New to Doctor Who or returning after a break? Check out our guides designed to help you find your way!



The Woman Who Lived was the sixth episode of series 9 of Doctor Who. It was the first episode to be written by a woman since The Poison Sky in 2008.

It continued Ashildr's arc after her introduction in the previous episode, The Girl Who Died, and revealed she had her name changed to "Me". It also explored the darker aspects of immortality, the relativity of time and the short period of human lives being key focuses.

The episode is one of the few notable companion-lite episodes, which feature the Doctor travelling with no companions or with his companion on a brief break. Other key examples are The Deadly Assassin and Midnight.


Adventuring on his own for a while, the Doctor seeks out an artefact of great power that could spell disaster in the wrong hands: the Eyes of Hades.

However, he soon comes face to face with consequences of one of his past acts of compassion, when he meets an immortal he created, who has now lost all hope with a heart filled with centuries of pain.


In 17th century London, a stagecoach belonging to Mr Fanshawe and Lucie Fanshawe is travelling through the woods; it is stopped by a highwayman. The coachman recognises the rogue as the infamous outlaw: the Knightmare. The rogue manages to scare them into not resisting by revealing the glowing eyes of a "demon" in the forest behind him; the Knightmare tells them it's his accomplice.

Not too far away, the TARDIS materialises and the Twelfth Doctor departs, holding a Curioscanner.

Back to the robbery, the Knightmare demands something specific of Mrs Fanshawe; she seems to know what the rogue wants. However, at that moment, the Doctor enters the carriage; he greets everyone in passing, saying he is tracking something. The Knightmare, annoyed, tells the Doctor that he's in the middle of a robbery. The Doctor says he wasn't paying attention and asks for the robber to repeat himself.

However, the Doctor ignores him again, going on to say, "Usually, someone hits me at this point, but she's taking the Year 7s for tae kwon do." The Doctor's scanner leads him to a case on the back of the carriage, which the Knightmare attempts to stake a claim on. However, the carriage races off the moment they're both behind it. The Knightmare tells the Doctor that he's ruined his robbery; however, the Doctor tells "Zorro" that he bungled his.

With nothing else to do, the Knightmare unmasks, revealing himself to be Ashildr, who can mimic a man's voice, thanks to years of practice. The Doctor is surprised to see her, but is more surprised that she has forgotten her original identity due to the centuries that have passed; Ashildr now calls herself "Me" as there is no one who can remember her now.

Ashildr takes the Doctor to her home, where she reluctantly agrees to let him help her steal the object they're both after from the Fanshawes; she now lives in a mansion thanks to hoarding treasure over the years. She vaguely informs the Doctor that she now has an accomplice, whose glowing yellow eyes watch the Doctor from the shadows. Ashildr repeatedly asks the Doctor to take her with him to see the universe, but is turned down; after all, it's a bad idea to keep company with yourself or in this case, someone too similar.

Ashildr at Agincourt

One of Ashildr's flashbacks.

Ashildr reveals that she dislikes keeping company with other humans, as their lifespans are like smoke that can be blown away. However, the Doctor notes that she's tried to help humanity, even founding a leper colony; Ashildr points out that when she helped cure a village of scarlet fever, she was drowned as a witch by the small-minded people, but was able to swim away. The Doctor sees that Ashildr keeps several diaries, since her memory is still in its original human-limited form, thus keeping her from remembering everything that's happened. Ashildr asks the Doctor what it's like for a near-immortal like himself, to keep trudging through the centuries, losing all those who are important to him. The Doctor, seeing a foil to himself in the regard that he's lonely, explains about the pain; however, unlike Ashildr, he has come to live with it as living in isolation is much worse.

The Doctor takes time to read through one of Ashildr's diaries, where he learns that she attempted to have what any woman would want in a normal life: a husband and children. However, her immortality proved troublesome, as she returned years later to see an old, senile version of her beloved, and later lost children to the plague; the pain of these events was recorded, so she didn't have to keep reliving them through the centuries. However, the Doctor notices some pages were ripped out; there were some things Ashildr found too painful to remember. Outside, Ashildr takes to her accomplice, explaining that an alien like the Doctor would be useful in their plans.

