Maisie Williams Returns In “The Woman Who Lived” On This Week’s Doctor Who

Credit: BBC
Credit: BBC

What happens when you make a young, bright if slightly weird Viking woman into a self-healing immortal? Whether he intended to find out or not, The Doctor soon learns the answer. Traveling on his own while Clara takes the Year Sevens to taekwondo he bumps into a familiar face and must decide if he made the right decision saving Ashildr. She was the girl who died. But who has she become as “The Woman Who Lived”?

The cost of immortality: In 1651 England a highwayman loses the carriage he was robbing when a nosy Time Lord butts in. The Knightmare unmasks himself; it’s Ashildr. Having lived 800 years since receiving that Mire medical chip, she’s forgotten much including her village, those she loved, and even her own name. The human brain can only retain so much after all. She remembers the man who saved her but is disappointed he hasn’t come to sweep her away in his spaceship. At her manor home, her journals remind her of past adventures (ending the Hundred Years War, being a Medieval Queen) and tragedies (leaving the man she loved behind, her children dying during the Black Death). The Doctor is visibly saddened to see the young Viking has become an apathetic woman who scoffs at companionship, robs for the pleasure of adventure, and prefers the name “Me.”

Thieves in the night: The Doctor was looking for an alien amulet called the Eyes of Hades, and Ashildr swiftly crafts a plan for them to break into the jewel owner’s house that night. Before they leave, she visits a lion-man in her forest to promise she’ll get the amulet so their own plan can move forward. The Doctor and Ashildr locate their prize without incident but with plenty of sass along the way. Then The Doctor’s adorable clumsiness wakes the household. Adding insult to injury for the immortal woman and master thief, The Doctor balks at her plan to kill a man to escape and instead forces them to climb up and out through the chimney.

A lady scorned: The following morning the two regroup with Ashildr now dressed as the elegant Lady Me. She practically begs The Doctor to take her away from Earth because her life stuck in one place has grown stale. He refuses again and any pleasantries from the ex-Viking disappears. Her lion friend, Leondro, makes a fire breathing entrance and their plan is thus: he crash landed on Earth after his people were killed and the Eyes of Hades will open a portal so the lion and the lady can travel into space travel. But that portal requires a death. As chance would have it, local highwayman Sam Swift has just been captured (thanks in part to an encounter with The Knightmare and The Doctor) and is due to be hanged that afternoon.

Also there’s the puns: After bribing his guards with Ashildr’s own loot, The Doctor hurries to town on horseback to stop Ashildr and Leondro. He arrives as Sam Swift is stalling his hanging with jokes and puns and uses the psychic paper to pardon the outlaw. But Ashildr will not be denied. She rams the Eyes of Hades onto Swift’s chest and it uses his life force to open the portal. Unsurprisingly, Leondro’s people aren’t dead so much as waiting and now they can attack through the portal.

Second dose: Seeing innocent people at risk because of her own selfishness, Ashildr has a change of heart and begs The Doctor for help righting her wrong. Luckily, she still has the second Mire microchip. She had never found anyone “good enough” to give it to. Now she gives it to Swfit to revive him and close the portal. Leondro’s people vaporize him in anger and all is restored to order. As for Ashildr, she decides to look out for the people The Doctor leaves behind and to protect the world from him. They part on friendly-ish terms as she tells him “it’s your friends you have to watch out for.”

Clara!: Strumming pensively on his guitar, The Doctor perks up when Clara enters the TARDIS. She shows him a selfie one of her students took with her and in the background is Ashildr, gazing pointedly at the camera as though she knows the Time Lord will see the picture. The Doctor is startled but says nothing to Clara, instead telling her to pick somewhere for them to run off to. When she wraps her arms around him from behind, he confesses he missed her. As they fly off into time and space she replies, “Well don’t worry, you daft old man. I’m not going anywhere.” The Doctor’s heart wrenching face mirrors my own.

Who Notes

  • Though Swift is alive again, The Doctor thinks it’s possible the microchip might have used much of its energy closing the portal. So Swift may or may not be immortal.
  • In much of this episode, Ashildr’s views of humanity and life mirror those of Missy. But unlike the Time Lady, the immortal ex-Viking rediscovers an ability to care about the lives of others, one that ultimately provides her with a less bleak and more moral outlook on life.
  • Doctor: “I saved your life. I didn’t know your heart would rust because it kept beating. I didn’t think that your conscious would need renewing or that the well of human kindness would run dry. I just wanted to save a terrified young woman’s life.”
    Ashildr: “You didn’t save my life, Doctor. You trapped me inside it.”
  • The Doctor mentions another immortal he knew: Captain Jack Harkness. So can we get John Barrowman back on this show already?! A cameo at least!
  • According to The Doctor, purple is the color of death and orange the color of immortality.
  • Ashildr: “How many have you lost? How many Claras?” The Doctor remains silent but in Peter Capaldi’s face you can actually see the weight of the Doctor’s heartbreak.
  • Ashildr: “All these people here, they’re like smoke. They blow away in the moment.”
  • Shipper corner:
    • Clara is physically absent most of this episode but her presence is felt often. A crushing foreshadowing for when Jenna Coleman leaves the show?
    • In a curious conversation, Ashildr questions why The Doctor hasn’t made Clara immortal. “Well look how you turned out,” he replies.
    • Ashildr: “So what’s wrong with Clara then?”
      Doctor: “There’s nothing’s wrong with her.”
    • The Doctor helped Clara’s student with her homework. Someone please write me the fic for how that came about.
    • That hug and then “I’ve missed you, Clara Oswald.” Squeeee!
Stephanie Coats