapped on Earth with no means of travel elsewhere. Essentially in creating her, the Doctor created himself without the key component of his character, his ability to run. Ashildr has nowhere to hide from the bad things that happen to her, and that is where she and the Doctor differ.
1. Are we enemies now?
If for nothing else this scene would take number one spot for the mention of Captain Jack Harkness, something that I am hopeful opens the door to his return. A double act of Ashildr and Jack is a welcome prospect, something which I hope comes to happen soon. However, the moment earns top spot for legitimate reasons to as it gives a lot of depth about both immortals and how they differ. The idea of Ashildr as the patron saint of those left behind by the Doctor is a masterstroke, and the cliff-hanger of her present at Clara’s school was enough to have my jaw on the floor.
I thought I needed a conclusion this week because I’m still a bit torn on the episode. I think it may be one that requires another watch in a few days’ time to see how I actually feel. Once again I’d like to apologise for the delay in this article, I was having an awesome weekend in Edinburgh. Normal service will hopefully be resumed next week as I don’t think I could beat the Zygons in a Halloween Costume Competition so I don’t think I’ll bother…