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The Girl Who Died was the fifth episode of series 9 of Doctor Who. It was the 100th story of Doctor Who since its revival in 2005. This episode introduces Ashildr.

The story was notable for revealing the origins of the Twelfth Doctor's face: he had unknowingly taken on the likeness of Lobus Caecilius, a man whose life the Tenth Doctor had saved. This marked the first time Doctor Who had given an explanation for the Doctor being played by an actor who had previously played a different role in the series. Colin Baker, who first portrayed the Time Lord Maxil, later went on to portray the Sixth Doctor; however, in this instance, it was never explained in-universe why the Sixth Doctor had taken on Maxil's appearance, or if the likeness was deliberate.


After an adventure and a half in space, the Doctor and Clara are kidnapped by 9th-century Vikings. However, to make matters worse, hostile aliens have also arrived in the vikings' village; they are provoked into declaring war on the village by a stubborn girl.

By the end of the adventure, the Doctor will learn where it was that he saw his own face before, and the reason why he chose it.


Clara is floating in space, desperately calling the TARDIS for a pickup. The Twelfth Doctor answers, but says he's too busy at the moment to help as the TARDIS is under attack by the hostile aliens attacking the Velosians. Clara then notices that something is in her spacesuit; the Doctor suggests it's a Love Sprite, a parasite that eats brains from out of the mouth, hence the name. The Doctor points out it's because she spent too long in the Spider Mines. He then asks her to list the four most interesting stars she can see: two whisky-coloured stars below a blue one and a green wing-shaped nebula.

Within moments of the Love Sprite getting too close to Clara's head, the Doctor materialises the TARDIS around her and takes off her helmet. Clara breathes heavily in relief. The Doctor chases the creature, squashing it under-foot. Clara wonders how things worked out on his end. The Doctor retorts he just saved an entire planet by transporting their attackers half-way across the galaxy and draining their weapons systems; not to mention saving a school teacher from suffocating/having her brain eaten.

The Doctor decides to land the TARDIS to clean his boot in the grass; he steps outside into a forest, bracing himself against a tree as he wipes the Love Sprite off his boot. Clara wonders what's to stop the aliens from attacking again, to which the Doctor says "nothing" but at least the Velosians will be ready for them next time. He explains that as time travellers, it's okay to make ripples, not tidal waves; Clara laughs, calling him a tidal wave. Realising that was a jinx, he retorts not to say that.

At that moment, they find themselves held at sword-point. The Doctor moans about not being in the mood for the Vikings, who surround them. The leader tells the Doctor that he and Clara are coming with them. Filled with his usual confidence and arrogance, the Doctor puts on his sonic sunglasses, gloating that what he wears on his face is technology more advanced than anything the human race will manage in the next nine million years. Unimpressed, the leader simply takes the glasses and breaks them in half. Seeing that he should have had a backup plan, the Doctor flatly tells Clara that they're going with the Vikings.

Two days later, the Doctor and Clara are dragged by the Vikings back to their village, enchained. For the last two days, which was spent on a rowboat, the Doctor has been lying to Clara about having a plan, to keep her calm. However, Clara has travelled with him long enough to know when he's lying. The leader gifts a girl named Ashildr with the right half of the Doctor's sonic sunglasses; she seems to think it's a weird eye patch. Clara wonders if the Doctor has a plan now, to which he says is the usual - "find the boss man, replace him"; he recites Clarke's Law to Clara, who wonders if it is "going to be the yo-yo again". To her surprise, she finds the Doctor has already freed himself from his cuffs using what he calls "magic".

