“The Woman Who Lived” is my favorite episode this season. It blends humor and message together beautifully and manages to explore immortality in way that we see the consequences of it rather than being told the consequences of it like with Harkness earlier in the series. This is easily one of the best episodes of “Doctor Who” and there are many reasons why.
The episode was directed by Ed Bazalgette and written by Catherine Tregenna.
The story involves The Doctor running into Ashildr as they seek the same item, the Eyes of Hades as the Doctor is forced to deal with what happens when he leaves people behind. From here Ashildr and the Doctor are at odds as a 3rd Faction manipulates them both.
The Pros: The Time Period – The episode takes place in the 1600s, which is smart as it gives us an idea of how much time has past since the Doctor saved Ashildr and granted her immortality. It’s also a good use of the period too since it’s not quite our period but not Medieval either.
Leandro – Is a lion-like alien who manipulates Ashildr into opening the Portal so his species can invade. He was pretending to be the last of his kind but it was all a ruse as he was scouting ahead for the Leonine. I liked his design and I wouldn’t mind seeing his people again.
Sam Swift – This guy is a thief who loves puns, so I enjoyed the character a lot as I also greatly enjoy the use of puns and the character was someone who was a crook but had a heart and quite a good memory. His life is used to open the portal and he is later saved when Ashildr gives him the final Pill to reverse it.
Ashildr/The Knightmare/Me – Ashildr has grown bitter and no longer remembers who she was as she can’t remember her past so she writes it down. She no longer goes by Ashildr and just calls herself Me and is the thief known as the “Knightmare” in her current time period. Her story is a tragedy as she has lost husbands and children throughout time and is forever alone. This is how Leandro is able to take advantage of her and her perspective and distance from everyone is why the Doctor can’t have her as a companion. We learn this is the reason he’s never gone back for Harkness. Their perspectives are to similar so they’d bring out the worst in one another. In the end she decides become the Patron Saint of the Doctor for those who are left behind so she can heal the damage he causes from saving the world. It’s powerful and we see her core good again as much of the episode showed how detached she was from humanity and life as a whole. Maisie Williams put in an amazing performance again. Her character has been through so much, but endures it all and even finds hope again.
The Doctor – The Doctor shows us just how deeply he cares about humanity in this. “The Mayflies remind us of how important life is.” In that quote we see why he has companions and why he fights for humanity. They give a perspective his people lacked and a mentality he knows that he can fall into…he is so much like Ashildr when he’s detached and it scares him. She reveals his darker side as well as that he does forget about those he leaves behind because he is the man who always runs away. He owns up to that though and we see his sadness at not being able to take Ashildr with him. Capaldi’s performance is utterly amazing, especially his mayfly monologue on why humans and life matters.
This was the perfect episode of the season and I’ll be surprised if there is one that tops it. It stands alone like the let episode and there is no Clara until the end so we get to fully know Ashildr and see how her relationship develops with the Doctor, as well as their clashing of philosophies initially. I have a feeling we will see her again in the future and I hope we will see Harkness too as the Doctor talks about he was the other Immortal he traveled with at one point and that Ashildr is bound to meet him at some point. Suffice to say, this is one of the best stories to come out of “Doctor Who.”
Final Score: 10 / 10