Cast your mind back to the Summer and in particular the Doctor Who series nine trailer. It ended with Maisie Williams removing a mask, the Doctor looking on in shock as the young actress uttered: “What took you so long old man?”. This sent Doctor Who fans into meltdown. Everyone seemed to have their own theory as to who the Game of Thrones star could be playing. Could she be Susan, William Hartnell’s Doctor’s granddaughter? That would certainly explain why she asked what took the Doctor so long. Could she be Jenny, the tenth Doctor’s biological daughter? That theory would justify her calling the Doctor “old man”. Whoever she was, we knew her and the Doctor were familiar. Those two theories were the most popular, but did her true identity live up to the hype? Well in short, no.
Before episode five of series nine aired, we knew this was when we would get our first look at Maisie Williams in Doctor Who. She was debuting in “The Girl Who Died”, and there was intrigue around the episode due to her appearance, along with the title of the episode and the following episode’s title “The Woman Who Lived”. Would Williams’ character be the character who died and then came back to life as the consecutive titles suggested she might? Well she was, but it turned out to be rather strange. Focussing on “The Girl Who Died”, William’s character, Ashildr, seemed to be a bog standard character in a bog standard Doctor Who story. There were unusual moments where the Doctor seemed to be fascinated by Ashildr and it was unexplained as to why. At the end of the episode, it was very interesting to see why the Doctor’s latest face was one he recognised, a good development in the anomaly that is regeneration. However, what followed was out of character for Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, arguably the darkest incarnation of the character. Why was he so distraught at the death of Ashildr after managing to save the rest of the village? We all know how much the Doctor values his inpregnable relationship with Clara. So why did the Doctor use a rare immortality capsule for Ashildr rather than his trusty companion? It just didn’t seem like a natural thing for the Doctor to do, especially as he, along with the viewers, could sense Clara’s increased urge for adventure and risk could lead to her death in the near future. He also then gave up a second one of these capsules, just so Ashildr could have someone with her forever. This random act of kindness seemed out of keeping with Capaldi’s Doctor’s persona. Wasting two of these precious objects on someone he’d just met also appeared as though Moffat was desperate to keep Williams in the show.
Moving on to the next episode, “The Woman Who Lived”, we saw Ashildr again. She was now going by the name “Me” and her character was very different to the one we saw the previous week. Although 800 years had passed, it was a bit bizarre to see such a contrast in her character. She had gone from a girl who was selfless and loving of her village and family, to a heartless criminal who had forgotten her previous surroundings and family and recorded her life in a series of journals. Ok, so 800 years is a long time, but would anyone just forget completely their strong love for their surroundings and loved ones? Throughout the episode, Me was never very likeable. She was arrogant, dismissive and selfish. Even at the conclusion when she finally started to care again, it was too late to make her character seem like she was on the Doctor’s side. The scene in the tavern afterwards between her and the Doctor was nice, but it was still a struggle to view Me as someone you could trust. When the Doctor spotted her in a photo Clara had taken in modern day Earth, it added a renewed sense of the unknown around the character. Why was she hanging around Coal Hill where Clara taught? It was a new mystery that I hoped would end in a more satisfying way than her first one.
Placing the scene from “The Woman Who Lived” (mentioned in the introduction) into the trailer seemed to be a sly move from Moffat and the marketing team. It turned out to be a normal scene that was in no way groundbreaking. Its inclusion in the trailer was no more than an attempt to try to attract Game of Thrones fans to watch the show and in the end, the reveal of who she was turned out to be disappointing.
When Ashildr/Me reappeared again in “Face the Raven” it seemed too soon. And by the end of the episode it was clear it was too soon. Her role in this episode as a sort of peace keeper on Trap Street could have been done by literally anyone and her inclusion was completely unnecessary. She was even harder to like when she was unable to save Clara from her death. Throughout the episode her presence did nothing to boost the story or enhance the entertainment. The Doctor’s final display of rage towards her at the end, before he departed for his endurance test in “Heaven Sent” was satisfying to watch as it reflected what I, and I’m sure lots of other viewers were feeling about her. At the end of the episode I didn’t think we’d see Maisie Williams again in series nine. Sadly, I was wrong.
If her appearance in “Face the Raven” was pointless, then there isn’t a word yet to describe why she was in the series finale “Hell Bent”. When the Doctor arrived at the end of the universe to find Me or whatever she chose to call herself by then, just casually sitting in an armchair, I was expecting the big reveal of what the hybrid, that was teased by Moffat throughout the series, was going to be. In the end, the Doctor and Me just discussed some theories of what it could be. After such a free flowing and exciting series, this was just one of the ways Moffat had let it down with the disappointing finale. Now we may find out more about the hybrid in the future, but why create a story arc about one only to theorise in the finale? This anticlimax rather summed up Me’s involvement in series nine. And Moffat wasn’t done there. The character that was ultimately responsible for the companion’s death then flew off in a stolen TARDIS with Clara herself. It just didn’t make any sense and her series ended confusingly.
Overall, Ashildr started off to be an intriguing character who had potential to be one of the key players in series nine and beyond. She may well return to the show but her storyline in her debut series didn’t have much substance and her character turned out to be irritating and unlikable. Throughout the series, the Doctor seemed to be unusually interested in her and there was no explanation as to why. After her appearance in “The Woman Who Lived” the interest around the character had returned but she was rushed back. Instead of returning just a few episodes later, her comeback should have perhaps been delayed for a series or two to make it more monumental. Her quick reappearance did nothing to add extra dimensions to the character or to service the series’ plot. It seemed as though she was thrust into extra stories just to service Game of Thrones fans and that was what was so ultimately disappointing and frustrating about her character.