Review: Doctor Who Went Extremely Deep With ‘The Woman Who Lived’

Sunday, 25 October 2015 - 3:21PM
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Doctor Who
Sunday, 25 October 2015 - 3:21PM
Review: Doctor Who Went Extremely Deep With ‘The Woman Who Lived’
This week, Doctor Who reached the halfway point of series 9, and there still hasn't been a bad episode yet. The 'Woman Who Lived' picked up where 'The Girl Who Died' left off last week, as the Doctor revisited Ashildr - but this time in the 17th century. There was a lot of fun moments in 'The Woman Who Lived,' but in the end it turned out to be so much more, as it dealt with weighty topics relating to the human condition.

The Doctor arrived in 17th century England looking for the source of some extra-planetary energy that clearly didn't belong in such a time and place, and on his way ran into Ashildr, who has long since forgotten her name and is now going by 'Me.' It's revealed that her immortality has been a great burden, as she's dealt with so many hardships and had to suffer so many losses throughout the past several centuries of her never-ending life. She's became quite cynical over the years, and views human beings like smoke - here one second and gone the next.

The two end up locating the source of the alien energy, which turns out to be some sort of crystal named 'The Eyes of Hades.' It's then revealed that Me has been devising a plan to use the crystal to open a portal to another world, an idea she got from a fire breathing cat-like alien named Leandro who has promised to take her with him to escape her mundane existence on earth. However, the crystal requires a death to open the portal, and so she willingly kills a rival robber (she's become a highwayman for fun) to do so. At this point, she realizes she's been betrayed as Leandros' world open fires on Earth once the portal is opened.

Finally realizing the magnitude of her actions, Me uses the other chip on her rival, Sam Swift, to reverse his death and close the portal. It's only then that the Doctor explains why he couldn't take her on as a companion - immortality drains humanity. Without mortality, it becomes difficult to see the importance in life and all of its little details. Having human companions is what's helped the Doctor stay compassionate and keep cynicism relatively at bay for so many years. Then, Me finally accepts her original name, Ashildr, once again and vows to watch over all of the companions that the Doctor leaves behind while the Doctor in turn vows to keep watch over her.

This episode of DW was really fantastic, and it's rare that the show delves this deep into such weighty issues. Though it didn't put it in quite the same words, the real take away from last night's show was that in the brevity of life is where the meaning in life is truly found. And because of the nature of a show like Doctor Who, which features a near-eternal alien as it's protagonist, it allows the show to explore this theme in an interesting and totally fresh way.

However, the deep stuff wasn't the only reason 'The Woman Who Lived' was such a hit. The humor was right on point yet again, with one of the major highlights of the episode occurring when Sam Swift had to tell jokes to try and hold off his execution. Of course, the Doctor joined in before too long, and started making extremely corny doctor jokes about his 'patience' and the like.

The ending scene of the the episode deserves special recognition, too. Clara enters the TARDIS and the Doctor then tells her how much he's missed her. When Clara tells him 'I'm not going anywhere' in reply, the Doctor then gives her a sad look which seemed to say 'That won't always be true.' It was quite fitting, considering that the brief lives of mortals was such a big part of this week's episode. Also, with fans of the show knowing that Clara's departure is imminent, it made the scene even more emotional and poignant.

Of course, there were also a few things that could have been better, too. Leandro may have been a fire breathing lion, but believe it or not that really wasn't as cool as it sounds. Likewise, in one particular scene, Ashildr realizes how wrong she's been all this time, but it's in the midst of a full scale alien attack. Though all of this is going on, it seems like all she can think about is talking to the Doctor about her new revelation - DW may not be all that realistic of a show, but there still has to be some amount of believability to it. Why not save the majority of that conversation until after she saved the day?

In the end, however, 'The Woman Who Lived' turned out to be a great episode of DW. It was deep, it was funny, and the actors did a tremendous job playing their parts this week. Because of this, episode six of series 9 gets an 8.9 out of 10.

Catch Doctor Who again next Saturday at 9 p.m. ET on BBC America.
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