Later, they break into the Fanshawe estate and find their prize: the Eyes of Hades, a glowing purple jewel. Escaping, they accidentally awaken Mr Fanshawe, who looks for them in the wrong direction. Ashildr is ready to kill for her escape, but the Doctor convinces her to escape through the chimney; she is less than happy with the idea but complies and continues prodding the Doctor with questions. Escaping into the forest, they are surrounded by other highwaymen, lead by the Knightmare's rival — Sam Swift the Quick. Swift thinks the Doctor is the Knightmare's sidekick and father, which annoys the Time Lord, who taunts the thief for the redundant title. Ashildr quickly disarms her rival, ready to kill Sam; she sees no point in his life anyway. However, the Doctor tells her not to, as it will make her an enemy of HIM; knowing what that means, Ashildr lowers the weapon in fear. Sam and his cronies flee.

Back at Ashildr's mansion, the Doctor wishes to meet her accomplice. He learns its a fire-breathing alien from Delta Leonis called Leandro. Ashildr and Leandro want to use the Eyes of Hades to open a portal to leave Earth, but it requires the life energy of someone to work. They considered using Ashildr's aged butler Clayton, but soon learn Swift has been captured and will be hanged that day. Tying the Doctor up, Ashildr sees luck favouring her when authorities arrive to check on "Lady Me"; she claims the Doctor is the Knightmare's sidekick and leaves, asking the Doctor just be imprisoned due to his advanced age.

The Doctor tries passing himself off as an undercover officer from Scotland Yard but realises it hasn't been founded yet. Seeing Ashildr leave with Leandro in her carriage, the Doctor tells the guards that the Knightmare is escaping and that he wishes to go to the hanging. The guards inform him there's a 20-pound bounty on him, which is a treasure compared to their pay, so they'd rather not take him to be hanged. The Doctor tells them where they can find Lady Me's treasure; they let him go and give him a horse in exchange.

Sam Swift

"As long as I keep you laughing, I still live."

At the hangman's noose, Swift is making jokes to buy himself a few more minutes; some of them are insulting but still funny. Leandro waits impatiently in Ashildr's carriage, yelling for Swift to hang already. The Doctor arrives, assisting with Swift's delay; Ashildr manages to overrule the comedy and get the hanging to begin. However, the Doctor uses his psychic paper to claim that Swift has been pardoned by Oliver Cromwell himself, successfully ending the hanging. However, the crowd is impatient to see someone executed and Ashildr takes matters into her own hands with Swift noticing that she's familiar somehow. She places the Eyes of Hades on him. Leandro reveals himself, breathing fire in triumph.

A portal opens, revealing Leandro was an advanced scout for his people, the Leonians, to invade Earth. To her own shock, Ashildr finds that she still cares; she asks the Doctor what she should do. The Doctor has Ashildr use the Mire repair kit he left with her on Swift, resurrecting him; the excess of life energy causes the Eyes of Hades to backfire and closes the portal. Leandro is vaporised by his fellow warriors for his failure.

In a pub later, Ashildr wonders if Swift is now immortal like her. The Doctor guesses that the excess that would have caused this may have been burned out in the portal closing, but is unsure himself; just in case Swift is immortal, he asks Ashildr keep an eye on him. It's at that moment that Ashildr realises why the Doctor won't take her with him; it's because her viewpoint is too much like his own, and he needs someone who sees things differently. The Doctor mentions having travelled with another immortal named Captain Jack Harkness, and that she may be running into him in the future. Ashildr then says she'll take the role most of the others that have met the Doctor have, protecting the world from his good intentions.

Ashildr in the picture

The Doctor sees a familiar face hidden in Clara's picture.