The lead Viking addresses his father, whom the Doctor takes to be the village leader. Tossing his yo-yo at the Viking, the Doctor is met with blades pointed at him. The Doctor loudly declares that he's cross with the Vikings and that he's very, very disappointed in them; he tells them that he's taken human form to walk among them. When a villager asks for his identity, the Doctor tosses his yo-yo upwards, yelling "Surely, you would recognise the sign of Odin." The Vikings declare that the Doctor is not Odin and the yo-yo is not Odin's sign, to which he asks if they have actually met Odin and know what he looks like. As if responding to the Doctor's words, what seems to be Odin's face appears in the sky. Odin declares that the day of reward has come for the villagers; the Doctor yells "Do not believe this impostor" as he fails at a yo-yo trick, embarrassing himself.

Odin's Hologram Head

A better Odin shows up.

"Odin" declares the best warriors will dine with him in Valhalla. Armoured aliens teleport down, and begin scanning the villagers. They teleport the strongest warriors away. The Doctor explains they're not invading, but harvesting; children and the weak will be ignored. Outraged, Clara wants to stop them, but the Doctor tells her they need to avoid being chosen as this will let them escape. Ignoring him, Clara rushes over to Ashildr, whom she instructs on how to use the sonic sunglasses to unlock her cuffs. Unfortunately, the advanced technology is noticed, and they are both teleported to a ship hidden behind Odin's projection.

On board the ship, Clara notices that her cuffs are gone and that the warriors are impatient to meet Odin. The leader tries opening a door in front of them, succeeding only to be zapped into dust in the next room. A wall begins pushing everyone into the chamber, despite their best efforts to jam it with their blades. Clara and Ashildr manage to open the door on the other end of the chamber, barely escaping the next zap that reduces the other warriors to dust as well.

On Earth, Ashildr's father, Einarr, notices that all the chosen went willingly to Valhalla, while another says he wouldn't due to his fear of heights. Annoyed at their stupidity and superstitions, the Doctor tells them that homo sapiens are an intelligent species, so they should stop lying to themselves; they just got raided. Einarr tells the "false Odin" to choose his words carefully, to which the Doctor admits that he lied, but "the big fella in the sky" lied too "because what's the one thing Gods never do? Gods never actually show up!" When the Doctor says he lost someone important, Einarr retorts that he did as well.

Odin and the Mire

Odin questions Clara.

Back on the ship, Clara and Ashildr wake to find themselves in what appears to be a factory. Ashildr wonders why they are still alive. "Odin" arrives with two aliens, saying it's because of the sonic sunglasses; he examines them in his hand. He asks Clara to explain. Taking the Doctor's role, Clara says she's sorry for scaring the aliens, to which "Odin" denies. Clara knows he's examined the sunglasses and determined that they are from a civilisation far more advanced than the village, not to mention she's wearing a spacesuit. An alien brings "Odin" a vial of green liquid, which he then drinks. He reveals that the "nectar" was made from the warriors' adrenaline and testosterone.

Clara calls "Odin" a thief caught in the act, asking him to seek warriors elsewhere for his sustenance as "the universe is full of testosterone". She then asks "Odin" if he really wants to start a war, seeming to make him consider leaving peacefully. However, Ashildr butts in, declaring revenge for the fallen warriors. "Odin" laughs, saying he was almost fooled into leaving as "words are the tools of cowards". He tells them that ten of his warriors will attack tomorrow. Surprised "Odin" is being so idiotic, Clara asks for his reason. "Odin" says it's for "the joy of war"; his species live for the battle. He then removes his hologram face, to show his joy. Ashildr is left shocked that she has declared war on a monster.

Back in the village, the Doctor reads his 2000 Year Diary, learning the aliens are the Mire, one of the deadliest warrior races in the galaxy. Clara returns at that moment, explaining Ashildr's blunder. The Doctor tries explaining that the best option for the villagers is to run since the Mire will give up on trying to kill them if they hide out for about a week. However, he fails due to their pride; upon hearing a baby's cries, which the Doctor can understand as words, he decides to stay and teach the villagers basic combat, giving them nicknames as he hates to waste time learning names. Unfortunately, they are too blundering or questioning to be properly trained, resulting in accidents. Clara tells the Doctor to stop playing soldier and start looking for what he's missing - how he's going to win - because he always finds it at the last minute.

