Hello! Today I’m reviewing “The Girl Who Died” with Miriam Joy… who is basically the BEST person to co-write this episode review with me, for reasons you will understand shortly. Also, she’s a massive nerd – she took notes in preparation for reviewing this episode. God, I have the best friends.
P.S. You can find previous collaborative reviews of Doctor Who‘s ninth series here.
Miriam Joy is a student of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic at the University of Cambridge. When she’s not lost in the library in search of obscure medieval Irish texts, she’s usually either sleeping or reading. Her writing features fairies (prominently), assassins (explosively), and death (frequently). Sometimes knights. When she’s got the time she vlogs, plays folk music, dances, and writes book reviews. She knows far too much about swords, and likes to pick out historical inaccuracies in episodes of Doctor Who. She blogs at Miriam Joy Writes and Miriam Joy Reads.
Warning: Spoilers ahead, sweetie!
Engie: You are are literally the PERFECT friend to discuss this episode with… so I’ll just let you take over this part of the review and rant about Vikings and historical inaccuracies and stuff.
Miriam: It’s really hard to tell whether it’s accurate or not when they didn’t give us any more detail than just ‘Vikings’. Like, what century is this? What country? Because 8th century Vikings are going to be different to 10th century ones. And it’s a totally different story whether they’re from Denmark or Iceland, you know?
Miriam: But one thing is very clear: VIKING HELMETS DID NOT HAVE HORNS. Whyyyyyyy. Such an obvious inaccuracy. Why would they do that?
Miriam: Plus, you only get to go to Valhalla if you die in battle, so I don’t know why the warrior guys were so ready to accept that they’d been chosen, it doesn’t work like that. You don’t just get zapped up into the sky like an alien abduction; it’s if you die an honourable death in battle.
Miriam: Sidenote – when the alien guy refers to his mashed-up Vikings as nectar, that just seemed kinda weird. I know HE’S not a Viking, but if we’re going with a Norse theme, why bring Greek into it? Why not the mead of poetry or whatever? Sighhhhhh. #asnacnerd
Engie: SO many Game of Thrones jokes were made while we watched this episode. Oh my goodness.
Miriam: WHAT DOES ASHILDR SAY TO THE GOD OF DEATH? “NOT TODAY.”
Engie: Clara TOTALLY has a crush on her. I mean, she said she’d fight Twelve for her? God, I ship her with SO MANY female characters. Bi!Clara is one of my favorite LGBTQ+ Doctor Who headcanons… and I have kind of a lot of those, so that’s saying something.
Miriam: YES. I made a note of that bit too. I was like “BI CLARA.”
Engie: The writers keep mentioning hybrids in series nine, and maybe it really was just a throwaway line in this episode, but I thought it was odd that the Doctor made such a big deal about how Ashildr was a hybrid now. Was that meant to have some connection to the Time Lord/Dalek hybrid prophecy from the series opener?
Miriam: There definitely seemed to be a lot of EMPHASIS on the line. He got really intense about it.
Engie: Since we already know Ashildr will return in the next episode… what do you hope to see her do in “The Woman Who Lived”?
Miriam: I think she’ll probably have grown into her personality more because she’s had several hundred years to do it, so I like to think she’d be more self-assured. (I wasn’t sure how old she was meant to be here – she seemed really young, and she kept yo-yoing between scared and badass with no warning at all? Which was odd.) So I hope her character’s a wee bit more consistent in that sense. I’d like her to be all independent and not needing the first aid kit – which I imagine will play an important part at some later stage in saving the Doctor or someone else crucial.
Engie: YESSSS. Same. And in the trailer she called the Doctor her sidekick, so I’m looking forward to seeing her drag him into an adventure, rather than the other way around.
Engie: My Doctor Who-watching partner is actually a bio major, and when we were watching this episode and it got to the part about the eels, she was just like “….um. NO. THAT’S NOT ACTUALLY POSSIBLE.” I know the Vikings traveled all over, but even if they picked up electric eels, it just doesn’t seem possible for them to have survived in such a cold climate.
Miriam: Did you know that electric eels aren’t actually eels? They’re knifefish. I DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS BUT IT SOUNDS BADASS. Yes, I’m on Wikipedia.
Engie: KNIFEFISH DO SOUND BADASS I WANT 500 OF THEM. Anyway, I was googling yesterday and those species are, like, tropical.
Miriam: According to Professor Wikipedia, keeping electric eels in captivity is EXTREMELY difficult, and they don’t live far enough North to really come into contact with Vikings, whose trade routes were huge but didn’t actually encompass the Amazon as far as anyone knows. So that was a bit of an anachronism.
Engie: Yeah. Normally I would let that sort of inaccuracy slide, but ELECTRIC EELS WERE LITERALLY THE SOLUTION TO DEFEATING THE BAD GUYS. If they hadn’t been so integral to the story, I would’ve ignored that flaw, but they WERE important to the story and it was weird that evidently no one thought to do some googling and double-check their facts before basing an ENTIRE EPISODE on something that isn’t actually possible. I know that sometimes the science of Doctor Who is a bit sketchy, but when they’re using real science like, um, freaking ELECTRICITY, you’d think they’d have researched the eel thing.
Miriam: Favourite reference to a previous episode – the fact that the Doctor being able to speak baby is now a plot point and not just a one-off joke.
Engie: Oh my god, my friend and I laughed so hard during that scene! That was one ridiculously eloquent baby… I mean, Stormageddon was basically just like “I’M HUNGRY AND CRANKY. FEED ME.”
Miriam: Yeah, it was an eloquent baby, but at the same time… I HAD SO MANY EMOTIONS. My notes literally say, “I have feelings about the baby.”
Miriam: I loved the throwback to the whole Time Lord Victorious spiel with the Doctor being like, “I can do anything!” and getting all intense about how awesome he is.
Miriam: Finally an explanation for the Caecilius face – and an awesome one. I like that.
Engie: Yeah, I loved that they finally explained it! I hoped they would at some point, since they didn’t really do so in series eight, but I’d almost given up hope on that front, so it was surprising to see it happen in this episode! I was just like YAY CAECILIUS YAY TEN YAYYYYYY DONNA.
Miriam: I’m glad there wasn’t a big build-up to it? It was nice to have it come out of nowhere as a little Easter egg for those who remembered “The Fires of Pompeii.”
Engie: What did you think of this episode overall?
Miriam: I quite enjoyed it – it passed the Bechdel test, there were some moments with Clara taking charge without being annoying, and it used Ashildr’s differences… helping her see that they were her strengths. In terms of treatment of female characters, it was better than many.
Miriam: But at the same time, I felt like it was setting up for future episodes (e.g. Ashildr’s reappearance in the next episode) rather than being a complete story in its own right. The ending was awesome though, with the “I can do anything” and the Caecilius realisation and the “TO HELL WITH YOU”. That was excellent.
Engie: I liked this episode, for the most part! I looooove Ashildr, and Clara was lots of fun in this episode, and I loved the face thing! I just can’t get over how little research they did, though, in terms of both scientific and historical accuracy. So, yeah. I liked this episode, but I wouldn’t say that I LOVED it. Was it fun to watch once? Yes. Would I watch it again? Probably not. And that’s OK.
What is YOUR opinion on “The Girl Who Died”? I’d love to know!