Sunday, 1 November 2015

"The Girl Who Died"

NOTE: In this two-parter-heavy series of Doctor Who, this tale is something of an oddity. It is anchored by the same supporting character and made with the same director, yet each part tells a very different story and is written by a different writer, so I will look at these stories separately – for the most part.

Jamie Matheson, who made an immediate impact in his two excellent debut stories last season, returns (assisted by his boss) in this gloriously enjoyable romp. In this story of a Viking village staving off an attack by warlike aliens, there is the obvious influence of The Seven Samurai and Sam Raimi’s Army of Darkness. Despite several well worn (and inaccurate!) Norse clich├ęs, the idea of having the pillaging part of the population removed quite soon means that we have a rather atypical bunch of Northmen and Northwomen. The story is full of cracking one liners and lyrical monologues and the way the plot resolves itself is very satisfying, because of, rather than in spite of the contrivances used to get there.

The ‘not the best half’ of the village is memorably cast, with such memorable figures as Lofty the blacksmith and the not-very-fierce Heidi, played excellently by Tom Stourton and Barnaby Kay. In the key role of Einar (or ‘Chuckles’) we have a wonderfully steely, yet warm performance by Ian Conningham. It has to be said, however, that David Schofield, fine actor though he is, isn’t quite commanding enough for Odin – if ever there was a role tailor made for Brian Blessed's return to Doctor Who, it was this one. Clara’s role is mainly confined to this half and, again, Jenna Coleman knocks it for six in a space suit.

Which brings us to the key character of Ashildr. A tomboy in her late teens, she is the engaging storyteller of the village whose imagination is fuelled by the adventures of the raiders, who love her, misfit though she is. The defeat of the Mire is largely due to her gifts, and what happens is tragic. However the girl who died is dead no longer and the centuries race by...

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