Doctor Who Season 9 Episode 5
“The Girl Who Died” is the first story in this run of Doctor Who to have a co-writer credit, and that, in my mind, usually (but not always) hints at something else going on besides the front and center story. After all, on the one hand, you’ve got Jamie Mathieson – back after last year’s triumphant “Flatline” and “Mummy on the Orient Express” – and on the other, there’s Steven Moffat.
Turns out it’s quite a combination. For in “The Girl Who Died,” there might just be quite a lot going on.
Once again, it’s the opening episode of a two parter, and this one – giving absolutely nothing away – has the kind of cliffhanger that’s going to open up no shortage of speculation. That’s a good thing, too: this isn’t an opener where the resolution to its “To Be Continued” is fairly obvious. Instead, we’re hugely intrigued already as to where it’s all going to go.
The basics, then. The TARDIS – after an opening that suggests things are going the other way – lands this time in the middle of some fetching greenery, where the Doctor and Clara soon happen upon Vikings. Vikings, as it happens, that aren’t immediately on the friendly side.
Much fun is had, too, with the witty script giving Capaldi some knockout comedy moments, while not losing sight of the fact that there’s a story to tell. After the spooky couple of weeks we’ve just had, there’s a sense of breathing out and enjoying a fun location shoot. Director Ed Bazalgette certainly does, and you’re not shortchanged on foliage and blue sky.
Mind you, it’s not long before events escalate and a bigger threat is established. In the midst of this, Jenna Coleman’s Clara is kept busy, and we can’t help but muse as to where things are going there. Her character feels almost finished, and The Girl Who Died doesn’t do much to redress that. At least not yet.
There are one or two smaller lines and incidents that feel like they’re building to something, and there are much bigger things that must be part of a grander plan. In short, there’s a surprising amount to discuss for a “part one” of a story.
There’s also a guest starring role from Maisie Williams. Here’s one spoiler for you: there’s no oyster cart. But there is a character that, thus far, raises more questions than answers.
“The Girl Who Died” is just the kind of story that explains why full series runs of Doctor Who are best: so that the change of tone and mood work in its favor and the skilful jumps between mystery and comedy can breathe. Were Who to just get a few specials a year, this is just the kind of adventure that’d likely not make the cut, and that’d be a real pity. Because “The Girl Who Died” is very enjoyable, a good set-up, and Capaldi’s gold, too.
Plus: we want to see next week’s episode as a result of it. Right now, in fact…
“The Girl Who Died” airs on BBC One on Saturday the 17th of October at 8:20pm. See more pictures from the episode, here.