Monday, October 26, 2015

Doctor Who, Season Nine, Episode Six: The Woman Who Lived

A carriage makes it's way down the road and The Nightmare stops the coach to demand their cash, bags and loot.  When the intended victims refuse to comply believing The Nightmare to be alone, two glowing eyes appear in the bush.  In a different area, the Doctor arrives with his Tardis.  The Doctor is holding a device and is clearly tracking something.  Back at the carriage, the people start to hand over their belongings but hold back the amulet.  The Doctor interrupts the robbery and The Nightmare threatens to blow his brains out if he doesn't get out of the way.  The Doctor however is more interested in following the signal.  Suddenly. the Doctor looks up and realises that he is interrupting a robbery. The Doctor starts to bicker with The Nightmare and the driver of the carriage uses the opportunity to drive off.

The Nightmare takes off her mask and we learn that she is Ashildr.   Ashildr's first question is what took the Doctor so long.  The Doctor questions if Ashildr knew who he was when he arrived and she explains that the Nightmare has a reputation to keep up.  The Doctor reveals that the last time he saw Ashildr. she was in a leper colony. Ashildr accuses the Doctor of lying and he explains that she seemed fine when he popped in and that he saw her, even if she didn't see him.  Ashildr then assumes that the Doctor is there for her but learns that he is on a mission to retrieve something.  Ashildr is clearly hurt by this admission and the Doctor apologises calling her by name.  Ashildr doesn't recognize her own name and barely remembers the village where she came from.  When the Doctor points out that anyone in the village would have died for her, she snarks that it worked out because they are all dead now.  Once again, the Doctor calls her Ashildr and she asks not to be called that because she doesn't even remember that name. Instead, Ashildr wants to be called Me, because she is no one's mother, daughter or wife and is in fact her own companion.  Ashildr offers to give the Doctor a ride and suggests that he can help her with packing.

When they arrive at Ashildr's home, it's pretty much a mansion.  In the bushes a figure is growling. Ashildr leads the Doctor into her study and they talk about an ancient amulet that Ashildr was hunting down.  Ashildr says that she robs for adventure and has been at it for 800 years.  We learn that Ashildr was a medieval queen for a time and fought in the 100's year war.  Ashildr explains that she has learned that after 10000 hours practicing any one thing, one becomes an expert. The Doctor, being the Doctor, wants to know how many people Ashildr has killed and she tells the Doctor that he will have to check her diaries.  Ashildr claims to have saved a lot of lives and was burned as a witch for saving a town form scarlet fever.  The Doctor brings up the black death and Ashildr says that she got sick but got better.  The Doctor warns about a fire that will happen in London and another bout of Black death.  Ashildr explains that she cannot remember her life because she only has a normal size memory.  Ashildr says that she has done all she can on earth and asks to travel with the Doctor because the people are like smoke and blow away in a moment.  When the Doctor responds that he knows what it's like, Ashildr asks to be taken away on the Doctor's ship.  The Doctor questions how Ashildr knows that he has a ship and she claims to be clever.  Again Ashildr asks to travel with the Doctor and this time he tells her that he will think about it.  Ashildr then offers to help the Doctor find the amulet and the Doctor is quick to say that he doesn't need her help.  Ashildr points out that the Doctor does not know where Lucy Fenshaw lives and that she is an excellent house breaker. Ashildr walks away after saying that they will leave in an hour.

The Doctor starts to peruse Ashildr's diaries.  He reads about a man she left behind because she wasn't aging.  When she sees her love again, he is an old man and believes her to be a ghost. He comes across ripped out pages that are stained with tears. The Doctor then reads about Ashildr's account of the plague and the loss of her children. Ashildr writes that she is not brave enough to die and let go of this wretched life.  She writes that she will not have any more babies because she will not suffer such heartbreak again.  Ashildr writes that it's her against the world.  This account is really heartbreaking to read.

