Towards the end of “The Woman Who Lived,” Ashildr (Maisie Williams) tells the Doctor that someone has to look out for the people he abandons. “Who better than me?” she says. “I’ll be the patron saint of the Doctor’s leftovers.” She jabs him further, adding that while he’s “busy protecting the world,” she will “get busy protecting it from” him.
These not-so veiled insults strike at the heart of something that has plagued Doctor Who ever since the reboot premiered in 2005: The character is essentially an immortal, time-traveling playboy who takes on companions and makes new friends until he grows tired of them. Whenever the personal pain becomes too unbearable, he runs away and shirks responsibility, but the consequences always come back to haunt him.
Ashildr introduces a novel addition. She’s not another lovelorn female companion (Rose Tyler), nor is she an acquaintance-turned-friend whom the Doctor tries to avoid (Captain Jack Harkness). The latter’s name does come up in conversation, but unlike the undying Harkness, the former Viking maiden is someone the Time Lord thinks he ought to “keep an eye on.”
That’s because the Ashildr of “The Woman Who Lived” is nothing like the Ashildr of “The Girl Who Died.” She is no longer a faulty Game of Thrones clone meant to capitalize on the HBO series‘ fandom. Nor is she (nor was she ever) a regenerated version of one of his daughters. Instead, Ashildr has become something else entirely — an enemy.
Hence, when confronted with her new charge, the Doctor asks, “So are we enemies now?” It’s a valid question, given how the ninth season began with his meeting a young Davros, the mad scientist who will eventually create the Daleks. The Doctor gets a pass for asking, serious eyebrows and all. Especially since their conversation answers his question.
“Of course not,” Ashildr tells him. “Enemies are never a problem. It’s your friends you have to watch out for.” When the Doctor cautiously responds with gladness for having saved her, she retorts: “I think everyone will be.”
Considering how often Missy (and the Master before her) called herself the Doctor’s friend, it’s no accident that these final words with Ashildr were about friends and enemies. The immortal Viking can call herself the Time Lord’s friend all she wants, but he has been around long enough to recognize the signs — like when he sees her in the background of the selfie Clara takes with her student.
There are still six more episodes of Doctor Who left this season. There is no guarantee that Maisie Williams will reprise the role in any of them, but the character’s timelessness suggests that she will pop back into the Doctor’s life again. And since her parting words (and actions) are more threatening than friendly, it probably won’t be a happy reunion.