Maisie Williams Isn’t In Westeros Anymore: A Look At Her Performance On Doctor Who



The way the media has been going on and on about it, one would think that Maisie Williams was the first and only Game of Thrones alumni to cross over to Doctor Who. That’s simply not true. Even as late as two episodes ago, Paul Kaye, who played Thoros of Myr, appeared as a Tivolian undertaker, Prentis, hissing out such one liners as “If you occupied us, you’d be home by now.” (Tivolians are a race that survive by being oppressed by others.) Iain Glenn (Jorah) played Father Octavian in Season 6, who held River Song prisoner until done in by a Weeping Angel. Diana Rigg (Lady Olenna) was in Matt Smith’s final season as the creepy Mrs. Gillyflower, and Mark Gatiss (Tycho Nestoris) is actually more of a Doctor Who alumni guest-starring in Game of Thrones. And the list of Thrones actors appearing on Who goes on, and includes Joe Dempsie (Gendry), Ben Crompton (Dolorous Edd), Harry Lloyd (Viserys), and my personal favorite, Julian Glover, who plays Maester Pycelle. In his much younger days, he appeared in the Old Who serial City of Death, with Tom Baker.

But Maisie is the first principle cast member to do a cross-over. Moreover, she’s not playing a small-time character who finds herself dead by the end of the hour. I mean, her character, a girl from an 8th century Viking village named Ashildr, did die before the credits rolled, but then the Doctor decided to play with the rules of life and death and commit what looks to be the cardinal sin that will reverberate throughout the season. In the process, he not only brought Ashildr back to life, but also made her immortal.

With such a prominent position in the season’s arc, it’s not all that surprising that the BBC has gone as far as to load up a “Maisie Cam” and send the actress around to reveal all the behind-the-scenes action from last night’s episode.

As some of you may know, I’m a huge Who fan (both Old Who and New), and cover the show over at my own place. Here’s what I thought of Maisie’s character this weekend:

I was trying hard not to expect an Arya-like character. Ashildr certainly wasn’t that–Arya  would never sit around and carve out puppets of such size, for instance. But there were parallels. Arya is a Westerosi misfit. Ashildr, in her most powerful scene, talks to the Doctor about how her fantastical imagination makes her “strange,” rejected by both the men and the women of her time. But though Arya has yet to play a fulcrum part in saving anyone, let alone the people she loves, both characters ultimately find themselves in the same situation, trapped in a life they didn’t expect or ask for, due to the choices of those more powerful than they.

By the end of the episode, the Doctor has recognized that he may have just made a huge error by bringing Ashildr back to life. Certainly we rarely see the powerful people in Westeros regret their decisions. Joffrey couldn’t care less that he killed Arya’s father in front of her, the rest of the Lannisters don’t care that her family is murdered, and no one has much interest in what happens to Arya, other than perhaps as a marriage pawn down the line. Most just assume she’s dead. Instead, Arya is becoming one of the most terrifying charcaters in the series so far, as she racks up more murders on both sides of the Narrow Sea.

The real question I have is how Williams’ character will develop next week. She’s now immortal, and as we see in the closing moments of the episode, has lived long beyond her natural life span and isn’t entirely pleased about it. Next week we rejoin her in a time period that looks to be somewhere around the 18th century, give or take.

It will be a chance for Williams to really stretch her acting skills (and her facility with costume changes if the trailers are anything to go by). Somehow I also think that, although her character is only slated to appear in two episodes, if this really is the Doctor’s “original sin” this season, her performance will be felt throughout the rest of the year. (There are even those speculating that she could become the next companion once Clara leaves at the end of this one. But considering Williams’ Game of Thrones commitments, I highly doubt that.)

Next: Filming At Riverrun Currently Underway, And An Unexpected Character Turns Up