Later, in the TARDIS, the Doctor is playing his electric guitar, deep in thought. Clara arrives, and the Doctor accepts her hug. Clara explains that the Doctor helping her student, Evie Hubbard, with an "imaginary" interview with Winston Churchill paid off; Evie got an A. The Doctor looks at the selfie taken of Evie and Clara, taking notice that Ashildr is the background; he pretends nothing is wrong. Clara wonders where they're going, to which the Doctor says it's her choice; she asks for somewhere new and magical. After explaining there's nothing new and magical under the sun, the Doctor tells her that they'll be checking above it. Clara hugs him again, saying she's not going anywhere.



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.


Culture from the real world[]


  • The Doctor claims to be working undercover for Scotland Yard, before wondering if it has been invented yet.



Food and drinks[]

  • Ashildr drinks pomace wine when having time for herself.


  • Ashildr mentions Kent.
  • Sam Swift was to be hanged in Tyburn.



Story notes[]

  • The episode had the working title of The Doctor and Me.
  • This marks the first full-length Twelfth Doctor story to feature Clara Oswald in a lesser role, only appearing at the end.
  • According to an interview with Catherine Tregenna in DWM 492, the story is set in Hounslow.
  • Ashildr mentions that she fought at the Battle of Agincourt. The episode was first broadcast the day before St Crispin's Day, 25 October 2015 - the 600th anniversary of the battle.
  • Brian Minchin encouraged Steven Moffat to approach Catherine Tregenna. She had previously served as head writer on Torchwood and wrote Out of Time, Captain Jack Harkness, Meat and Adam.
  • Catherine Tregenna had been invited to pitch for the series before, but she had previously declined because she didn't think her emotive brand of storytelling suited the show. Now, however, she was persuaded by the unique nature of the immortal character, as well as by the opportunity to place the Doctor in a position of personal conflict as he confronted the consequences of his actions.
  • Catherine Tregenna began developing her narrative around the same time that Jamie Mathieson was working on The Girl Who Died. She was only aware of the basic details of Mathieson's story, but considered this to be sufficient because she felt that, after hundreds of years, Ashildir would have essentially forgotten her origins anyway.
  • Clara was largely omitted from the story in order to keep the focus on Ashildir.
  • No specific setting for the story was required, so Catherine Tregenna eventually settled on the seventeenth century. Inspired by the clever thief Twm Siôn Cati of Welsh folklore, she saw appeal in a narrative involving highwaymen; Steven Moffat had likewise wanted to pursue this subject for some time. The year 1651 was ultimately chosen because it saw the final defeat of the Royalist armies by Oliver Cromwell's forces during the English Civil War, and hence was a particularly lawless time.
  • In the original script, the Doctor and Ashildr did not break into the Fanshawe residence, but instead cooperated on a second attempt to hijack Lucie's coach. Leandro was the king of the planet Lavi, where the space-time portals his people utilised had attracted the attention of the Reapers. Ashildr gave the Doctor the surviving immortality-granting device, not yet defined to be a Mire battlefield medical kit, and he used it on himself in order to seal the portal.
  • Although Sam Swift was present in Catherine Tregenna's initial storyline, he became a more significant character as the script was refined. His attempted ambush of the Doctor and Ashildr replaced a confrontation with Roundhead soldiers; these characters became the two dimwitted pikemen who wound up rescuing the Doctor. Likewise, Swift took the Doctor's place as the recipient of the immortality device, although Tregenna was careful to leave some ambiguity as to whether he would now live forever.
  • A deleted scene would have depicted Ashildr leaving London during the Black Death and passing a man in a plague doctor's outfit, who turned out to be the Doctor.
  • The episode formed Block Three of season nine alongside The Girl Who Died.
  • Rufus Hound is such a fan of the series that he has a Dalek tatoo, which had to be covered with make-up.


Filming locations[]

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 and Blu-Ray[]

  • The Woman Who Lived 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.

A subtitling error on some copies the Region 1 DVD release displays the Doctor's line, "Of course!" when speaking to Leandro and Me as, "Oh shit!".

Digital releases[]

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

External links[]

Transcript of The Woman Who Lived on Chrissie's Transcripts Site