In the meantime, Ashildr makes her way out to the bushes.  Ashildr tells the creature in the bushes that he needs to be quiet and that the Doctor will help her get the artifact.  Ashildr assures the creature that the Doctor not only does not know about him but has no idea what they intend to do with the artifact.

The Doctor finds Ashildr and asks why there are pages missing from her journal and Ashildr explains that when things get really bad she rips the pages out. The Doctor asks what could be worse than losing her children and Ashildr explains that she keeps that entry to remind her not to have anymore. Ashildr stokes the fire and the Doctor says that he left her alone too long and had no idea how much she has suffered.  The Doctor adds that he remembers the person she used to be and that this person is still in there. Ashildr assumes that the Doctor is pitying her and says that the Doctor is scared of who she has become.  Ashildr asks if the Doctor wants to make her feel again and then run away.  Ashildr makes it clear that it's the Doctor who needs her help and that just this once, the Doctor cannot run away the way he usually does.  The Doctor is surprised and questions how Ashildr could possibly know this because they have only met once.  Ashildr says that it's true and calls the Doctor the man who runs away, claiming that she just worked it out.

Ashildr leads the Doctor outside and he pauses and looks into the bushes.  When next we see them, Ashildr says that house breaking can be tricky but the Doctor believes that with his sonic technology, he should be able to deactivate any alarm.  Ashildr asks what an alarm is and the Doctor grits his teeth. Ashildr shows the Doctor a wanted poster of herself and offers him a mask. The Doctor responds that he has his own and pulls out the wretched sonic sunglasses. Damn it Moffat! Yes, I invented new curse words on seeing the blasted sonic sunglasses. The Doctor uses his sonic glasses to light a candle and Ashildr calls him a show off. They head upstairs and the Doctor questions why she is still alone and Ashildr explains that she hasn't found anyone good enough.  The Doctor is adamant that humans need shared experiences and adds that it isn't right for Ashildr to be on her own.

The two make their way through the house in search of the amulet.  The Doctor turns on his tracking device and he finds the amulet, which turns out to be the eyes of Hades. The Doctor and Ashildr start to leave but they are almost caught by the resident of a house and are forced to hide.  They make their way into a room where a man is sleeping.  The Doctor suggests that they make their way around the sleeping man and open the door on the other side of the room, unfortunately they step on a squeaky wood plank and wake him.  The man heads outside and the Doctor knocks over the fireplace poker, alerting the man that he has intruders.  Ashildr pulls out her gun saying that it's kill or be killed and the Doctor suggests that they hide instead.  The man calls for the militia to be called as Ashildr and the Doctor climb up the chimney.  Ashildr calls the Doctor a liability and he points out that he never had this much trouble with Clara. Ashildr questions what is wrong with Clara because he hasn't made her immortal.  Ashildr then point out that Clara will die on him and blow away like smoke.  Ashildr questions how old the Doctor is and how many Clara's he has lost?  The Doctor doesn't answer.

The Doctor and Ashildr make their way back to her home.  Sam Swift intercepts them and Ashildr questions if Swift knows who she is.  It seems that Swift and Ashildr have some history and he snarks about how small Ashildr is.  Swift pulls out a gun and demands that they lay down his weapons. The Doctor makes it clear that he is very against the banter they are engaging in. Swift questions if the Doctor is Ashildr's sidekick.  As the Doctor bickers with Sam, Ashildr disarms him. Sam ends up on his back with Ashildr pointing a gun at him.  Ashildr says that she is going to kill Sam because he will be dead soon anyway but the Doctor makes it clear that if Ashildr kills Sam, she will make an enemy of him.

After freeing Swift and his people, the Doctor tells Ashildr that all lives matter.  When they arrive back at the house, the Doctor says that he has a theory about the amulet.  Clayton, Ashildr's servant makes an appearance and leaves to make a cocktail for Ashildr.  Ashildr explains that Clayton is half blind but she keeps him around anyway. The Doctor sees this as hope that she hasn't lost all of her human emotion.

