Since it’s “Back to the Future” Week and since this is a show about time travel, let’s go forward a few years to Comic-Con 2017. A place where half the “Doctor Who” cosplayers are dressed in opulent Restoration gowns or highwayman outfits, where black masks and red gloves are on sale at every table in the merch hall because in the future, Maisie Williams represents 60 percent of every .gif posted to Tumblr and fanfic archives are bursting at the seams with every conceivable pairing and plot for the glorious Lady Me.
This should be an episode that goes down in “Doctor Who” history. It’s so good, it could have been a two-parter of its own — just think, more flashbacks to Me’s horrible histories, more screentime for her devoted servant Clayton (the criminally underused Struan Rodger) and more dick jokes from Sam Swift.
It’s All About Me
Following the events of last week, plucky, possibly-psychic Ashildr has spent the past 800 years turning into Lady Me, a wealthy badass who has seen her friends and family die on her more times than she can remember. Literally — a beautiful touch from writer Catherine Treganna that acknowledges the problems of holding onto your memories when you accumulate centuries of them.
Her opulent mansion mostly seems to hold her epic wardrobe, stolen treasure and diaries from every life she’s ever lived, which is just begging for a tie-in novel. She wants to travel the universe, but the Doctor won’t take her. Luckily, she has a fire-breathing alien lion-man as a backup, and they’re on the hunt for the very amulet the Doctor has come looking for, in the hopes it will open up a portal to another dimension.
Bipedal Aslan turns on Lady Me, possibly because she made him sleep outside despite living in a mansion (not your best move for getting an ally on board, especially when that ally is also a lion). But that’s all so much subplot, because what we’re really here for is the Doctor coming face to face with one of his bad decisions. And really, this was a spectacularly bad one. The man haunted by his own immortality, giving someone else eternal life? That’s Missy levels of crazy right there.
Oh, Sam Swift the Quick. The boozing, womanising brigand who Me is now stuck with for eternity could have done with twice the screentime he got — a rare thing for the show’s comic relief. Whether punning to save his life or flirting with the women who have come to watch him hang — and how did they get away with jokes about him being well-hung on a family show? — he’s delightful. Let’s start a petition to get these sparring partners a spin-off.
Can’t Keep a Morally Ambiguous Girl Down
Just in case we might be worried that Me’s immortality might come to an unexpected end, she pops up again at the very end of the episode. The Doctor has helped Clara’s student with her homework — interviewing Churchill — and said student took a selfie on Clara’s phone to say thanks. But there’s a reason behind Clara’s casually unprofessional photography of her students — in the background, and in what might be the most subtle R.E.M shout-out in television history, that’s Me in the corner. She’s working the ’90s revival fashions like only a woman who lived through it the first time can, and it’s clear that she’s keeping track of her would-be protector and his friend — but to what end?
Me: “The patron saint of the Doctor’s leftovers.” That should sound reassuring and supportive, but instead it’s terrifying.
The Doctor: “Am I ill? Are you ill? Are you never gonna travel with me again because I said a thing?” It’s perfect, because you know the Doctor is thinking this whenever his current companion looks a bit serious.
Me: “Enemies are never a problem. It’s your friends you have to watch out for.” Like Missy, Me has a funny idea of friendship — but maybe that’s exactly what the Doctor needs.
Me: On life as a Medieval queen — “Mainly paperwork and backgammon.” There are definitely worse ways to spend your time.
Questions (Which Aren’t the Oldest Question)
Will Me be retconned into the entire series, from the First Doctor onwards? Will she be there to pick Sarah Jane up when the Fourth Doctor accidentally drops her off in Aberdeen, or to buy Martha a drink when she leaves the TARDIS? Will she make friends with the Ponds in Manhattan? If not – that’s what Photoshop is for. Get on it.
We also had a shout-out to Russell T Davies era-“Who” with Captain Jack Harkness — does this herald a return? It’s unlikely, but bringing him back to flirt with Clara and Capaldi’s Doctor, even if just for an episode, would be wonderful to watch.
Can Me and Missy team up to be fabulously dressed thorns in the Doctor’s side?
And finally — will Maisie Williams be back? Well, that one has an answer — she’ll be back in episode 10, “Face the Raven.” Let’s hope that isn’t the last we see of her.
“The Woman Who Lived” was so good it defies letter grades. But we’ll have to settle on an A.
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