The Girl Who Died
Written by Jamie Mathieson and Steven Moffat
Directed by Ed Bazalgette
“There’s going to be a war tomorrow. And here’s some news, this just in – we are going to win the hell out it!”
In a backwater of history, in a little Viking village where all the warriors have just been slaughtered, a young girl called Ashildr is about to make a desperate mistake. The Mire are the deadliest mercenaries in the galaxy, famed for being unstoppable and without mercy – and Ashildr has just declared war on them. The Doctor and Clara have twelve hours, to turn a handful of farmers and blacksmiths into a fighting force ready to face down Odin himself. And there’s more – because this is the day when the Doctor remembers where he’s seen his own face before.
The episode opens with Clara, hanging in space, calling for The Doctor’s help. She had just been dealing with a situation with some space spiders and informs The Doctor that she feels something inside her space suit. The Doctor explains that these are creatures that will suck her brain out through her mouth. He asks he to describe the stars around her. From this information, The Doctor is able to locate Clara and materialize the TARDIS around her. With Clara now inside the TARDIS, he rips off her helmet and stomps the creature with his foot.
He walks out of the TARDIS to wipe off his shoe. Clara follows and they find themselves surrounded by a group of Vikings. The Doctor, annoyed at the fact that they have to deal with Vikings, attempts to intimidate them into leaving by putting on his sonic sunglasses and explaining to them that on his face is “more advanced technology than your people will accomplish in 900 years”. In response to this, the Viking leader grabs the sunglasses off of
The Doctor’s face and breaks them in half. “Clara,” he says, “we are going with the Vikings.”
The two are taken back to a small Viking village where the warriors are greeted with enthusiasm and applause. One girl, named Ashildr, is especially pleased to see them. As they pass, she and The Doctor hold eye contact for a moment. Clara asks if he knows her and he says he hasn’t seen her before in his life and that premonitions are just remembering in the wrong direction. One of the warriors gives Ashildr one half of the broken sonic sunglasses.
When The Doctor and Clara are taken to the leader of the village, The Doctor manages to slip out of his shackles and claims to be Odin, using a yo-yo as his “sign”. The Vikings tell him that they do not believe he is Odin and that he doesn’t look like Odin. Just as The Doctor is asking them if they have ever actually seen Odin, a face appears in the sky. This face looks more like traditional depictions of Odin. The face says he is Odin and tells the villagers that the Warriors of the village will be feasting in Valhalla that night.
Just then, mechanical soldiers appeared among the villagers and began harvesting the strongest of the village. Clara approached Ashildr and tried to tell her how to use the Sonic sunglasses to unlock her shackles. One of the robotic soldiers analyzed the technology and harvested them both.
Clara, Ashildr, and the Viking Warriors find themselves in “Valhalla”, which looks more like a prison cell on board a spaceship than it does paradise for fallen Warriors. One Viking leads the way toward the door and is vaporized by machines mounted on the walls of the room. Before the other Warriors have a chance to process what had just happened, the wall behind them begins to move in on them. While
the Vikings try to hold the wall back, Clara and Ashildr attempt to open the door to escape.
Back at the village, The Doctor tries to convince the villagers that the man who appeared in the sky was not really Odin, but an impostor, and that the village had actually just been raided.
Clara and Ashildr awake in the corridor of the ship, outside the room. When they look around, Ashildr notices the armor of the other Vikings and realizes that they did not survive and have been vaporized. Before having a chance to mourn the loss of her fellow villagers, “Odin” enters with a group of the metal soldiers. “Odin” explains to them that the only reason they were taken and left alive is the fact that they had the sonic sunglasses, technology well beyond the time period in which they were. One of the soldiers brings “Odin” a vial of liquid, which he drinks. He explains that is testosterone and adrenaline from the greatest warriors in the galaxy. Clara begins to try and talk him into leaving by explaining how advanced the technology in the sunglasses is, and is almost successful when Ashildr chimes in. She tells him that they are Vikings and they will crush him on the field of battle and have them begging for mercy. “Odin” accepts her challenge and tells her that he will arrive the next day with ten of his soldiers to commence the battle.
He sends Clara and Ashildr back to the village, leaving The Doctor very excited to see them back. He begins to explain to Clara that what they have encountered are the Mire. He explains that they invade, take what they want and leave and tells her that he knew she would be able to talk them into doing just that. After the explanation, Clara breaks the news that Ashildr has declared war on the Mire. When Ashildr apologizes, her father explains that she thinks she brings bad luck to the village. The Doctor tries to convince the villagers to run. They refuse, stating that they want an honorable death on the field of battle. A baby is crying, and The Doctor translates for the village. He agrees to help them learn how to fight, since their warriors were all vaporized by the Mire.
