Doctor Who “The Woman Who Lived” Review (Season 9 Episode 6)

Doctor Who "The Woman Who Lived" Season 9 Episode 6 (1)

In last week’s Doctor Who, I had a minor complaint about how easy it was for the Doctor to grant Ashildr immortality. Ultimately, it didn’t bother me that much given that it was a limited, one-off solution to death. More importantly, I’m willing to grant the show an out if a plot development is in service of a larger, better story. In the case of “The Woman Who Lived,” that’s exactly what we got, with an episode all about the negative effects of living forever. The fire-breathing lion-man was just a bonus.

I didn’t really mention it last week, but Maisie Williams is a great addition to the show, with Ashildr serving as a great counterpart to the Doctor. If not for her character’s fate – and the actress’ obvious commitment to Game of Thrones – she would make a great companion when Jenna Coleman leaves later this year. Here, though, we got to see a different side to the performance, with Ashildr having grown cold and distant after centuries of losing those she loves.

It’s a great counterpoint to the Doctor’s own immortality, by showing just how much better his life is by being a Time Lord. Whereas he can go to any point in time and experience all of reality at the drop of his hat, Ashildr has been trapped living day-by-day, knowing that every relationship she builds is destined to fade away. And the Doctor’s regenerations at least guarantee that, every once in a while, he’ll become a new man, ready to experience the wonders of the universe from a new point-of-view.

Of course, that cold, distanced view of humanity that Ashildr has developed is exactly why she can’t travel with the Doctor, as he’s immediately aware of the darkness that exists within her. Instead, he dedicates himself to helping her reconnect with her humanity and find some way to tolerate her ongoing existence. And so, by the end, she’d found that purpose, dedicating herself to helping the lives of those that the Doctor leaves behind after his numerous adventures. It’s the sort of role that could allow for more appearances by Williams in the future, though boy, is she going to be busy once she reaches the twentieth century.

The one part of this episode I was a bit surprised by was Clara’s absence. On the one hand, I think it was a good idea to focus in on the relationship between the Doctor and Ashildr, which gives him a new layer of guilt and self-doubt that Clara isn’t even aware of On the other hand, Clara was present for Ashildr’s first appearance, and I’m sure they would’ve had more to say to one another upon meeting up again. Also, Ashildr threatening the Doctor with the knowledge that even Clara will eventually die might’ve had even more impact if she’d been around.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments!