The look of this episode was fantastic, it involved gorgeous visuals that illustrated a time period we have scarcely explored in Doctor Who. I love the idea that the Doctor has followed the immortal Ashildr throughout history, keeping an eye on her. He is probably doing this partly out of concern and partially out of guilt. He feels guilty for damning her to the same life that he is cursed with, forever watching your loved ones pass while you stick around. This episode is predicated on a concept that features heavily in this genre but brings a fresh take on it, a unique way of exploring it. That concept of course being eternal life.
Ashildr’s evolution over time was masterfully done, the genius writing and skilful acting worked in unison to represent that she has become very bitter and far more mature than the last time we met her. This is a truly fascinating character, she has been alive for thousands of years, she has lived so many lives that she has forgotten her own name. Maisie Williams’ acting really shone through in this episode, what a fantastic performance. Not only that, the writing for her character was phenomenal. The “smoke on the wind” scene was particularly powerful.
There were some really big issues tackled in this episode such as Ashildr losing her children, it allowed Williams to show her skills more than the story of the previous episode. The Sonic Sunglasses are back, I’m warming to them slightly but I would prefer to see the Sonic Screwdriver back. The moment where he lit the candle with them was quite silly though. It doesn’t even make sense that he would be able to do that with them. The back and forward between the Doctor, Ashildr and Sam Swift during their standoff was extremely funny. Swift was of course portrayed by Rufus Hound, a very funny comedian and a big fan of Doctor Who. We also got a very funny scene from him that was a very literal representation of “gallows humour”. So many good one-liners were thrown around in that scene and his back and forth with Capaldi was fantastic. The big action sequence that ensued was an appropriate conclusion to the story, the idea of the portal being opened came to fruition in stylish fashion and events transpired that rounded the tale off in a satisfying way. “You think you don’t care and then you fall off the wagon.” Another brilliantly written line which seems to be referencing the Eleventh Doctor’s dark times after Amy and Rory were taken from him.
Leandro was a very good villain, he was genuinely imposing, unnerving at times and the special effects looked great. The mere idea of a lion man that breaths fire is cool. It is good that Hound and Williams have immortality as it means they can return at some point in the series’ future. I get the feeling there is more to come from Ashildr in the future, at least I hope so. Next time we are finally getting a modern two-part story focussing on the Zygons. It looks dark, intense and epic and I look forward to it with anticipation.