The Doctor comes across Ashildr, who is fighting a puppet of Odin. Ashildr explains she makes puppets and comes up with stories whenever the raiding parties head out, believing the right story will ensure their safety. She further elaborates about never really fitting in with boys or girls, due to the girls all thinking she's a boy and the boys all thinking she's just a girl. Her father, nicknamed "Chuckles" by the Doctor, consoles her, to which the Doctor allows them privacy. However, he then notices "Lofty" is stealing the baby. Ashildr explains that it's Lofty's child; he takes her to the boathouse to see the fish when she won't settle. The Doctor immediately realises why, calling for Clara as he rushes to the boathouse. The Doctor examines the buckets as Clara enters; she wonders if he got his hand stuck in something again because he's yelling. The Doctor explains he's found what he's missing and that no-one told them they had "fire in the water" - electric eels. Telling Chuckles to inform everyone that bedtime is cancelled, the Doctor goes on to announce that "there's going to be a war tomorrow" and that they are going to "win the Hell out of it".

They spend the entire night prepping for battle; the Doctor tells the group that they should look happier than their enemies as it assures winning and to always walk briskly as it makes them moving targets. He also adds to act like they know their enemies' plans, as sometimes, very rarely, they will be goaded into revealing them. Among the various items mentioned for the plan are anvils and the silver wiring from Clara's spacesuit. After the prep-work is done, the Doctor explains the plan - if they can get him a helmet from a Mire soldier, this entire thing is over; they can mop up the rest with Ashildr's monstrosity. The moment it's unveiled, Clara points out it's "rubbish", to which the Doctor smirks "I know".

The Mire

The Mire arrive for battle.

The next day "Odin" arrives with some of his men. They enter a barn, where the Doctor, Clara and the villagers are all dancing and having fun. When Odin points out that it's time to fight, the Doctor says they decided to have a party and there's not a single weapon in the barn. "Odin", desiring a fight, threatens to kill everyone as it wouldn't be the first time the Mire caused a senseless slaughter of innocent and unarmed people. During this time, Lofty has been tossing rings on the Mire suits, failing at six; the Mire are briefly startled.

On the Doctor's cue, Chuckles startles a bucket of eels; their electric charge is channelled into the barn by the wiring taken from Clara's spacesuit, rendering six of the Mire suits immobile. The villagers run out as the Doctor cues Chuckles to startle the next bucket, which turns an anvil hanging above the Mire into a magnet that takes their helmets and blasters. Yelling for the magnet to be turned off, the Doctor takes a helmet, while Clara takes a blaster to hold the Mire at bay. The Doctor quickly gives the helmet to Ashildr, who uses the visual link to trick the Mire into thinking a puppet of a sea monster is a real one attacking them. All but "Odin" teleport back to the ship. Ending the ruse, the Doctor shows "Odin" the recording of this embarrassment on Clara's phone, which has been made funnier by adding "The Benny Hill Theme"; he threatens to upload it to the Galactic Hub (and thus ruin the Mire's reputation) if they don't leave peacefully. "Odin" threatens the Doctor's actions will not go unpunished but is teleported back to his ship by the Doctor, who has hacked the system.

Mire Spaceship

The Mire flee.

Without any further conflict, the Mire leave the Earth. The villagers rejoice in their victory. However, the Doctor discovers that using the Mire helmet has drained Ashildr's heart, leaving her dead; he had not foreseen it would take such a toll.

The Doctor is left brooding about the loss, with Clara trying to comfort him, saying that he couldn't have saved her. He snaps back, saying he can do anything, but the Laws of Time prevent him from doing so. Looking at his reflection, the Doctor suddenly remembers back to when he first saw it, wondering once more "who frowned me this face?" Suddenly, the memory comes back to him; Donna Noble encouraged him to always try to at least save someone even in a fixed point, and he saved Lobus Caecilius' family from Pompeii's destruction. He tells Clara that the reason his subconscious chose this face when he regenerated was to remind him to always save someone, no matter how impossible or wrong it seems.

