Dear Steven Moffat: The Girl Who Died

The Girl Who Died

Dear Steven,

I don’t want to talk about the first half hour of “The Girl Who Died” because it was the TV equivalent of going out to eat alone, ordering your food, then waiting for the longest time at an empty table with no bastard to talk to, because the fuckwit who took down your sizzling picks got talking to a more attractive diner, so your order never made it to the kitchen. You and your accomplice Jamie Mathieson took your sweet time getting to the crux of the story, so long in fact it was clear that you’d completely forgotten about the part of the audience that declines to dine out on the thin gruel of broad comedy.

Breezy was the word to describe thirty minutes of Vikings named after EastEnders characters and cartoons from the ‘60s. I liken it to the ‘80’s song “Rush Hour” by Jane Wiedlin; jaunty and fun, but where’s the beef? I’m not made of stone – I liked the joke about the Doctor getting his fingers trapped and the Viking passing out from the sight of blood, leading to a chain of events that caused the village to be set on fire; a scene comically joined after the event, mid-attempt at putting it out; but all the time you were polishing those gags, shouldn’t you have been concentrating on developing Maisie Williams’ eponymous puzzle piece?

Sure there were a few scenes that established she had a great imagination, was spirited, etc – that was fine, but as her death was pivotal, setting up an uncertain and possibly doom laden second part, should more work have been done to make her someone we cared about? I mean, I was sad when she died, but only the same way I’m sad when I’ve promised myself a cup of tea, opened the fridge to fetch the milk and realise it’s now a day out of date.

Oh fuck, I’ve ended up talking about it.

So Williams died of heart failure, possibly because she couldn’t believe she was in a Doctor Who story that relied on a combination of electric eels, an iPhone and the Benny Hill theme tune to save the say, and a nation wept. But then something weird happened. Despite the Doctor having watched billions of people die and reaching the age of 2000 without feeling the need to resurrect the dead, he decided to inseminate the Viking girl with alien tech because his reflection reminded him of, er, the time Donna (who the audience had repressed) pressured him into saving some Pompeiians? What?

This of course was designed, in part, to explain a mystery which should never have been, namely why the Doctor chose his face. The maddening stupidity of this idea aside, for it was established in the classic series that the Doctor had no idea what he was going to look like in subsequent incarnations – “you never quite know what you’re going to get” being a classic quote you conspicuously DIDN’T revive here, were we really supposed to just accept that the Doctor would wait over a thousand years to action the lesson of Tennant’s Pompeii experience?

If remembering his duty to save strangers from oblivion was so important to the Doctor, why didn’t he pass this genetic note to his next incarnation, rather than waiting for the one after that? He was taking a bit of risk there, don’t you think? Regeneration can warp the memory, indeed Capaldi couldn’t remember what the significance of his face was at first, and little wonder – he’d waited a millennium to hand himself the post-it. A lot happened to the 11th Doctor, including several centuries laid up in Christmas special hell, so he could have been forgiven for forgetting. I suppose the message could have been internalised on a level so innate, so compressed in the sub-conscious, that his body forgot to action it when it came time for the 10th Doctor’s body to give up, but what in the name of plot convenience happened to Smith’s ganglinoid to prompt his later transformation into Capaldi?

Are you telling us that at the moment of the 11th Doctor’s regeneration, part of him was thinking about a bunch of Pompeiians he’d saved from a pyroclastic death centuries earlier? I mean, was it so important to give Capaldi’s first appearance in another role an in-universe explanation? Colin Baker didn’t need a story explaining his turn as Commander Maxil in “Arc of Infinity”. John Nathan-Turner just expected the audience to either forget it or accept the real world explanation, i.e. they hadn’t thought of casting him as the Doctor at that time. Have we come to a crossroads in the history of this show when you start to make JNT look considerate?

All that said the setup for next week is an intriguing one. Though the CG budget for this episode was conspicuously thrift, I liked Williams’ time lapse journey into the future as an immortal “hybrid”. It gave me hope that “The Woman Who Lived” might have a little heft. The premise is great: the Doctor may have inadvertently created a monster thanks to a moment of uncharacteristic sentimentality, a woman who’s watched everyone she loves die and has been forced to adapt to a lifespan covering many centuries. What are the consequences of that decision? What toll will it have taken on Williams? How will she have changed? In the vain hope that the next 45 minutes cuts to the quick and provides some answers that impact on the Doctor and Clara in some meaningful way, I look forward to finding out.

Yours in time and cyberspace,

Ed

P.S: The Viking breaking the sonic sunglasses was a nice crowd pleaser. Let’s leave them broken, shall we?

P.P.S: The 2000 year diary made me laugh, though I’m inclined to think it didn’t have quite enough pages.

P.P.P.S: Seriously, up the CG budget. The show makes millions for the BBC – start picking their pockets.

P.P.P.P.S: “Immortality is everyone else dying.” I hope that equals a mad Williams in the next episode.

P.P.P.P.P.S: A baby gives the Doctor the vital clue to the group’s survival. Steven, I think the Doctor “speaking baby” was originally a throwaway joke – just a bit of bollocks; no episode should rely on a Time Lord’s improbable translation of an infant’s sobs to work. Perhaps one day we’ll learn how a baby’s tiny, underdeveloped brain can understand the kind of abstract concepts the Doctor refers to in his translation? What – we won’t? Thought not.

P.P.P.P.P.P.S: There was a lot of talk in this episode of the Doctor dreading Clara’s death, that he couldn’t bear to lose her, but when he acquired a piece of tech that could make someone immortal he instantly used it on someone he barely knew. Shouldn’t he have taken a moment? You know, asked Clara if she wanted to live forever, maybe? Then she could have taken the spare med kit for her next boyfriend. Still, nevermind.

The Old Man and the C: 

The Clara Oswald Show:

Smith – The Dark Suit Jacket Years: 

Smith in his Pomp:

Deep Time:

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