As usual with these examination of ‘Doctor Who’ stories shortly after transmission, if you haven’t seen them, I’ll try not to give away too many unintentional spoilers, although I will give a quick resume of the plot. Much of the analysis will be about it so feel suitably warned.
In many respects, this is another part 2, albeit written by a different scriptwriter. This time we are in England, 1651, and highwaymen or in this case, highwaywoman are rife. Two in particular, the small Nightmare who turns out to be Ashildr (actress Maisie Williams) aka Lady Me and rival Sam Swift (actor Rufus Hound) who thinks she’s stolen his pitch. Both she and the Doctor are after an alien artefact but with pretty different motives. No longer calling herself Ashildr, Lady Me is ambitious to leave the Earth, something the Doctor doesn’t want to do. Treachery abounds throughout but mostly because Lady Me is simply bored but doesn’t want to kill. Shame really, as the Eyes Of Hades artefact needs a death to open a gateway to another planet and she’s in cahoots with another alien.
Let’s focus on Ashildr though. 800 years and counting. Not necessarily immortal because she can die but certainly a long-lifer who has to commit her memories to books because she can’t remember it all. She does remember the Doctor because he’s made his mark across history although she doesn’t mention his regenerations. If you know the Doctor’s adventures pre-20th century, he hasn’t been there that often. Anyone watching this episode will realise that Ashildr is unlikely to be a companion but will appear from time to time. Shades of a certain River Song. Except she will keep an eye on the companions left behind. It does explain why the Doctor doesn’t dispense this long life drug though.
In many respects this episode appears to be another test to see how the Doctor is away from Clara and Peter Capaldi holds up pretty well. More so as large scenes are chatty and philosophical. The level of intellectualness than running around is a change but that will depend on how the younger viewers will like it or not. It’s hardly like it was done to slow the plot down. There was a need for a lot of explanation here with possibilities of spin-offs. Capaldi shows his gift for humour and gives depth, something that has on occasion been missed with other recent regeneration stories.
Knowing which alien species is going to appear next week, there are also some aspects of this story which can be seen as budget saving but it is done with a good heart and making for a strong story as well.
So much of this story is spoiler so I’ve only focused on certain aspects. However, this story does actually have legs and will ensure you pay attention to the background in future. After all, in the age of digital, Ashildr can appear anywhere.
24 October 2015.