Vikings, gods, aliens, and Maisie Williams… yeah, Doctor Who is weird. But weird is fun and interesting. “The Girl Who Died” has a much lighter tone than the previous two episodes, and it’s a nice change of pace.

SPOILERS AHEAD. YOU HAVE BEEN NOTIFIED.

Basically, the Doctor and Clara land on Earth quite some time ago and are instantly captured by vikings and are taken to the viking village. Simple and tidy setup, nothing wrong with that. The Doctor tries to show off his power and act as Odin, one of the gods the vikings pray to. Just as he’s doing this, a giant image of a man in the sky, who the villagers know as Odin, appears and he claims to be Odin and is sending his troops down to bring the best warriors of the village up to Valhalla.

So crazy it just might work. Left to right: Clara (Jenna Coleman), Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Ashildr (Maisie Williams)

So crazy it just might work. Left to right: Clara (Jenna Coleman), Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Ashildr (Maisie Williams)

Well, it goes rather poorly, as the men are killed, but Clara and Ashildr (played by Maisie Williams, best known as Arya Stark from Game of Thrones) are also brought to the ship referred to as Valhalla, but they are not killed. Ashildr, much like Arya (really, if you know Game of Thrones, you’ll notice similarities in the two characters), declares war on the alien posing as Odin. By the way, they happen to be one of the other million deadliest alien races (seriously, is it the Daleks, Sontarans, or this new race called the Mire?).

No matter, the village has 24 hours to get ready to fight the most fearsome beings in the universe. Easy, right? Maybe, that is, if the village’s soldiers weren’t just killed off.

This is where the tone changes compared to the rest of the series 9 so far. We get a series of funny scenes of the Doctor trying to train the villagers how to fight. It seems getting normal townspeople to use swords is harder than you may think. These scenes are a welcome change to the more dramatic nature of the past four episodes.

Admittedly, I do think the episode starts to fall towards a little more silly territory, but then ties it all in with a couple serious scenes to balance the tone. We are given a nice scene between the Doctor and Clara the night before the battle is to begin. The two of them seem more like friends this year and don’t have the awkwardness that sometimes came up last year.

As with Doctor Who, all ends well in the end, and I won’t give any of that away, but it is somewhat anti-climactic. But that’s not important (though, it does hilariously use The Benny Hill Show’s theme tune). What is important is the Doctor remembering why he chose his face, which has been hinted at since his first episode. He chose it to remind himself to always save someone and to not just give up. In this case it is Ashildr, who was integral to securing their victory over the Mire, even if it cost her life.

The Doctor doesn't look overly intimidated by his new enemy

The Doctor doesn’t look overly intimidated by his new enemy

This is where the episode becomes important and more than just a standalone story. The Mire have technology to revive them during battle, and the Doctor took it from them once they were defeated (two tablets to be exact). He revives Ashildr with one, and while she lives she too cannot die (Captain Jack says hello). At this point, only the Doctor knows this and it sets up the story for next week’s The Woman Who Lived.

Before that, I would like to note this episode, despite its silliness does something welcoming for a story in a Steven Moffat led series: establishes the background and develops a new character who will likely show up throughout series 9. Ashildr has a well established character. She’s loyal to her village and its people. Not only is she loyal, but she likes the people and isn’t just loyal because she has to be. However, now we get to see how she develops as the people around her die and she continues to live forever. Unlike the Doctor she can only run so far. These are things we may find out in The Woman Who Lived, and I hope we do. River Song was Moffat’s big character, but her development, well, never really developed and she just ended up showing up to say “hello sweetie” and “spoilers.” Boring, very, very boring. Now we have a character who isn’t annoyingly in love with the Doctor, and instead has to cope with going through the decades, seeing the world change, and having to be an observer, never really there.

I’m excited for the rest of series 9 and am really interested in seeing where The Woman Who Lived takes us. Until then, here’s the trailer:

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