Outside, Clara tells The Doctor that teaching people to fight isn’t very like him and he says that he used to believe that as well, until he met her, leaving her with a confused expression. He wanders the village and hears a sound coming from inside Ashildr’s tent. He walks in to find that she has made a dummy of “Odin” and was pretending to fight him. He asks her what she thinks the chances are for the village in the coming battle. She replies that she thinks they are all going to die. She explains that she has never felt like she belonged until this village. That the people there made her feel loved. She says that having to leave the village would be death itself. The Doctor hears the baby cry again and translates again, “I see fire in the water…”
Excited, The Doctor rushes out of the tent, promising Ashildr that she will never have to leave the village. He runs to the bathhouse to find the baby and her father. He explains that she likes to see the fish in the barrels. The Doctor explains that, while they were discussing the impending doom of the village, they forgot to mention one thing: that the village, being on a body of water, had electric eels, which is what the baby was referring to when she mentioned fire in the water. He exclaims, to those in the bathhouse, that they are going to win tomorrow and the villagers work through the night to put his plan into action. He tells them that getting a helmet from a Mire soldier is key because they will need to use Ashildr’s monstrosity.
The next day, “Odin” arrives with his soldiers, ready for the slaughter. He finds the villagers dancing in the great hall and is confused by what he is seeing. The Doctor explains to “Odin” that the villagers are unarmed and told him that he believes even he will not attack unarmed civilians. “Odin” responds, saying that it would not be the first time, and prepares to attack the villagers. They spring their trap. The plan includes using rigged metal wire and blacksmith’s anvils, along with the eels, to electrocute the robotic warriors and remove the helmets using the electricity and anvils to create a magnetic field. The Doctor grabs a helmet while Clara retrieves one of the soldier’s weapons.
The Doctor helps Ashildr put on the helmet and she uses it to project an image from her mind toward the Mire soldiers. This image is of a giant serpent, much like depictions of a Leviathan from Norse mythology. The Mire soldiers retreat from the serpent, believing it to be a monstrous beast, summoned to destroy them. When only “Odin” remains, The Doctor instructs Ashildr to stop projecting the image. She stops and the serpent is revealed to be nothing more than a puppet. The Doctor explains that he knows that the Mire work from reputation alone and that they are not nearly as strong as they are perceived to be. He explains that it would be a shame if proof of this were to be known throughout the universe, since that would make it impossible for them to do what they do. Clara reveals that she recorded the whole incident, creating a situation where The Doctor can blackmail the Mire into retreating and leaving the village alone for good. “Odin” vows that he and The Doctor will meet again. The Doctor says he has hijacked “Odin’s” teleporter and sends him back to the ship, which retreats very quickly.
The villagers begin to celebrate their victory. During the celebrations, Ashildr’s father goes to congratulate her. She doesn’t respond, or even remove the helmet. her father removes the helmet and holds onto her as she falls to the ground. She is dead, and her father mourns. The Doctor stammers, “I’m sorry”, and turns and rushes out of the hall.
Clara finds him in the bathhouse. She says that he can’t save everyone and that he just saved an entire town. Emotionally, he explains that he can do whatever he wants. He could make enough tidal waves to save her and he has the power to do it, but he’s not supposed to. He laments that he is tired of losing. When Clara tells him that he won the war, he told her that he will gladly lose the war, that wasn’t the point. He is tired of losing people. Just then, he notices the reflection of his face in the pools of water. He holds his face in his hands, flashing back to when he first regenerated and asked why he chose that face and stating that it was as if he was trying to tell himself something. He flashes to memories of when he traveled with Donna to Pompeii. He remembered Donna’s plea, “..just save someone. Not the whole town, just someone…” He remembered going back in the TARDIS and offering to save one family from the erupting volcano. He saw the face of the patron of that family, Caecilius. His face. He realizes what it is that he is trying to tell himself. He exclaims, “I am The Doctor! And I save people!”
He rushes to the side of Ashildr and begins to work with Mire tech. He reprograms the Mire medical unit to be compatible with human DNA, hoping that will fix her. He places the square unit onto her forehead and it is absorbed into her body. He informs her father that, if it works, it will continue to fix her. She wakes up, returning to life, and falls asleep. He informs the village that she should be up and about in about three days and he begins to leave. When her father tells him that Ashildr will want to see him when she wakes up, he responds that he is sure she will see plenty of him when she understands. He gives her father a second Mire medical device and says it is for whoever she chooses.
Back aboard the TARDIS, The Doctor explains that the device will never stop fixing Ashildr. He tells Clara that he has made her functionally immortal. He explains that immortality is not just living forever. It’s watching everyone around you grow old and die. He tells her that he left the second device so that Ashildr could give it to someone whom she couldn’t bear to lose when she finds that person, because that can happen with immortality. He wonders if he has just made a big mistake by making someone immortal, but “…only time will tell. It always does.”
Time passes around Ashildr…