This week's episode included all manner of awesome things: Vikings, Maisie Williams, electric eels, and good, old-fashioned Doctor Who fun. Breaking away from the format for this series, this first half of this two-part episode contained an entire story all on its own:
The Doctor and Clara land on Earth during the time of the vikings, are quickly taken prisoner by some viking warriors who are completely un-phased by the TARDIS, Clara's spacesuit, and The Doctor's sonic shades. (Side note: My heart skipped a beat when they were snapped in half, only to be broken again when they returned seemingly repaired by the end of the episode.) Just as The Doctor is attempting to amaze the townspeople with his highly advanced technology (a yo-yo), the Mire show up with their own Wizard of Oz routine, and snap up all the testosterone filled warriors from the town. Oh, and Clara and Ashildr too, because it was once again time for Clara to be an idiot and have Ashildr use the broken sonic shades on her shackles (thus drawing attention to the two of them) while an alien race is actively scanning for the strongest, cleverest, most intelligent people in the village to kidnap. While on the ship, she manages to save exactly no one from being mashed up and turned into a testosterone filled alien Gatorade. Once she and Ashildr are confronted by Fake Odin (I can't be the only one who though he looked like the bastard love child of Vultan and Ming from Flash Gordon, right?) and his army of metal dumplings, Clara suddenly regains her wits and nearly convinces the Mire to leave before Ashildr decides to open her big mouth. Essentially, this is one of those episodes where the innocent people would have been better off had The Doctor and Clara never showed up...
...but they did show up, and now The Doctor must devise a plan to save an entire village of farmers from one of the most vicious warrior races in the Universe. After a bit of amusing fight training, he remembers that he's supposed to be clever and devises a plan using electric eels, misdirection, and the imagination of a young girl. It is only after the immediate and obvious threat is defeated that we get to the cliffhanger part of this episode. When the price of The Doctor's plan is the life of Ashildr (and given his reaction to her death, I'm betting he knew full well it would kill her), we get to watch The Doctor evolve as a person. Making clever use of the episode Capaldi previously appeared in as a guest star (Fires of Pompeii), in which Donna pleaded with the 10th Doctor to save at least one person from Vesuvius' eruption, The Doctor realizes that he chose his current face as a reminder that "I am The Doctor, and I save people." He rushes back to Ashildr, pulls a med kit out of the Mire helmet she had been jacked into and, after modifying it to work on humans, uses the smashed Scrabble tile to bring Ashildr back from the dead with only a mild side effect of immortality.
One of the most intriguing parts of the episode this week was the discussion between The Doctor and Clara about the implication of immortality. The pros and cons have always been an interesting topic of debate between nerds: Getting an infinite amount of time to read all the books, learn everything, and travel the world VS watching everyone you've ever known die, the ever present threat of utter boredom, and an inevitable descent into madness. The teasers for next week's conclusion hinted at Ashildr's less than stellar job of dealing with her immortality; if we're lucky maybe she'll become a new reoccurring villain!
Eris Walsh is a writer/public speaker specializing in body image, representation, and all things geek from the female perspective. She can also be found on her webpage/blog She-Geeks, reviewing comics on Comicosity, and as a contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She is also the woman behind the geek centric event production/planning company, Nerd Love NOLA, bringing nerds together at parties, weddings, dating events, and general meetups.