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Doctor Who Theory – The Doctor’s Face, Hybrids, and Why Past Companions May be the New Bad Wolf

Clara, Ashildr, and the Doctor in "The Girl Who Died."
Clara, Ashildr, and the Doctor in “The Girl Who Died.”

Doctor Who Theory – “The Girl Who Died”

Aside from the season premiere (my feelings were lukewarm), season 9 is turning out to be the best season since series 4 (in my totally biased opinion of course). Even though I didn’t write about part 2 of Toby Whithouse’s episodes (which I loved even more than the first part), the quality and style of the series is definitely something I want to touch upon as I look at “The Girl Who Died” and discuss some old and new theories relating to the Doctor’s familiar face and the possible Big Bad of the season.

Make sure to read these two theories first for background information as they do connect to the theories in this article (even if a few parts are outdated):

Doctor Who Theory: Was “The Moment” in Day of the Doctor Actually Bad Wolf?

Doctor Who Theory: Bad Wolf, Forgetting and Why the Doctor Has a Familiar Face

As far as “The Girl Who Died,” we all knew this was meant to be a HUGE episode, considering they have been heavily promoting Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) in this mysterious role for a while now. Was she someone from the Doctor’s past? Someone we already knew with a different face? No, she was just a character meant to remind the Doctor of his own past, to give him an almost Time Lord Victorious epiphany. But more on that later…

After saving Clara from space about to be attacked by a “love spider,” the Doctor needed somewhere to wipe his feet. Instead of just a normal patch of grass, however, the Doctor and Clara landed right in the heart of the Vikings, getting captured in the process.

When they arrive at the Viking village, the Doctor pretends (and fails miserably with a lame yo-yo) to be the god Odin, looking particularly absurd when another alien species (the Mire) arrive in the skies – the warrior man claiming to be the real Odin. In the meantime, the Viking Warriors of the village, Clara, and a strange girl named Ashildr (Maisie Williams) who seems to ‘almost’ recognize the Doctor all get transported up to the spaceship. Clara and Ashildr escape but the rest of the men die almost instantly.

Fake Odin and his Mire Warriors.
Fake Odin and his Mire Warriors.

Clara, after having traveled with the Doctor for a while now, tries to BE the Doctor by convincing the alien species to leave. (Perhaps it will be Clara’s own recklessness that will lead to how she leaves the series.) She almost convinces him when Ashildr declares war on the alien race, leaving Clara, Ashildr, and the Doctor only one day to save the entire village.

Clara and Ashildr
Clara and Ashildr

It is here that things truly get interesting. At first, the Doctor wants to run because saving the village will create a tidal wave in time. There are rules to be followed after all. On a side note, can I say how awesome it is to have rules in time travel again? I feel these past few seasons the rules have kind of been put to the wayside, but this episode and the two-parter before really became consistent in that regard again.

After Clara does convince the Doctor to stay, he fails at attempting to teach the non-fighters of the village to fight. It’s not until after he talks to Ashildr, that the first epiphany surfaces. There are also a few important clues in this scene regarding the Doctor’s familiar face.

“Why are you here?” Ashildr asks the Doctor.

DOCTOR: I’m looking for something I’m missing.

But what is he missing? This word is key with its double meaning (the first just being about electric eels and “the fire and the water”), and while I do believe a great deal was revealed by the end of the episode about the Doctor’s face, I also believe that the full significance of the Doctor’s familiar face has yet to come. There is a double meaning after all. What is it the Doctor is missing? He’s been having problems with his memory since his introduction as the 12th Doctor which may be a huge clue to this whole mystery.

Ashildr then tells the Doctor some of her story, explaining why she won’t run. She’s different, she’s a storyteller, but in this village she has a home, a place where she is loved and loves those around her. The speech is very reminiscent of companions from the Doctor’s past (you know, the ones who don’t go along with almost everything the Doctor tells them to do).

Ashildr and the Doctor
Ashildr and the Doctor

The Doctor will mourn her death, but Ashildr pities him. This interaction builds affection for Ashildr on the Doctor’s part, and when he hears the baby crying again, he figures out how to save everyone in the village, something he is doing particularly for Ashildr.

The battle against this warrior race is hilarious! It starts like a party, until the Doctor electrocutes several of the Mire warriors, taking over one of their helmets. It is, in fact, this helmet the Doctor’s plan revolves around. Without considering the consequences, he puts the helmet on Ashildr so she can create an illusion of a story, an illusion of a beast.

The Doctor with fake Odin.
The Doctor with fake Odin.

The village wins after making fools of the Mire (they will keep their loss a secret and protect time in order to save face), but in the helmet Ashildr lay quiet and still. They pull the helmet off only to find her dead. Heart failure. She couldn’t handle the technology. The Doctor walks away in anger and shame. It is his actions next, however, that tell us why the Doctor took on the face he did.

Turn to the following pages for several thoughts and theories about the Doctor’s face, consequences, Donna, Rose, The Children of Time, and more…

By on October 20th, 2015

About Autumn Topping

In second grade, Autumn wrote her first story, “The Spinach Monster,” and hasn't stopped writing since. Intrigued by the tales her grandmother told of vampires, witches, and ghosts as a girl, she's always been drawn to the fantastic. Later, Autumn studied English and Creative Writing (continuing her love for classic literature and everything old-fashioned) and graduated with an MA in Children’s Literature and an MS in Library & Information Science from Simmons College. Currently, she co-runs this lovely site and works as a YA Librarian.

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