Doctor Who: The Girl Who Died

Doctor Who: The Girl Who Died October 23, 2015

I apologize for taking so long to get to blogging about the most recent episode of Doctor Who, “The Girl Who Died.” The episode was full of everything that I love about Doctor Who – silliness, serious reflection, connections with earlier episode, and religious themes. Spoilers ahead!

Many fans have been waiting for a key moment in this episode – the snapping of the sonic sunglasses. Many will be glad to see the last of them – although I suspect that the Doctor may still be able to fix them…using his sonic screwdriver. 🙂

The episode is full of interesting details for those interested in the intersection of religion and Doctor Who. The Doctor finds himself among vikings and so pretends to be Odin, only to have a big face appear in the sky behind him, also claiming to be Odin. The Doctor then admits that he lied, but emphasizes that the voice from the sky also lied, because the one thing gods never do is actually show up.

The discussions of the Doctor’s values, and the rules of time travel, are also poignant at times. I particularly liked when the Doctor says that it is OK to make ripples but not tidal waves, and Clara tells him that he is a tidal wave. The Doctor later says that he can do anything, there is nothing that he can’t do, but he is not supposed to. He then declares his intention to save Ashildr, and says that if anyone is listening and has a problem with that, “to hell with you.” He then uses a “repair kit” to bring her back – but since the repair kit will never stop working, he has not merely raised her to the dead, but raised her to potentially endless life. Particularly striking is when he gives her a second repair kit, because “Immortality is not living forever, it is everyone else dying,” and at some point she may find someone that she cannot stand to lose. Even though the introduction of the “repair kit” is a resurrectio ex machina, there is a plausible reason why the Doctor hasn’t used one before, and it allows for the exploration of interesting topics, such as immortality, loss, omnipotence, and resurrection.

What did you think of “The Girl Who Died”? What did you think of its exploration of religious themes?

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  • Kubricks_Rube

    This was the season’s best episode by far, replaying the through-line of The Fires of Pompeii to The Waters of Mars– of skeptical savior fretting the ripples to Time Lord Victorious embracing the tidal wave- in just a couple of act breaks. I can’t wait to see how this plays out.

    • Jabberwock

      Yes, the Time Lord Victorious is just how this seemed, but I see the Dr more as vulnerable human, testing his boundaries, seeing how far he can go, arrogantly deciding the rules don’t apply when he’s doing something he thinks is good, not seeing the slippery slope Moffat is building for him, to a consequence (or Truth or Consequence?) that he can’t fix. Sometimes he seems more Saul of Tarsus than Paul.

  • Odin not Thor

    • Of course, quite right. I can only think this is a result of having also been watching season 2 of Stargate SG-1…

  • Jabberwock

    James, what did YOU think about the religious ideas within the episode? (Yes I noticed you cleverly avoided discussing the ideas while getting away with just quoting occurrences… and a bit of latin). I noticed you linked it with resurrection – why? The heart stopped, not necessarily brain death, so why resurrection? Isn’t that a bit of a romantic notion?

    • I found the treatment of religious themes interesting and provocative. The truth is that most religions tell stories about times when God or the gods walked among us in the distant past, which seem different from our present experience of reality. I appreciated the Doctor articulating it so bluntly, and highlighting the potential for the expectation that the gods will show up to be hijacked and used to manipulate us.

      As for the reference to resurrection, being not merely restored to life, but restored to life never to die again, is a key distinction between resuscitation and resurrection, is it not?

      • Andrew M. Sheppard

        Exploring myths is nothing new for that series; if anything, the show reminds us that it is our collective tendency to invoke ‘the supernatural’ to assuage our fears of what can’t be _immediatly_ explained. Meanwhile, the supposed ‘deity’ in question has some glaring limitation showing how feeble it really is. 2005-S02E09[179B] is a solid example of this.

        … sort of like how a Christian’s ‘salvation’ is contingent on a supposedly omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent deity so incompetent, so inept, it had to sacrifice _itself_ *to itself* in order to _nullify_ a rule *it created*.

        What blazing absurdity.

        “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, & by rulers as useful.” — generally attributed to Seneca (ca. 4 BC–AD 65)