For most of "The Girl Who Died", I wasn't particularly impressed with what I was seeing. It was an amusing hour of Doctor Who and Peter Capaldi felt more comfortable than ever with more jokey material, but it all felt a bit too routine for me until the last act's weirdness elevated matters and cued up an interesting continuation in next week's "The Woman Who Lived".
That's pretty much this episode's plot in a nutshell, as "The Girl Who Died" favoured lightweight comedy over anything seriously dramatic or particularly exciting. The Doctor found himself having to train a village of feeble, incompetent people in the art of combat. He gave silly nicknames to the most promising soldiers left behind—such as 'Lofty' (Tom Stourton), 'Chuckles' (Ian Conningham), 'Limpy' (Alastair Parker) and 'Heidi' (Barnaby Kay)—and grappled with the idea of potentially altering history to an unacceptable degree by allowing simple folk to defeat a mighty alien species who'd probably have left them in peace had Clara not antagonised "Odin".
Quite what it all means is down to pure guesswork right now, but considering The Doctor seemed to recognise Ashildr when they first arrived in the village suggests she's someone he's met before, and has now become responsible for 'creating' in the past. Time-travel, huh. Some of these questions will hopefully be answered in "The Woman Who Lived", and likely feed into Series 9's mytharc more strongly as we enter the second half of the series. I certainly hope Williams gets something more interesting to do in part two, which seems likely from the 'Next Time' trailer of her dressed as a masked highwayman. Let's just hope she isn't just a weird, teenage amalgamation of Captain Jack and River Song, combined with a bit of the 'human puzzle' Clara was in Series 7.
- The divisive sonic sunglasses were destroyed in this episode. Forever, one hopes. The screwdriver is a far more iconic, visually exciting device to have The Doctor waving around. Shades are, well, just shades. Dull and commonplace.
- Director Ed Bazalgette makes his Who debut with this episode, although his prequel short "The Doctor's Meditation" was released before the premiere online.
- The Doctor's two-thousand-year diary is an upgrade on the five-hundred-year one he had in "The Power of the Daleks" and the nine-hundred-year one from "Survival".
- Ugh, that nonsense about The Doctor being able to translate 'baby-talk' is back. Look, it was a bad idea in "A Good Man Goes to War" and "Closing Time", so why is it still a thing? Can't we just quietly drop it?