Hello! Sorry about the lateness of this review – college has really kicked my butt lately, and evidently uni has been kicking Miriam’s butt too, and… yeah. ANYWAY. HERE IS A REVIEW FOR ALL YOU LOVELY LOVELY PEOPLE.
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. You can find her at Miriam Joy Writes and Miriam Joy Reads.
Warning: Spoilers ahead, sweetie!
Ashildr / Lady Me
Miriam: I enjoyed seeing how she’d changed from the episode before, but it was such a huge change – around 800 years or whatever – that it was a bit difficult to reconcile my knowledge of Ashildr with the character we were being shown, who was essentially a different person. In some ways it would have been cool if the episodes could have been more spaced out, with one in between those two points, and not immediately after each other… but it probably would have dragged on, so I guess there are limitations to the medium.
Engie: I have to admit that there weren’t as many connections between Ashildr and Lady Me as I’d hoped for, but there were some little things that gave me feels – like how Ashildr loved stories, and Lady Me filled hundreds and hundreds of diaries. I loved that detail.
Miriam: I thought the journal thing was so interesting – the idea of being immortal, but with a human-sized memory. Not only does it show that there’s more of a difference between the Doctor and humans than just the fact he can regenerate, but it reminded me of metacrisis Donna? How the whole Time Lord thing just couldn’t fit inside her head. It didn’t physically destroy Lady Me, but in some way it destroyed Ashildr, because Lady Me couldn’t remember stuff and she became an entirely different person…
Engie: YES. I loved that. It made me sad – well, much of this episode did, but I digress – because here she is, immortal, but it doesn’t really mean anything to her. Having a long life doesn’t mean thousands and thousands of adventures, and infinite happiness, and countless friendships. It just means gradually forgetting everything and everyone she’s ever loved.
Miriam: I’m fascinated by memory, and it’s come up in other DW episodes. I’ve already mentioned Donna – I always thought her end was the cruellest, because she didn’t get to remember the glorious hero she’d been, she didn’t have that to comfort her in her ordinary life. And then there are the Silence, and the way people forget that. Memory’s such a powerful idea – I think as humans we’re really scared of it, which is why dementia is so upsetting to us. Watching your loved ones forget you must be absolutely horrible – it’s one of my worst fears – and Doctor Who plays on that very human and universal fear.
Engie: I agree. On a much more lighthearted note, LADY ME WAS REALLY GORGEOUS. Oh my god. Crossdressing girls are just… skfjhdkfjhgdfkgsdg. I love the historical episodes – that’s why I get so excited about the episodes set in Victorian London, even when their plots suck. I spent the entire episode being like “OMG HER HAIR” and “OMG HER COAT” and “OMG HER SHIRT.” OMG I AM GAY.
Miriam: I’m a sucker for nice costumes and cross-dressing. Historical clothing is my downfall.
Miriam: Also, I thought her acting was better in this episode than the last. I didn’t think she was bad in the last one, but it just seemed quite… unremarkable, really. In this one we saw her emotions (or lack thereof), and then how they broke through her “mask” of callousness… Yeah, that was powerful.
Engie: I think it may have had something to do with what kind of role was written for her in “The Girl Who Died.” I mean, “The Woman Who Lived” is really the important half of this story – the previous episode was just setting things up for this one, so she really got to shine here.
Miriam: That’s definitely what I felt last time – it was a set-up, not a full story in its own right.
Engie: Also, it’s been confirmed that Ashildr/Lady Me will return in episode ten! It was hinted at within the story, what with her being in the background of that photo of Clara, and then confirmed a few days later. [Note: This link also contains other MAJOR spoilers from that episode, so don’t click if you wish to avoid them!] Which is interesting… because she’s a hybrid, and that seems to be this series’ arc, so I wonder if that’s why she’s coming back.
Miriam: That does seem to be the arc, yeah. I didn’t notice it at first, but it’s been quite obvious the last few episodes. That said, Doctor Who has a history of introducing characters who should come back and then never do. (Such as “The Doctor’s Daughter.” CAN WE HAVE JENNY BACK NOW. PLEASE.)
Engie: YES! Actually, a lot of the fan theories I heard before seeing this episode were all about how Maisie Williams might be playing Jenny, because of that scene from the trailer where she says, “Hello, old man. What took you so long?”
Engie: Anyway, I’m excited to see her again, and I loved how she challenged the Doctor in that scene at the end – she said she was there to pick up the pieces, essentially, because the Doctor can’t be bothered to look after his companions after he’s done traveling with them. And I loved that reference to Captain Jack. I doubt we’ll get a scene with those two, and I would honestly be fine with that, but that was just a fun little name-drop.
