I’m at Halcon, my local con, tomorrow so I won’t be watching Doctor Who live(ish). Curses and woe etc. I’ll have to hide from social media until I can watch on Sunday.
I’d be sadder, but I’m going to a con on Halloween. The cosplay should be excellent and Diane Duane is going to be there.
This is going to be a fairly short review, but at least I’m getting it done before the next story starts! Spoilers are beneath the cut.
I’m really glad that I didn’t start trying to put my thoughts together on this until I’d seen both parts of the story. The first part was so uneven that parts of it irritated me, but the second part redeemed everything (mostly).
My issues with the first episode were mainly around the Mire and the sheer goofiness of a lot of that plot. It was too over the top and didn’t have any of the shades and complexity that I would have expected. It didn’t really become a satisfying story for me until Ashildr died (I know, I’m terrible) and the Doctor was presented with his dilemma. The scene with Clara where he’s so angry and has the revelation about his face was fantastic and heartbreaking. Capaldi acted his socks off, and both characters had me glued.
The Doctor’s realisation, as his anger wore off, that he’d probably made a really bad choice was also excellent. He’s made a mess that’s going to come back to bite him and he knew it.
The scene where the camera pans around Ashildr and her happy smile slowly turns into something harder was beautiful and painful. Maisie Williams really is a great actor.
The second part redeemed all the OTT goofy from the first part. This is the kind of thing I’m here for. It was dark and painful, thoughtful and difficult, and I couldn’t tear my eyes away.
The scene where Lady Me/Ashildr says that she keeps the diary entry to remind herself not to have children was probably Maisie Williams’ finest moment. The rawness of that moment was incredible. For me, it read that those were her last children, but she’d tried to do it over and over. She would forget the pain, or even the children, and it would come back when they died. How many did she lose before she kept that diary entry and stopped?
Ashildr is the kind of person who would want family and community. She stayed in the village because of the love there, even though she was considered odd, so I’d find it odd if she didn’t try to create her own family before she learned what immortality would be like. So I can’t see the children we see her mourning being her first.
Examining the consequences of immortality was done in more depth than I expected. I was particularly fascinated by the idea of Ashildr/Me only being able to store a certain number of memories, so she forgotten the girl she’d been and the village she came from, and had to keep diaries just to keep track. That was a horrific thought. And that she could lose the worst memories by tearing out pages…I still get shivers. It’s a clever follow-through on the idea that the human mind only has a certain capacity.
The idea that the Doctor keeps mortal companions around because immortality (or near enough) would be bad for him without them didn’t feel new, but it was interesting to have it stated so baldly. It made sense of why he can’t take Me with him.
My hopes that Maisie Williams would be the next companion have been crushed, I guess.
The moment when Me finally reconnected with the world and discovered that she does care was a little abrupt, but I didn’t mind. I’m not sure they could have done it any better within the time limits. I like the idea that she’s going to pick up after the Doctor and keep an eye on the people he leaves behind, but I also have a bad feeling. She’s not his enemy but she’s not his friend.
That relationship has the potential to be as fascinating as his relationship with Missy.
The only part of the episode that didn’t really work for me was the cat-man creature Me was working with. It makes complete sense that she’d ally with an alien who promised to take her off Earth, that’s all she wanted, but he wasn’t particularly impressive and it was too easy to see that it was all going to go wrong. Me, why couldn’t you ally with a slightly less ridiculous alien?
In conclusion, I loved everything about Maisie Williams and her character, enjoyed the thoughtful aspects of this two-parter, and kind of regret that the alien threats were so unsatisfying. As I said, uneven, but the second episode did make me less annoyed by the first.