Now we know why the Doctor runs: it’s from the pain.
People talk about premonition as if it is something strange. It’s not. It’s just remembering in the wrong direction.
– The Doctor
Showrunner and longtime Who writer Steven Moffat loves a good “reveal.” When he landed Game of Thrones breakout Maisie Williams (that’s Arya Stark to you!) as guest star, I’m sure he sat down and thought, “Hmm…The Master is now a woman, the sonic screwdriver is now a pair of Oakleys [le sigh], what else can I do to spark internet trolls into action?” That man loves to make waves! The time around, it has to do with a girl, a special girl – played by Williams.
We open with Clara somewhere floating in space, a spider-like space bug crawling up her leg, trapped inside her suit. It’s cool though, as long as the Doctor can locate her she will not lose brain function or become asphyxiated. But of course, the Doctor finds her just in time, and the two land in Westeros Scandinavia for a brief discussion on the rules of traveling through time – Clara knows how to nag like the best of them, doesn’t she?! It’s not long before a group of Vikings finds the pair and takes them by force – not before breaking the Sonic Oakleys in half, however (Yay! #TeamScrewdriver).
Upon arriving at sword point into the Viking village, the Doctor comes face to face with Maisie Williams and is instantly transfixed. Clara inquires on the subject, but the Doctor claims to not know her. Attempting to extract themselves from the situation, the Doctor pretends to be the god Odin with his mad Yo-Yo skills (for real), but here’s the rub: the “real” Odin appears in the clouds and harvests the strongest and bravest warriors from the village…including Clara and Arya Stark, natch. See, Clara was showing Arya how to use the remaining half of the Sonic Oakleys (which are still a thing, unfortunately). But they’re not taken to “Valhalla” as “Odin” claims; instead it seems like an ordinary spaceship – albeit one that resembles the Red Floor in Resident Evil. False Odin uses a handy-dandy lightening thingy (that’s a scientific term) to extract adrenaline and testosterone from the bravest warriors in plebeian civilizations and ingests it. (#roidrage) He leaves Clara and Arya Ashildre alive because of the Sonic technology; Clara then tries to be the Doctor, as she does, and goads Alien Odin, claiming that he has not killed them because that would cause a war he’s sure he’d lose.
Ashildre has enough of this nonsense and challenges Alien Odin to a duel of sorts; ten of the village’s bravest men for ten of his in battle! Are we sure this is not Arya Stark? She’s arrogant, brave, and hell-bent on vengeance…fairly sure we’ve seen that before. At any rate, Alien Odin accepts and sends the women back to the village, where the Doctor has been consulting his 2000-year diary to identify the alien race: he settles on The Mire. When the Time Lord insists a battle would be hopeless, he urges the villagers to run and hide until the Mire give up. But these are no ordinary Villagers: they’re Vikings, and if Vikings are known for one thing, it’s Leif Erikson war. Even though the bravest men have been taken by the Mire and ground into testosterone juice, the dredges that are left are still Vikings.
Of course the Doctor wishes to run — that’s what he pretends to like to do, but we know the truth: he loves the fight. He just fears the man he becomes when he loves it. Clara convinces him to stay, however, and he begins to train the group to fairly silly results. But Ashildre gives the Doctor an idea, right when he needs it: she makes puppets to stage strategy when the Vikings go to war, hoping the right story will keep them safe. She speaks eloquently to him about her people, her home. It’s another speech centering on the season’s main axiom: reflecting on Gallifrey. After some inspiration from a crying baby, the phrase “fire on the water” leads to…electric eels. Basically he sciences the s–t out of it, and we get an old-fashioned “preparing for battle” montage!
The Mire attack on the morning as planned, and the Doctor uses the electricity from the eels to link the Mire’s helmets (it’s a hive mind, obviously) and changes the story. Actually, he uses Ashildre to change the story, while she uses the helmet to re-write the tale. She uses a dragon puppet to scare the Mire into thinking they’re dead. The Vikings Victorious! And he sends Alien Odin packing, on the idea that his reputation is everything to him. When the dust settles, we realize: Ashildre is dead. All of that discussion before about the rules of time travel? It’s something we’ve known since The Waters of Mars, and something the Doctor has known since his victory over the Time War: dead is dead. Although this time, he’s decided he’s sick of losing people.
I’m the Doctor! And I save people!
In his reflection, the Time Lord realizes why he chose this face, his face. Because of Donna, because of Ten, because of “The Fires of Pompeii.” He wants to save everyone, and as long as it is in service of love, maybe he can sometimes break the rules. He utilizes a Mire technology, a medical kit that soaks into her brain and awakens her. Before leaving, the Doctor gives Ashildre’s father the other half of the medical kit…because it will never stop. Ashildre will live forever, and she may choose someone to do so, as well. The Doctor broke the rules, and we know there are always consequences for that. I was enjoying that! The final shot is the world-changing as Ashildre stands in her home, her expression changing from happiness to…well, very Doctor, and it’s terrifying. To be continued! What? ARGH!!!
So, what did you think of the big reveal, and why the Doctor has the “Peter Capaldi” face? And what about ForeverArya? Post comments below.