We are now halfway through Series Nine and so far it has been a very enjoyable season of Doctor Who. Sure there have been minor quibbles, (such as sonic glasses), but after several very disappointing seasons, this season was refreshing in that there really wasn’t that much to complain about. All good things do come to an end though, and while The Woman Who Lived wasn’t a bad episode, it just wasn’t as good as it could have been, or as good as the past ones.
There is a highwayman known as “The Nightmare” robbing the inhabitants of 17th century England and he has his eye set on a jewelled amulet. The Doctor also is visiting 17th century England, tracking an extraterrestrial object that crashed to earth, which just happens to be the same jewelled amulet. Interrupting The Nightmare as he is robbing a coach for the prize, the Doctor learns that The Nightmare is in fact the immortal Ashildr. But what does she want with the jewel? The Doctor assists her (or she assists him) in retrieving the gem, as he tries to learn what has happened in her life since he last saw her several hundred years earlier in the viking village. Reading her diaries, he sees that Ashildr’s immortality has not been all roses. Great periods of her extended life were filled with sadness. She has loved and outlived her loves. She has lost children and friends which has caused her to become a bitter and unfeeling person, never using the other “immortality chip” that the Doctor left with her because she has not found anyone worthy of it. But now she has an accomplice who is also interested in the alien gem; Leandro the last of the Leonians who will use the gem to open a portal that will allow them to travel the stars. Of course this plan doesn’t sit well with the Doctor.
With The Woman Who Lived, we get to see what happens when the Doctor leaves. Last week he saved someone’s life, accidentally made her immortal, and then left her for eight hundred years. Sure it was hinted that the Doctor checked in on her from time to time, but he did nothing to prepare her for her life or for the world ahead. There was the potential to like a lot about this episode but it just sort of felt disconnected to me for some reason. The insights into the characters were very well done, and a tale of the tidal waves created after the Doctor appears was an interesting idea, it just felt like the hook of the story didn’t hook me. The dialogue was what really carried this episode, and perhaps that took away from the “science-fiction” aspect of it, which just felt tossed in, where past episodes this season did such a good job of mixing the two seamlessly.
- Sam Swift the Quick, the comedic and clever highwayman who rivals The Nightmare. Rufus Hound was quite brilliant as Swift, and the banter was fun. The hanging scene was played for laughs, but also there are accurate historical roots here. These highwaymen were the celebrities of their day, and people would turn out to watch their hangings.
- Leandro looked great, even though he looked a lot like Ron Perlman in the old Beauty and the Beast tv show.
- A very good companion-less episode. I like these sometimes since they remind us how good the Doctor can be. One of my biggest gripes about the last few seasons of the Moffat era is how ineffective they’ve made the Doctor, who seems to need the companion (Amy or Clara) to fix and solve everything.
- Written by Catherine Tregenna who wrote several good Torchwood episodes, so the decision to lean more on the moral implications of immortality and such make some sense.
- A “lion man” alien named Leandro, the last of the Leonians. Really? That’s the name we came up with? Pretty lame.
- Also, I told you the Doctor would walk into something wearing those sonic glasses in the dark….
- It was incredibly obvious what the resolution to the problem of the rift caused by a death was going to be.
- We still have no resolution to having immortal characters running around in the world.
- I didn’t really find Maisie Williams that good in this episode. Lines at “Yes, it is me, what took you so long old man” (which was edited in the trailers) really didn’t come across very well. It sounded hokey. Also she seemed a bit too much like a child playing dress-up to be believed as a highwayman (or highwaywoman).
- I fear that somehow this immortality curse will come back at the end of the season for the finale
Next week, Zygons…hopefully the explanation for Osgood works…