Since Peter Capaldi’s first full episode as the twelfth Doctor, we’ve been left with a question. What’s up with the face? For those who’ve forgotten or perhaps haven’t seen the episode yet, in the tenth Doctor episode “The Fires of Pompeii,” Peter Capaldi plays a Roman whose family is saved by the Doctor just as the city is being buried in the ash that would ultimately entomb it. Doctor Who is not typically a show to ignore these kinds of actor overlaps.
When Colin Baker was named as the sixth Doctor, after playing the Timelord Commander Maxil in the serial “Arc of Infinity,” it’s explained away as the Doctor subconsciously choosing a face he recognized as Timelord.
When Freema Agyeman was chosen for the companion Martha Jones after having played Adeola Oshodi in the season 2 episode “Army of Ghosts,” it was explained as her being a cousin of Martha’s.
In fact, in the history of Doctor Who, this is fairly common. Peter Purves, Nicholas Courtney, Ian Marter, Lalla Ward, Colin Baker, Eve Miles, Freema Agyeman, Karen Gillan, and Peter Capaldi have all played previous roles in the show before being offered a major role. In the majority of cases, except for when (in Karen Gillan’s case) the actor is too disguised to be easily recognized, these repeat appearances are explained away. So, it was no surprise when, in “Deep Breath” this line of dialogue was spoken.
“Why this one? Why did I choose this face? It’s like I’m trying to tell myself something. Like I’m trying to make a point. But what is so important that I can’t just tell myself what I’m thinking? I’m not just being rhetorical here. You can join in.” ~ The Doctor
Finally, more than a season later, “The Girl Who Died” contains the answer. The answer isn’t game-changing in any regard, but it’s telling of Peter Capaldi’s character and fulfills a promise that we’re been waiting over a year for.
Aside from that revelation, the episode was an interesting romp with an unusual ending (for a two-parter). Maisie Williams is predictably incredible in her role as Ashildr, the Viking girl, and Clara’s character continues to shine through in that way nearly every companion does during his or her final season.
I know I’m looking forward to part two, “The Woman Who Lived.” Until then, don’t pick any battles you can’t win.