(Warning; Spoilers if you have not seen/heard/talked/read about the 2015 Doctor Who season.)
There is one other human woman with a TARDIS, and she is immortal, courtesy of the Doctor. Her name is Ashildr, and she entered the Doctor’s storyline in 2015 (our time). She is, in one sense, his creation; once a friend, once an enemy (like so many of the Doctor’s acquaintances) and, like Jenny Who, a character who has a place in the ongoing Doctor Who television world if the Writers-That-Be desire it.
Fans met Ashildr in “The Girl Who Died.” Ashildr , played perfectly by Maisie Williams, is a young Nordic woman in a village that survives by viking – going on raids. The Doctor and Clara get stranded there just as the Mire, a warrior race, show up and challenge the village to a battle. The Mire plan to harvest adrenaline and testosterone from the male warriors; it’s a performance-enhancing-drug for them. Clara nearly persuades them to leave, but Ashildr, enraged by the shameful slaughter of many of the warriors, challenges the Mire and the fight is on.
Ashildr is a skald, a gifted storyteller who creates and manipulates puppets to enhance her stories. The Doctor comes up with a way to use the electricity generated by captive electric eels, and Ashildr’s storytelling, to overload the Mires’ high-tech battle helmets. The “battle” is a rout and Clara films it all on her phone –the universe’s most savage warriors running from puppets. The doctor threatens to release the footage universe-wide and make a laughingstock of the Mire unless they leave Earth forever. Unfortunately, Ashildr has died in the battle, killed by the helmet she wore to augment her stories.
The Doctor uses nano-tech from the Mire to bring her back to life. It seems like a gift; but the Doctor tells Clara that Ashildr may now be immortal, and that is more of a curse.
In the next episode, “The Woman Who Lived” we see Ashildr, who now goes by Lady Me, in early 19th century England. Ashildr has an immortal lifespan, but the memory of a human, so she has filled her house with hundreds of journals she has kept. She is angry with the Doctor because, knowing what he had done, he abandoned her and never came back for her. It turns out it’s worse; the Doctor stopped several times to see how she was doing, but never revealed himself to her or offered to take her with him. In her current lifetime, Me is a highway robber. The Doctor muses that the last time he checked, she’d run a colony for lepers. He seems to be treating her like a broken toy, not like a person. By the end of the episode, Me has regained some human compassion and a conscience, and the Doctor has slightly acknowledged his failing.
Ashildr appears twice more during the season, and in “Face the Raven” she is clearly the Doctor’s adversary, engaging in actions that lead, indirectly, to the death of Clara Oswald. The Doctor wants to blame Ashildr. He really wants to blame her. He tells her the next time she sees him, the universe may become a very small place.
Ashildr’s role in “Face the Raven” is that of a headwoman or mayor of a secret community of “others” hidden in London. Powerful forces threatened her community, and betraying the Doctor is the only way she could protect the people she had adopted. And Clara’s death was brought about by Clara’s own actions, based on her experience that the Doctor would always save her.
Ashildr is a character of community. We see her two strengths, (although very little of one of them); she is a community leader, and an artist. As a storyteller, she is the type of artist whose work most immediately involves others; the audience, the community. As the mayor of Trap Street, we see Ashildr doing what she was probably destined to do before the Doctor interfered. A person whose purpose is to serve a community, Ashildr is antithetical to the Doctor, the essential loner. Yes, the Doctor always wants an assistant or a “companion,” but he does not function well in groups and he flees them. He has fled the length and breadth of reality, and time itself, to escape community (even if the Time Lords were a hideous community, which is how it seems,) while Ashildr draws strength from them and lends her strength to them. She is a true “community organizer.” I loved Trap Street and I loved this aspect of Ashildr, although I want to see more of the skald and the puppeteer.
By the end of 2015 season, the Doctor has come around, somewhat, and he and Ashildr are cautious allies. And (more spoilers) at the very end of the season, Ashildr and Clara (yes, I know she’s dead, just go with it) are tooling around the universe in a TARDIS they liberated from Gallifrey. Ashildr doesn’t need a TARDIS, though. She is interesting enough just as she is.
Clara Oswald’s story is fully wrapped up, now, but there is a place for Ashildr, if not in Doctor Who, then in the upcoming spinoff Class. The gifted children of Coal Hill School, who apparently can get some tutoring from The Doctor, could probably use the knowledge acquired by an immortal now and then. In fact, she may even have donated her journals to them. Or, maybe not, and maybe there’s a field trip to ask to see her journals. I don’t want Ashildr to become one of those annoying, convenient immortal characters who exist only to provide info-dumps; but her real-world experience might come in handy. Even better, the people she has gathered around her in Trap Street; Ood, Cybermen, and other recognizable races from this universe, may have knowledge the school needs. Ashildr, a smart, prickly protector of the vulnerable who, over nearly one thousand years, may not have drifted so far from her “viking” roots, would be a fun intermittent character for the faculty and students to have to navigate.