First of all, I object to having to write this entry today. This is clearly the first episode in a two-part story. The clues are in the titles being similar, plus the fact that this one ends with a “to be continued”, and also the fact that the next episode carries on the story that this one starts. Fairly straightforward, you’d have thought, but apparently not, and I have to comply with official classifications, otherwise my story counts would be all to cock. This is all clearly very important.
There’s a theme emerging to this series, which is telling a relatively straight-forward story on the surface (escape from trap, base under siege, fight off alien invaders), but mix it all up with a variety of difficult moral quandaries about life and death, and how the lines between the two can sometimes be blurred. It’s going to much darker places than you’d normally expect on Saturday evening BBC One, and it now seems to represent the peak of Moffat pushing the format as far as he could in this direction, before he toned it down a little in Series 10.
Nevertheless, the straight-forward stories are still at the heart of these episodes, and this is as simple as it gets – captured by Vikings, Odin appears in the sky (looking exactly like God in Holy Grail), kills all the good Vikings and leaves all the shit ones, and then your woman from Game of Thrones challenges him to a scrap. The whole world isn’t under threat, just this one village, and the smaller scale allows the episode to focus in on the villagers, mining them for comedy and heightening the emotional drama later on.
The Doctor’s doomed attempts at turning the rubbish Vikings into warriors was good fun, as was his eventual method of getting rid of the aliens with a mixture of improvised gadgets and psychological trickery, like a medieval MacGyver doing Home Alone. Everything was so light-hearted at this stage, peaking with the Benny Hill music, so naturally the loveable little girl had to die. I say “little girl”, it’s quite hard to tell how old Ashildr is supposed to be; Maisie Williams looks younger than she is. Her dad treats her like a child, but Clara implies that she fancies her at one point, so I’m confused.
Either way, she’s carked it, until the Doctor remembers why he chose that face. I love that Peter Capaldi’s face is now a major plot point in the mythology of Doctor Who. His memory of saving Caecilius and decision to do the same for Ashildr is surprisingly emotional and stirring. We, like the Doctor, get caught up in the moment as he brings her back, and it’s only when we calm down a bit that we realise that making someone immortal isn’t quite the same as bringing them back to life, and that it may have been a slightly rash course of action in hindsight. But that’s, apparently, another story.