The Doctor holds up the amulet and brings up the eyes of Hades and wonders how an ancient Greek Talisman is an alien artifact.  Ashildr snarks that the Doctor cannot wait to leave and investigate this but the Doctor says that he is going to stick around and keep an eye on Ashildr.  Ashildr asks once again to travel with the Doctor and he snarks that she doesn't want to be stuck with an old fool like him. Ashildr points out that it takes a day to get to Kent. so the Doctor counters by saying that in the future, Ashlildr will fly. Ashildr is not content because she wants to fly right now. Ashildr says that she has waited longer than she should have ever lived and lost more than she can even remember and begs once again to leave with the Doctor. Ashildr says that she deserves more than this and asks why not.  The Doctor finally tells Ashildr no because it wouldn't be good. When the Doctor calls her Ashildr, she tells him that she is not Ashildr.  Suddenly, the doctor hears the sound of a roar.  The doors to the library open and a huge alien lion named Leandro enters.  Ashildr explains to the Doctor that while he thought she was helping him, she was in fact helping Leandro.  The Doctor says that the fact that neither Leandro or Ashildr asked for his help means that they are going to do something he would not approve of with the artifact.  The Doctor tells Leandro to kill him if he intends any harm to earth.  Leandro snarks about the Doctor inviting his own death but the Doctor makes it clear that he only wants Leandro to attack first so that his conscience will be clear.  Leandro only laughs and tells the Doctor that he has no quarrel with him.  The Doctor tells Leandro to reveal his plans and then attempt to kill him but adds that Leandro must be quick and very sure.  Leandro explains that his planet was overthrown and destroyed and that he lost the amulet when he crashed to earth.  The Doctor realizes  that the amulet leads to another reality. The Doctor snarks about Ashildr picturing herself as Leandro's queen and she is clearly not impressed, saying that she is not looking for a man but a horse to get out of town. The Doctor questions if Ashildr can actually trust Leandro and she responds that Leandro knows what it's like to be alone.  The Doctor responds that he does as well but Ashildr points out that he will not allow her to travel with him. Leandro and Ashildr explains that a death is required for the amulet to work.  The Doctor questions who dies and Ashildr calls out for Clayton.  When the Doctor objects, Leandro sends a stream of fire at the Doctor and questions if the Doctor would rather take Clayton's place.  Ashildr is quick to intervene and remind Leandro of his promise not to hurt the Doctor.  The Doctor questions what happened to Ashildr and acknowledges that she has suffered. Ashildr says that human life is fleeting and that it's all boring, leaving her stuck and abandoned. Ashildr is certain that the Doctor should understand and yet he still won't take her with him.

With the Doctor now tied to a chair, Ashildr questions if the Doctor thinks about what happens after he flies away because she is forced to live in the world that he leaves behind. The Doctor questions why he should be responsible for her and Ashildr points out that he made her immortal.  The Doctor counters by saying that he saved her life and didn't know that her heart would turn to rust. Ashildr however believes that the Doctor trapped her inside her life and is sure that Leandro will set her free. The Doctor is adamant that she cannot open the portal because she doesn't know what horrors lay on the other side.  For Ashildr however that's reason enough to continue with her plan. The Doctor suggests that Leandro will kill her but Ashildr says that it might just be time.

Ashildr leaves the room in time for a couple of soldiers to burst in and say that Swift has been captured and that the Nightmare is headed in her direction. It seems that Swift is to be hung at noon and so Ashildr snarks about there being nothing wrong with the death of a guilty man while looking at the Doctor.  Ashildr then says that she hasn't seen the Nightmare but tells the soldiers that the Doctor is Swift's accomplice whom she only just managed to over power. The soldiers tell the Doctor that he will hang for what he has done.  Ashildr leaves with the soldiers pointing a gun at the Doctor.

