Doctor Who Review: “The Woman Who Lived”

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Dear DocBlogger:

First he saved me and then he abandoned me for so long it felt like an eternity. But now he’s back. I want him to apologize and beg me to go with him, but he won’t. He’s stuck in the past and doesn’t see the real ME.

Furious in Florida

Dear Furious:

If you’ve changed, chances are he has too. But perhaps this one just isn’t meant to be.

DocBlogger

***

Spoilers ahead, Sweetie…

Well kids on the outset, The Woman Who Lived, sequel to The Girl Who Died, seemed like the most traditional episode so far this season. While it didn’t offer the jaw-dropping stylistic changes of the previous two episodes, it instead gave us an opportunity to see the Doctor argue with himself through the character of Lady Me/Ashildr and basically hold himself accountable for his crappy behavior over the current and last season. I believe this was a turning point for our Doctor, who had begun the journey of remembering himself in The Girl Who Died and finished it as a lesson to be taught back to Ashildr in The Woman Who Lived.

The Episode in a Nutshell

Ashildr, the girl who died and was given immortality, is reunited with the Doctor 800 years later as he foils her attempt to steal an important artifact while she is disguised as a highway robber named “The Knighmare.” Clara is on a field trip with her Year 7s and the Doctor has decided to use his latest toy, a curioscanner to, um, scan for curios or misplaced alien tech. They are both looking for the same thing. They return to Lady Me’s manor where she explains why she no longer goes by the name Ashildr and describes what she’s been up to for the past eight centuries, pointing out the countless diaries she kept to remind herself of her adventures. It becomes obvious that immortality has hardened her heart. She belongs to no one and feels no compassion for others now, particularly after losing her children to the Black Plague. She is desensitized and angry at the Doctor, yet asks him to take her away as she is sick of humanity. We also discover that she is in cahoots with a glowing-eyed accomplice for whom she is attempting to secure the artifact she tried to steal.

The pair head off to the home of the lady who has said artifact, the Eyes of Haides, and spend the majority of the time bantering with each other about how Lady Me needs fixing. They are nearly shot as they make away with their prize only to be waylaid by another highwayman, Sam Swift the Quick, who is ultimately bested by Lady Me, who has been dressed as The Knighmare. The Doctor, who is now considered The Knighmare’s sidekick, convinces her to spare Sam’s life regardless of how pointless and short it is without her interference. But she’s still pissy about it, grumbling “Shut up. You’re not my dad.”

Back at Lady Me’s manor, we are introduced to Leandro, the glowing-eyed lion man from another world who wishes to use the artifact to open a portal back to his planet. There’s a lot of “don’t trust him” and other sexist commentary (thank you, Doctor) as well as more evidence of Lady Me’s hatred of her immortality. A death is required to activate the artifact and Sam Swift, who is about to be hung, becomes the target. At the gallows, Sam bravely jokes with the crowd before the Doctor arrives and uses his psychic paper to prove that Sam has been pardoned. Not about to lose her ride off Earth, Lady Me slams the artifact onto Sam’s chest and opens the portal, only to learn that Leandro never planned to take her away and instead is bringing his people here to attack Earth. With innocent lives in the crosshairs in a very Avengers-like scenario, Lady Me has a change of heart and decides she does care. She uses the second immortality chip to save Sam and close the portal.

Afterwards, the Doctor and Lady Me wonder if Sam is now truly immortal. The Doctor finally explains that the reason Lady Me cannot come with him is that he needs humans as companions to remind him of how precious and fleeting life is. She swears to get busy protecting the world from the Doctor and taking care of those he leaves behind. In the final scene, Clara is back in the Tardis, and we see Lady Me in the background of a photo she snapped of herself and a student.

Multiple Personalities

As evidenced by the clumsiness of trying to describe the episode, Ashildr/Lady Me/The Knightmare’s numerous personalities can be considered a commentary on how the Doctor himself has changed. Ashildr is the do-gooder (#11), Lady Me reflects his cynicism (#10), and the The Knighmare echoes his soldier and fighting self (#9). Throughout the progression, however, we don’t end with this character saying “call me Ashildr.” Instead, she becomes something different; not an enemy but a wiser and more watchful version of them all.

I loved Lady Me’s acerbic wit and confidence. She was completely comfortable in her disdain for the humans she called “mayflies” and impassioned about how she had been done wrong by the Doctor who left her to trudge through the centuries by herself. While she could have given another person immortality, no one was good enough. The Doctor made the case for a human companion often, particularly when telling her that humans need shared experiences and that it wasn’t right for Lady Me to be alone. He was, of course, really convincing himself that he needs to share his experiences and should not be alone, themes we’ve seen explored before.

Although I kept looking around for Clara, it was right for her to be excluded as the Doctor worked through this piece of self-analysis and regained his humanity. I’m so thankful about this turn of events and look forward to future episodes that get back to the Doctor’s core values. Having another immortal in the wind also creates a nice bit of tension; hopefully we will see more of her in the future.

Liz Bowen, a.k.a DocBlogger


Liz Bowen is a long-time Doctor Who fan and first-time blogger living in Colorado Springs. She enjoys seeing her childhood recreated in cinematic excellence and will waste entire evenings waxing poetic about the technical beauty that is Transformers. She indulges in writing Supernatural fanfic and is working on her first original book.

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