Mire repair kit

The Mire repair kit.

Rushing back to the barn, the Doctor fiddles with the helmet and pulls out a chip. He puts it on Ashildr's forehead and activates it, bringing her back to life; it's the medical kit for the Mire soldiers. The Doctor gives her father a second chip, telling him it's for whomever she wants. He explains to Clara that the kit would likely keep repairing her, preventing Ashildr from dying; the second chip is to prevent her from being alone for eternity.

Returning to the TARDIS, the Doctor is left wondering if he did the right thing; when he's emotional, he makes mistakes. Clara assures him everything will be fine because what he did was born of good intentions. Brooding again, the Doctor says, "Time will tell, it always does." However, he then realises that his actions have turned Ashildr into a hybrid.

Ashildr is then seen in a montage of time passing her by, but with age never affecting her. As time goes by, her smile is slowly replaced with a grim stare...




General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics



General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.


Theories and concepts[]

  • The Doctor references Clarke's Law, which states that "any sufficiently advanced form of technology is indistinguishable from magic".


  • The Doctor mentions the number 9000000.

The Doctor[]


  • Heidi has Haemophobia, which he later "upgrades" to a fear of even the mention of blood.



Popular culture[]


  • The willing, but incompetent Vikings evoked Dad's Army. In fact, Clara even made the comparision in a deleted scene.
  • Jamie Mathieson took inspiration from 1980s adventure shows like The A-Team and MacGyver, in which the heroes were often forced to use everyday items in clever ways to save the day.
  • The idea of training villagers to defend themselves against an enemy was inspired by The Magnificent Seven.

Story notes[]