The Doctor argues with the soldiers claiming to be an undercover constable for Scotland yard but unfortunately, Scotland Yard hasn't been created yet. The Doctor then claims that he was directed for valor but the soldiers are only concerned that the Doctor was threatening the Lady.  The soldiers are determined to take the Doctor in for the reward and so he offers to show them where the Lady keeps all of her money.  The soldiers agree to let the Doctor go and he rides off on horseback.

Swift is standing at the gallows and he makes jokes so that he can stall for time as the Doctor races there on his horse.  The crowd laughs at Swifts jokes. The bell tolls and the witnesses to the hanging start taking off their hats and calling for Swift to be hung. Leandro whispers to Ashildr that it's time and so she makes her way to the front.  Swift keeps going saying that as long as the crowd laughs he gets to keep his life.  Ashildr makes her way to the hangman and offers him money so that Swift will have a quick death and pauses to give Swift a brief kiss.

The Doctor makes his way through the crowd as a hooded Leandro screams that it's time for Swift to hang.  Swift notices the Doctor in the crowd and the two begin to banter making the crowd laugh. When the hangman grabs Swift, the Doctor pulls out his psychic paper and says that he has a pardon for Swift from Cromwell.  The Hangman calls out that Swift is pardoned and the crowd becomes restless to see someone hang. The crowd calls out for the Doctor to die, so Ashildr pulls out the amulet and places it on Swift's chest.  A purple beam which the Doctor calls the colour of death shoots into the sky.  The Doctor tells Ashildr that Swift's life force is opening up a portal.  Leandro blows a burst of fire into the sky and the portal opens revealing a planet.  Ashildr says goodbye to the Doctor and Leandro tells her that she is not going anywhere.  When they look up again, they see spaceships appearing in the sky.  Ashildr is upset to learn that Leandro lied about being the last of his kind.  The spaceship begins to fire and the people scatter.  Ashildr tries to grab Leandro and plead that the people are defenseless.  The Doctor jumps forward and says that Leandro doesn't care, so Ashildr finally admits that she does.  Ashildr asks the Doctor to think of something and he actually stutters trying to formulate a plan. The Doctor says that they need to close the portal and the only way to do that is to reverse Swifts death. Ashildr rushes to Swift and uses the chip to save his life, even as Leandro pleads that his people will destroy him for this.  As Leandro begs to be spared, a beam shoots down killing him.

Swift starts to cough as the sky begins to clear.  He opens his eyes and is shocked to see the Doctor and Ashildr staring at him.  Swift yells that he is alive and the crowd cheers.  The Doctor is all smiles.

Later at a pub, Ashildr, the Doctor and Swift gather together to discuss the day.  Swift leaves to get a drink and tells Ashildr that he has not forgotten the kiss she gave him on the gallows.  Ashildr questions if Swift is immortal now and adds that she doesn't think she wants anyone else to be.  The Doctor explains that because some of the power was used to close the portal, there was not enough power for Swift to become immortal like Ashildr.  When the Doctor doesn't quite meet her eyes, Ashildr questions if the Doctor just made this all up. The Doctor admits that he made it up but suggests that Ashildr keep an eye on Swift.  Ashildr acknowledges that she still won't be travelling with the Doctor.  The Doctor explains that people like them go on for too long and forget what matters. The Doctor adds that the last thing they need is each other.  The Doctor tells Ashildr that humans know more because they know how precious life is because it's fleeting.  The Doctor points out how Swift made every moment count on the gallows and how glad he is to be alive.  Ashildr realises that the Doctor cannot travel with her because their perspectives are too vast.  The Doctor then brings up travelling with Captain Jack and when Ashildr asks who he is, The Doctor says that Captain Jack will get around to Ashildr one day.  Ashildr says that the Doctor has made waves on this world and the Doctor responds that he is going to have to keep an eye on her.  Ashildr  says that won't be necessary because someone will have to look after the people that the Doctor abandons. Ashildr claims to be the patron saint of the Doctor's leftovers.  The Doctor asks if they are enemies and the Ashildr responds that they are not.  Ashildr claims that enemies are never the problem and that it's friends you have to watch out for . When Ashildr calls the Doctor friend, saying that she will be watching out for him, he responds that he is glad that he saved her.

