Time and Relative Dimension in Spoilers 006: The Woman Who Lived

Spoilers are straight ahead. But if you're concerned about spoilers, you probably shouldn't read an article with the word in the title.

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This is one of those times where I’m not pleased to be right. This was a good episode that could have been great if aired a little ways down the line. The only reason to make this a part 2 was to preserve the clever title structure of the season and that alone is not worth lessening the impact this episode could have had.

We catch up with Ashildr, who now answers to Lady Me by day and The Knightmare by night. Both names are chock full of meaning. Me is a name similar to the Doctor; both simple titles seem to barely matter to their owners, succinctly describe who each believes they are, and serve as the simplest way for others to address them. The Knightmare moniker is intended to strike fear of the highwayman persona into the hearts of her victims, but is also an (unconscious?) description of what her 800 years of adventure has been. She puts on a devil-may-care affect to mask the pain and torture of loss. Sound like someone you know who travels in a blue box?

The only cool thing about this character

The only cool thing about this character

The plot is a simple heist where each participant has his or her own motive. This could have been a fine little standalone story, but it loses points because we’ve been told the story was “to be continued” and it is, but only in the broadest fashion. It was nice to see a new alien race in the form of fire-breathing Leandro. He was a completely predictable villain, but I didn’t mind because his betrayal wasn’t the point of the episode. 

The more I think about it, the more I really like what this episode taught the Doctor. I appreciate that “no one was good enough” and the writers didn’t give her a hacky love interest to use the second immortality chip on. I like that she didn’t want to do to anyone else what the Doctor had done to her after having time to suffer the consequences. I felt the Doctor’s pain. His goal of “trying to save the life of a terrified young woman,” seems so admirable and yet became so terrible when Me claims “you didn’t save my life, you trapped me in it.” The only part of this that bugs is the Doctor’s wibbly wobbly explanation of why Sam Swift won’t be immortal. I mean, ok fine, throw in some technobabble, it sounds like it makes sense, but it feels like a cheap way out of dealing with the consequences of creating yet another immortal character.

He brought his own mask!

He brought his own mask!

This lesson of the episode explains a lot about the Doctor and the choices he makes. All those years ago when he ran away from Gallifrey because he saw enough to know that immortals tend to forget what matters and “the last thing we need is each other.” It’s a poignant but sad explanation of why Captain Jack Harkness can’t be a permanent companion. (Hopefully we’ll see him again, though. I mean, just imagine the sparks between him and 12.) The mention of Jack in conjunction with Me’s declaration that she will be protecting the world from the Doctor while not being his enemy make me think we could be in for Me working with Torchwood and/or UNIT somewhere down the line, assuming we can get Maisie Williams back, and that sounds like a hell of a lot of fun. 

Doesn't this prove we'll see her in a future episode?

Doesn't this prove we'll see her in a future episode?

We’ve seen a lot of the Doctor being concerned with his impact on people. He feels guilt about what he’s turned Me into. He has worried about what has become of Clara since meeting him many times in the last few episodes. Combine that with Clara’s “Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere,” and you can start to see how this could all be leading to Clara’s departure from the TARDIS. It would be a lot more powerful if she hadn’t already left and come back once before, but I suppose I’ll reserve judgment until I actually see what happens.

Overall, the more I thought about this episode, the more I liked it. At first I was annoyed by the lack of continuation where one had been promised, but this turned out to be more of an emotional continuation than one of plot. The plot barely mattered, it was just a means to learn more about the Doctor. I still say this would have had a bigger impact having aired later in the series with some separation and time for this issue to breathe and fester, but again, I don’t make the rules. Looks like we’re in for some big splashy excitement with the Zygons next week, which should be fun. See you then!