As you may now from my earlier reviews (admittedly more like rants at times), I haven’t been a huge fan of this season so far. However, this changed with these two episodes. For probably the first time in Moffat’s tenure as showrunner, I actually jumped for joy at some point during these episodes. Doctor Who is back y’all, and I’m super excited!
So what about these episodes was different for me?
1)Focus on characters. The Doctor’s seemingly impenetrable shield that he has had up for about a season has finally come down. He has started caring about those around him who are not Clara. He’s becoming the Doctor that I have sorely missed.
The Doctor’s realization for why he chose his face is absolutely brilliant. It was simple and profound at the same time. This is also a very Doctor Who thing to do. Many times during the show, the Doctor has had to look back on his past and realize that he has learned this lesson before, and most re-learn it again. At some point, he did learn that he can change the future in small ways. He can save people’s lives. In “The Fires of Pompeii” the Doctor learns (with the help of Donna) that while an event like Pompeii may be inevitable and fixed in time, he can and should still save those that he can.
Before this episode, this new Doctor allowed people to die who could have possibly been saved, and didn’t really seem to care. (O’Donnell in “Before the Flood” is a good example.) Now, the Doctor has lost countless amounts of people that he cared about, so it makes sense that he would at some point try to shut himself off from feeling that kind of pain again. It’s a human thing to do, and I respect that a version of the Doctor who has attempted to become a little numb, exists. Did it need to last as long as it did? Probably not. But I respect that it did. However, I am so glad that he seems to be back to his caring self again. I think it makes him a more interesting character.
2)Deeper questions of morality and immortality. While we saw a little bit of examination by the Doctor on the subject of morality in “The Witch’s Familiar” when the Doctor and Davros discuss whether Davros was right in creating the Daleks, and when he decides to help Davros by healing him with some regeneration energy, this is soon undermined by the fact that the Doctor was aware of Davros’ plan the entire time. The character development that we saw in those few scenes from the Doctor were taken away, much to my annoyance.
But in “The Girl Who Died”, it is clear that the Doctor is struggling with whether or not he made the right decision at the end of the episode. He is unsure of himself and vulnerable. Two aspects that have been missing from the Doctor for some time. I love the uncertainty he feels, because he should feel uncertain. He just made a girl immortal. How could he not question that decision?
In the next episode, he gets to see first hand how his decision has affected Ashildr. Yes, he was able to save her, but at what price? The Doctor has to deal with those consequences while trying to make it right with her. Immortality, it turns, has become more of a burden than a blessing.
I also have to say that Maisie Williams’ performance was great. She did an amazing job depicting a woman who has lost just about as much as the Doctor has, and has chosen to stop caring, because caring hurts too much. Mmm, that sounds a lot like what we were watching with the Doctor for so long.
Realizing what Ashildr is going through, since he just went through the same thing, the Doctor makes it his mission to break down the walls the Ashildr has built around herself. This made for some very touching and real moments between these two, and I loved it.
3)The end scene with Clara and the Doctor. I haven’t been a fan of Clara. She is my least favorite of the companions. I don’t believe that she has been particularly good for the Doctor. However, the end scene of “The Woman Who Lived” was something that I have been waiting for. It is one of the first times that we have seen them just be friends with no peril or fighting involved. It’s just them, contemplating on going on a none perilous journey together, much like we saw with his other companions.
When Clara hugs the Doctor from behind and they both just smile, my heart melted. It’s beautifully written, directed, and acted. In that moment, we saw just how close these two are, and how much they mean to each other. And just to top it off, the Doctor’s look of sadness when Clara says that she’s not going anywhere made me feel like someone ripped out my heart and stomped on it. The Doctor knows that one day, Clara won’t be there. Something will happen, like it always does, and he will have to say good-bye. That look was devastating, and kudos to Peter Capaldi for being able to make me feel all the feels with just one look.
Conclusion: These two episodes have brought me back in to Doctor Who. I was about ready to give up, which would have broken my heart, but now I’m confident that Doctor Who is beginning to return to the show that I know and love. Here’s to hoping that the rest of the season is just as good.