Fashionably Late and Surprisingly Negative- A Doctor Who Discussion

A DVR screw up means I didn’t actually catch this episode until about three hours ago. Mea Culpa. But, undeterred, LAS’s longest-running weekly installment (it’s not as impressive as it sounds) returns today. This week, Jaden C Kilmer (JC) and JA Prentice (JA) discuss episode 5- “The Girl Who Died,” guest starring none other than Arya Stark. With rumors abounding that this episode will answer a question whovians have been asking for for years, the hype was strong. Did it live up to expectations?

Image is BBC

JA: Thoughts?

JC: My initial one is actually “is that it?”
JA: I was hoping you were going to be positive… Because I’m not.
JC: lol we should probably start disagreeing more.
JA: I think we disagreed on the first episode, right? You were a lot more positive than I was, although I still quite liked it.
JC: I think so but as far as straight like/dislike we’ve been in agreement so far.
JA: True.So I’m going to start with something that might technically be a nitpick, but I think it’s actually a bit enough problem to really annoy me. Electric eels are native to South America. South America.
JC: I think that’s a legitimate concern. I mean, if the Doctor had used polar bears to rescue Libya everyone would be like “what the hell?”
JA: Exactly. If they’d been a background detail, it would be fine, but they were the whole solution to the problem.
JC: I was more concerned with how the hell he gets to the eels conclusion from “fire in the water” in babytalk, but that’s because I don’t really know eel ecology.
JA: I just had a vague sense they weren’t European, so I used Google to check. Something Mathieson, Moffat, or literally anyone on the Doctor Who production team could have done.
JC: Takes five seconds, guys.
JA: On a more structural level, I think this episode was all over the place when it came to tone.
JC: As in, silly jokes and aliens + dark moral tone and conclusion to a 2 season long question?
JA: Basically. It literally goes from Benny Hill music and dragon puppets to a girl’s brain being fried in the space of a few minutes.
JC: I thought the jokes were funny, though of a different ‘style’ than usual. But you’re right, it doesn’t really mesh with the rest of the episode’s tone. As if the jokes were from a different episode’s plan
JA: It felt like Mathieson had written a funny vikings story with aliens and then suddenly was told to put in the Capaldi face part and Ashildr’s immortality. Actually I’m now pretty sure that’s what happened.
JC: Or maybe they took the criticsm of Robots of Sherwood being too corny and were like “fine! Have it YOUR way fans!”
JA: I really like Robots of Sherwood. Like, really, really, really like it. When I see people criticize that episode, it hurts a little bit.
JC: There’s an episode we disagree on, but I liked it more than this one. It’s at least tonally consistent.
JA: I liked the comedic parts of this one. I kind of wish it had stuck with that. They reminded me of some of the sillier later Tom Baker stuff. Especially the bit with the yo-yo. The serious stuff just didn’t work for me. Probably because it clashed with the comedic parts so badly.
JC: That’s pretty much what I’m thinking…What’s interesting is a quick glance around the internets makes me think we’re in the minority here. (Editor’s note- AV Club the AV Club review for those looking for a more glowing review)
JA: I noticed that too, I don’t understand it. I liked Masie Williams. I liked the last shot. Some of it was fun. But overall it just didn’t work for me.
JC: Well I guess I’ll go say what I liked as well.The set design game continues to be on point. Also liked the last shot, and Williams’s subtle emotions there. Liked a good deal of scenes individually, but as you said they don’t fit together.
JA: I can’t believe I forgot to mention how much I liked the set.The set was great.
JC: It looked like it was out of the show Vikings. Maybe they borrowed the “The last kingdom” set? I don’t know. It was great either way.
JA: Indeed it was. Now that I think about it, I think that a lot of the issues with this episode came from “Odin” and the Mayar (?) being really poorly developed as antagonists.To compare it to Robots of Sherwood, in that episode, the Sheriff was a really fun, compelling character and the robots had a clear goal.
JC: I’m just like “are these people supposed to scare me? Or seem threatening? or…”
JA: Exactly.
JC: I don’t know exactly went wrong, but I agree with you that the aliens didn’t work here.
JA: I’ve heard that Brian Blessed was originally supposed to be Odin. That might have been enough to make the character interesting. Or it might have been a waste of a good actor.
JC: What I’m still not really wrapping my head around is how the writers thought this was a grand enough reason to explain the whole face thing.
JA: I like the face explanation. It was nice and simple and made sense. But it didn’t fit in this episode. It felt shoehorned.
JC: I didn’t really get it I guess. It felt way too underwhelming. He chose the face of a random roman governor he met this one time to remind himself he needs to help people?
JA: I vastly prefer underwhelming over stupid. I was afraid because he said he’d talked to RTD about it because RTD had an explanation for Capaldi being in the Pompeii episode and Torchwood: Children of Earth. I’ve read RTD’s explanation for that and it’s stupider than electric eels in a Norse village.
JC: Oh god the eels. I know you brought them up first thing but that’s mind boggling enough for me to mention them again. Just… why??
JA: Literally five seconds on Google.That’s all it would have taken. (editor’s note: we can even google it for you.)
They’re only off by three or four thousand miles.
JC: I feel like this could’ve also easily been a historical. Replace aliens with invading vikings, replace actual vikings with Britons, and just think of a not stupid solution to defeat the invasion
JA: While I would have vastly preferred that, it would be a really different story. But yeah, I’d much have preferred evil Vikings over generic space warrior race.
JC: Oh, and get rid of the horned helmets. For my historian heart’s sake.
JA: My brother was really annoyed by the villagers calling themselves vikings when vikings was the word for raiders, not the entire Norse culture. It didn’t bother me much but I can see both these points. Not as big a deal as the eels.
JC: I caught that but let it slide. Okay so we didn’t like the eels, the aliens, the tone consistency, and then I didn’t like the face explanation. Anything I’m missing?
 JA: I think that about covers it. Numerical score?
JC: Let me check my explanation of scores from last week again…
JA: On that scale, it’s a 5, I think. I was going to give it a 6, but the scale says that’s “decent” and I think “meh” is more accurate.
JC: I’m going to cheat and say 5.5/10. Great set design, funny jokes, liked the monologue about stories and stuff. Didn’t like the aliens, eels, or explanation on the face. Damn it we have to stop being so similar….
JA: Let’s hope there’s some massively divisive episode coming up to make these more interesting.
JC: It’s like reading a transcript of the democratic debate vs the GOP ones.
JA: We need some kind of Trump figure here.“I could have prevented Love and Monsters”
JC: How about next week is a group discussion on Stardust or Sherlock Holmes?
JA: Or we could not kill each other.
JC: Aaaaaand this is why we’re not running for president as a member of the GOP
JA: Also the fact that I’m about as liberal as you can be without registering for the communist party.
JC: That too. Oh, and one last thing before wrapping up: a theory I’m seeing floating on the internets
JA: What theory?
JC: Asheildr will become the hybrid warrior and/or minister of war.
JA: I’ve heard that. I’m thinking not. I’m pretty sure the hybrid thing is going somewhere, but they keep planting red herrings. Clara was also referred to as a hybrid by Missy. And Davros referred to the Daleks with regeneration energy as hybrids.
JC: For the record, I’m thinking it’s a red herring as well. But if it’s true, you heard it here first, folks
JA: If it’s true, I’ll pretend I believed it all along.

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