The Doctor and Clara help Viking villagers defend themselves from a group of alien warriors.
At the tail end of an offscreen adventure, the Doctor rescues a drifting-in-space Clara and kills the brain-eating parasite in her space suit. He materializes the TARDIS on Earth in the year 851, where he and Clara are immediately captured by Vikings.
The Doctor tries to fool the Vikings, pretending to be their god Odin…but turns out another visiting alien has already assumed that identity. This Odin is commander of a contingent of Mire warriors, among the fiercest, deadliest warriors in the galaxy. Most of the time they’re shown wearing large, clunky battle armor, reminiscent of what the Judoon wear.
The Mire Ship
All the Viking warriors are teleported to a Mire ship where they’re killed to make adrenaline-testosterone juice, which Odin happily devours. Clara and a Viking girl named Ashildr were also teleported up with the warriors, but Odin spares them due to the advanced technology in their possession (Clara’s spacesuit, the Doctor’s sonic sunglasses). Clara tries to talk Odin down to get him to leave Earth, but Ashildr escalates the situation and declares war on the Mire.
Day of Preparation
Odin sends Clara and Ashildr back to the village and tells them in one day he’s sending his ten best warriors to kill everyone. The Doctor rounds up the remaining villagers and tries to make warriors out of them, but they really, really suck. After talking to a baby, the Doctor discovers there are electric eels in the village (for some reason) and includes them in his battle plan.
Villagers vs. Warriors
The next day, Odin and the ten Mire warriors arrive, but electricity from the eels screws with their battle suits. A MacGyvered Viking magnet steals one of the Mire helmets, which the Doctor places on Ashildr, and she uses it to somehow create frightening illusions to scare Odin and the Mire off the planet.
Use of the helmet kills Ashildr, but the Doctor puts a Mire chip (from the helmet) in her brain that brings her back to life and makes her immortal. “Immortality isn’t living forever,” says the Doctor, “Immortality is everybody else dying.” He leaves a second chip with Ashildr for her to make someone else immortal – someone she can’t stand to lose.
Another episode in a long line of Magnificent Seven homages in television. Some of the humor worked; I thought the Doctor’s nicknames for the villagers (Lofty, ZZ Top, etc.) were fun, and the Mire were nicely grotesque when unmasked. The Doctor speaking baby still drives me nuts, though, even if it wasn’t played for laughs this time.
I wasn’t particularly fond of Ashildr. She reminded me a lot of Jenny in The Doctor’s Daughter – a character introduced and constantly shoved in the audience’s faces as being super awesome and special, like she was being groomed to star in a spinoff.
Brian Blessed was originally cast as Odin in this episode but had to pull out at the last minute due to illness. Such a damn shame. It’s not the first time he was almost Odin, either. He was originally in line to play Odin in the Thor films before getting replaced by Anthony Hopkins.
Both the Mire chip and the helmet came out of nowhere and were convenient problem solvers. We’re not even told that the helmet can create illusions until Ashildr puts it on. The closest we get is the Doctor saying, in the scene right before the battle, that stealing a Mire helmet is key. “We get a helmet, and this is over.” That’s it.
As for the chip, what’s to stop the Doctor from raiding a Mire ship in the future and getting a stockpile of these things? They could be incredibly useful. And sure, as the Doctor says, immortality sucks, but then again, so does dying.
The Pompeii Connection
In this episode we also get an explanation, hinted at in Deep Breath, of why the Doctor looks like Peter Capaldi. In the Pompeii episode, the Tenth Doctor chose to disregard time travel laws and rescue that guy played by Peter Capaldi and his family. Assuming the Pompeii guy’s face was a reminder the Doctor gave himself that sometimes it’s okay to ignore rules if it means saving lives.
This explanation is a nice callback, but it’s pretty forced. Does anyone even remember the Pompeii episode? And honestly, did we really need this explanation? Next are we going to get an explanation for why Frobisher (also played by Capaldi) in Torchwood looked like the Twelfth Doctor.