Coming off another harrowing adventure, The Doctor and Clara find themselves arriving in a viking village tormented by a false god. Caught in the midst of an impending siege, they must prepare the good people for a battle with an enemy unlike any they've ever seen.
We open with The Doctor and Clara wrapping up a previously unseen adventure, this time with Clara floating in space alone…save for the brain-eating alien spider in her space suit! Bringing his wayward companion to the safety of the TARDIS, The Doctor lands in a woodland area of Earth, if only to wipe the spider entrails from the heel of his shoe. Upon their arrival, they are intercepted by a gang of roving vikings, giving us the "where" and "when" of their destination. Once captured and taken to their village, The Doctor attempts to take advantage of the primitive culture and bemuse them with a display of his god-like "power" (namely, whipping out his trusty yo-yo), only to be upstaged by a massive, bearded face materializing in the clouds. The figure claims to be the actual Odin promising the warriors below a soldier's paradise in the mighty banquet halls of Valhalla. As groups of vikings are being teleported away, Clara and a local girl, Ashildr, are taken as well, leaving The Doctor powerless to stop it.
Recognizing immediately that the cold, metallic interior in which they've found themselves is not Valhalla in the slightest, Clara attempts to find an escape. Despite her best efforts, only she and Ashildr manage to find an entrance to the apparent spaceship, unable to prevent the vikings from being vaporized in the trap behind them. Once inside, they encounter this "Odin" who proceeds to drink a vile of green fluid, claiming its the combined essences of the mighty warriors he had just slain. Clara, imploring him to leave in peace now that he has what he sought, is interrupted by Ashildr. Horrified by the slaughter of her people, she demands a fight, to which he accepts and sends them both back to tell her people of his impending siege in 24 hour's time.
The Doctor, now expecting a raid from the warrior race known as the Mire, insists on the villagers fleeing. Naturally, they refuse, leaving him no choice but to train a cowardly platoon of farmers and fishermen the art of combat in the span of a day. One blunderous exercise after another renders the new vikings no closer to victory than when they started. Hope relied squarely on The Doctor falling back on his time-tested strategy: be as ridiculous and unexpected as possible. He hatches a plan to humiliate the Mire; spilling not their blood, but their reputation as mighty invaders. After disabling Odin's soldiers with electric eels (yes, you heard right!), he has Ashildr use the Mire's technology to mentally project a dragon hologram over a wooden puppet, all the while recording Odin's terror so as to threaten him with broadcasting the footage across the universe. Unfortunately, their victory proves hollow. As the titular endeavor promises, Ashildr is overwhelmed by the otherwordly technology and does not survive the process. Devastated by his folly, The Doctor damns the rules he swore to abide, and uses an alien chip implant to actually resurrect her.
The Girl Who Died was definitely a fun episode with a lot of laughs and creative plot devices. The shout-out to Peter Capaldi's initial appearance during the David Tennant era not withstanding, the whole story felt tacked on for the sake of setting up the story they actually want to tell in the second part. Having Game of Thrones regular, Maisie Williams (as Ashildr), was certainly a plus, but its hard not to wonder if having more guest stars is just to distract from their attempt to stretch every plot across two episodes for this entire season. As much as showrunner, Steven Moffat, wants to experiment with the format, some elements should remain intact. Its hard not enjoy seeing a viking walk up to The Doctor…and snap his sonic sunglasses in half! The sonic screwdriver was replaced with the wearable tech no sooner than the first episode, much to the disgust of the general viewership. Now that they're out of commission, we can only hope this was a sly attempt at easing us into an updated sonic screwdriver, should we be so fortunate.