Miriam: We might, though. “He’ll get around to you eventually” sounded like they’d probably meet, though it was obvious what he was really insinuating, and you could argue that Jack is kind of a hybrid because he was originally human but became immortal because of Bad Wolf and stuff? PETITION FOR CAPT JACK TO COME BACK AS PART OF THIS HYBRID PLOTLINE.
Miriam: Back to the “picking up the pieces” idea, though, I guess that makes sense. The Doctor does tend to… leave people behind, kind of. I want to imagine Ashildr and Clara hanging out and being buddies after Clara eventually stops travelling with the Doctor. Just spending time together, painting each other’s nails, swapping stories.
Engie: And flirting. Because Clara flirts with all the ladies. Sometimes inadvertently, I think, but still.
She is the female Captain Jack of Moffat-era Doctor Who.
Engie: The ending scene with Clara actually made me tear up. It was BEAUTIFUL. I loved the emotions there, and that dialogue. I loved this quote from the Doctor, when he’s arguing with Lady Me.
“People like us, we go on too long. We forget what matters. The last thing we need is each other. We need the mayflies. See, the mayflies, they know more than we do. They know how beautiful and precious life is because it’s fleeting… I looked into your eyes and I saw my worst fears. Weariness. Emptiness.”
Engie: And the HELLA FORESHADOWING…
CLARA: So where are you going to take me?
DOCTOR: Wherever you want.
CLARA: Hmm. Somewhere… somewhere magical. Somewhere new!
DOCTOR: Ah, there is nowhere new under the sun! Above it, on the other hand… I’ve missed you, Clara Oswald.
CLARA: Well, don’t worry, daft old man. I’m not going anywhere.
Engie: UGH AND THEY HUGGED AND IT WAS ADORABLE AND I HAD ALL OF THE EMOTIONS. ALL OF THEM.
Engie: And that camera shot into the TARDIS… wow. Just wow. I loved that scene and actually felt something for Clara in that moment, which hasn’t happened often. I know I say this a lot, but it’s unfortunate that she’s about to leave just as the writers are actually doing a decent job with her. She’s definitely moved up on my list of favorite companions – she kind of reminds me of Rose, actually? Her story arc will never be as coherent as Rose’s, though, so it lacks some of the same emotional resonance. But it’s not the trainwreck it was in series seven, either.
Miriam: Her story arc / character development got off to a messy start, and it was too long before they settled into what they were really going to do with her, so that did some damage to the strength of the character… but yeah, they’ve got it back on the rails.
Engie: Moffat seems to be trying REALLY HARD to imply that Clara will suffer some HORRIBLE FATE when she eventually leaves the Doctor, and… I don’t know, maybe she will. In my experience, though, I think Moffat talks up his finales and plot twists and whatnot soooo much that when they actually happen it’s underwhelming and nowhere near as awesome as he’d promised. So. I’m interested to see what happens to Clara.
Miriam: I want her to get turned into a monster of some kind. We first met her as a Dalek, and I think it would be really powerful for her departure to happen in the same sort of way. But. We shall see.
Engie: So apparently this was the name of the lion/villain thingy in this episode… huh. I only know this because I googled it, I didn’t even catch his name during the story itself.
Engie: Anyway, I didn’t get the point of that character being there. To me, it detracted from the quality of the rest of the episode – there were some GREAT quotes, and some really emotionally powerful scenes, and then the cat dude was just kind of… there? Not really doing anything or being all that villainous?
Engie: I think there would’ve been enough conflict/action in that episode just from Lady Me and the Doctor dealing with all of the problems he created in her life, without the weird Leandro subplot. I don’t know, it just seemed like the writers themselves didn’t quite know what to do with it? It wasn’t very well developed. Just kind of shoved in there.
Miriam: Yeah, they used it as a catalyst for everything else, but not as a properly-developed plot point in itself. I think they could have instigated those actions some other way. But oh well.
Engie: Don’t you mean a CATalyst?
Miriam: Very punny…
Engie: What was your overall opinion of this episode?
Miriam: I thought it was pretty good. It wasn’t perfect, and the themes it explored weren’t exactly… innovative? Especially in recent series, there’s been a lot of focus on the impact the Doctor has on the humans around him, and how that’s not always a good thing. But it still felt fairly fresh, so that was cool.
Engie: I loved this episode! Definitely one of my favorites from series nine so far. I thought Maisie Williams’ acting skills really shone in this episode. I loved the emotions. I loved the period clothing. And… I wasn’t expecting to feel emotional about Clara’s impending departure, but I did!
Engie: Thank you so much for reviewing with me!
What is YOUR opinion on “The Woman Who Lived”? I’d love to know!