  • The episode had the working titles of Valkyrie, The Allfathers Army and Ragnarok.
  • The clock gear tunnel at the start of the opening titles is slightly darker in this episode.
  • This story features the use of footage from The Fires of Pompeii and Deep Breath when the Twelfth Doctor finally realises where he got his face. The sequences includes spoken dialogue by Catherine Tate as Donna Noble and David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor.
  • This is the third episode in a row in which the Cloister Bell rings, the first time this has happened on the show.
  • The FX shot of Clara floating in space was seen in the "Next Time" trailer at the end of Before the Flood where it was shown in an incomplete state. The shot as seen in the episode itself is complete.
  • The Radio Times programme listing was accompanied by a small colour head-and-shoulders shot of Ashildr dressed in armour during the Battle of Agincourt, as seen in flashback during the following episode, The Woman Who Lived, with the accompanying caption "Doctor Who / 8.20 p.m. / Viking girl Ashildr (Maisie Williams) becomes the focus of the Doctor's attention".
  • Brian Blessed was originally cast as Odin, but he was diagnosed with a heart condition after collapsing on stage during a performance of King Lear and was forced to withdraw.
  • Several of Jamie Mathieson's suggestions mirrored elements of Under the Lake/Before the Flood, which Toby Whithouse was already in the process of writing. Another proposal involving the Zygons was rejected because the aliens were already earmarked for a mid-year return in the serial that became The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion. Steven Moffat had been keen to develop a story in which the Doctor encountered Vikings and this notion was offered to Mathieson as a starting point.
  • The narrative originally began with the Doctor taking Clara to visit the island of Lindisfarne, the site of an infamous Viking raid in 793. There they wound up being captured by Vikings, and Clara and the women of Lindisfarne were taken away to the floating city of Valhalla by Valkyries who served Odin, who was planning to use them to create a hybrid creature. Clara was brainwashed into becoming a Valkyrie, while the Doctor persuaded the Vikings to help him when their longship was attacked by another servant of Odin's, the sea monster Leviathan. The Doctor realised that the Valkyries' flying horses used anti-gravity technology, and he modified it so that he and the Vikings could attack Valhalla using Leviathan. Odin was eaten by the monster, and Clara and the other women were rescued. Ashildir, who was the village armourer at this stage, was still killed, but was resurrected by the Mire's technology.
  • In the second draft, the Mire disguised themselves as Valkyries to capture the fittest men and women from a Viking settlement, since Odin's goal was to capture strong physical specimens to swell the Mire's ranks. The Doctor challenged Odin, drawing the Mire into combat in the Viking village. He used various forms of trickery to defeat the Mire, and then saved the kidnapped townsfolk from the floating city by affixing the Mire's anti-gravity technology to a Viking longship. The Mire's armour had been established as playing a role in both the brainwashing of its occupant, and the unnatural extension of the wearer's lifespan. As such, part of the Doctor's plan to defeat the Mire was to use magnets to separate them from their helmets, thereby breaking the mental conditioning and causing the oldest to crumble to dust. Odin's true form was revealed to be a small, pathetic creature.
  • Ashildir was originally the woman responsible for applying the Vikings' war paint; she replaced an earlier character called Tola, whose name was given to Lofty's wife. It was then decided that Ashildr should be isolated in some way from the other Vikings, perhaps because she had suffered the death of a child or because she was the victim of an abusive spouse.
  • The script originally featured a different companion in case Jenna Coleman decided not to return for season nine.
  • In the third draft, Ashildr was Nollarr's wife, and she allowed him to pose as the village's carpenter despite the fact that she was the one who actually did the work. The Mire wore full-face masks of the type found in 1939 at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk. Their helmets were horned, as were the aliens who wore them, because Jamie Mathieson knew that this was a common myth about Viking armour, and he was amused by the notion that the misconception might have arisen from the Mire's appearance. Clara, but not Ashildr, was taken to Valhalla, where she discovered that the Vikings' corpses were being mined for sustenance consumed by the Mire. The Valkyries still appeared there, but were revealed to be holograms, and Clara escaped by parachuting back to the ground. The Doctor defeated Odin by freeing the Mire from his control.
  • At one point, Ashildr's immortality came about when the Doctor took her to the Sisterhood of Karn, where she was allowed to drink the Elixir of Life. However, it was felt that this extended detour hurt the pacing of the story's closing minutes, and the use of Mire technology was deemed more expedient; the cause of Ashildr's longevity eventually became the battlefield medical kit.
  • Brian Minchin cast Maisie Williams, having been impressed with her performance in the film Cyberbully.
  • The episode formed Block Three of season nine alongside The Woman Who Lived.
  • The concluding sequence depicting the ageless Ashildr was filmed at Roath Lock using a turntable.
  • A deleted scene saw the Doctor discover evidence in the ageing scrolls kept by Ashildr that the Mire had visited the village many generations ago. This prompted speculation that they may have been responsible for -- or at least had an influence upon -- the Norse religion. Also lost was a reference to Lofty's baby being called Brot, which was actually the nickname Jamie Mathieson had given his brother.
  • Sean Pertwee was offered the role of Odin.


Filming locations[]

  • Fforest Fawr in Taff's Well
  • Cosmeston Medieval Village near Penarth
  • Uskmouth Power Station in Newport

Production errors[]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.

to be added


Home video releases[]

DVD & Blu-ray releases[]

  • The Girl Who Died was released as part of the Series 9, Part One DVD and Blu-ray boxsets in region 1/A on 3 November 2015, in region 2/B on 2 November 2015 and in region 4/B on 4 November 2015.
  • It was later released as part of the Complete Ninth Series DVD and Blu-ray boxsets in region 1/A on 5 April 2016, in region 2/B on 7 March 2016 and in region 4/B on 9 March 2016.

Digital releases[]

  • In the United Kingdom, this story is available on BBC iPlayer.

External links[]



  1. A History of Humankind [+]Official Guides (BBC Children's Books, 2016). Page 172. states that Ashildr was originally from somewhere in Norway.