The Doctor is back on the Tardis playing his guitar when Clara arrives.  Clara shows the Doctor a selfie of a student that he helped with her homework.  In the background of the picture, the Doctor sees Ashildir.  Clara asks where they are going next and Clara asks to go somewhere magical and new.  Clara hugs the Doctor and he tells her that has missed her.  Clara assures the Doctor that she's not going anywhere and starts the Tardis up.

Okay I know I have said it so many times that you are sick of seeing me say it but those blasted sonic sunglasses have got to do. Damn Moffat for teasing us by having a viking break the bloody thing last week, only to have it reappear again this week.  I should have figured that the |Doctor would make another pair.  What we need is River to come long and shoot the blasted things out of the sky the way she did when the 11th Doctor developed a fascination with the Fez.  These glasses are not cool, not amusing and not right.  Okay that's this week's rant but I am sure I will be ranting about the same thing next week.

Maisie Williams is a freaking acting mutant.  I love her on The Game of Thrones but I love her even more on Doctor Who. Maisie as Ashildr is about the most perfect casting that you could possibly ask for. When we first met Ashildr she was young and impressionable and by the time we catch up with her 800 years later, she is a completely different person.  The things that she has lost are heartbreaking. It reaffirms the point that NuWho has made repeatedly, immortality has the draw back of leaving one alone.  A companion can spend the rest of their lives with the Doctor but he cannot spend the rest of his life with them.  Ashildr and the Doctor have so much in common.  It really hit home when Ashildr explains that she likes to be called, "me" because she is her own companion.  Unlike the Doctor, Ashildr has largely moved through life on her own since the death of her village. It may hurt to lose companions the way the Doctor has over the years, but it's worse for him and apparently her to be alone,  Without an anchor they are set adrift with no idea how to move forward.

I think it's telling that Ashildr says that she will stay behind and clean up after the Doctor.  Yes, the Doctor solves the big problem but that doesn't mean that there isn't fallout left behind and pieces to pick up. To be honest, I never really paused to think about this before because I was happy to be off to the next adventure - quite like the Doctor I suppose.  Ashildr makes the Doctor deal with uncomfortable truths. The Doctor leaves but the people he leaves behind still have to pick up the pieces - a lesson we should have learned from Sarah Jane.  I do think it's worth noting that for me at least, this is the first time we have really gotten a chance to see Capaldi depict the Doctor's broken heart and he did it so very well.

At first I thought that the Doctor was cruel to reject Ashildr but in time I came to realise they could never be to each other what they need to be even remotely functional.  There's no warmth there, only the emptiness of forever.  At the very end of the episode we saw Ashildr in the background of a photo taken by Clara so it's clear that we have not seen the last of her.  I don't think that she is going to be the next companion, particularly with Williams grueling schedule on The Game of Thrones but I do think that she will have a role to play in the loss of Clara.

We are also clearly building up to the reason that The Doctor started running in the first place.  I think we will learn that the Doctor ran because he lost someone close to him and he simply couldn't deal. I think that the Doctor keeps running to keep his loses at bay.  If you think about it, every time he has lost a companion, it's absolutely gutted him.  He always goes off kilter when this happens. Think Time Lord Victorious everyone.  The Doctor runs because he cannot deal with loss.

We are also building up to the loss of our Impossible Girl.  In season nine, they have really worked hard to not only show how much Clara has grown but how much her relationship with the Doctor has changed.  Consider for a moment that the first time Clara tried to embrace him, he said that he wasn't the hugging time.  Now, the Doctor not only expresses how much he misses her but initiates the physical intimacy between them. He has basically dropped his guard altogether which means the loss will be that much more painful. Each time they embrace it's foreshadowing of what is to come.