“Shouldn’t we be…I don’t wanna say it…dead?”
Last week’s opener to Series 9 was a hearty mixture of the good and the bad of the Moffat era: a story of good ideas muddled by shoddy execution and too much excess! The cliffhanger included Missy and Clara being exterminated, and the TARDIS being blown up…all three of which were obviously going to be undone in ‘The Witch’s Familiar.’ Was there any doubt that Missy and Clara would turn up alive, or the TARDIS would appear undamaged? The true quality of ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’ lay in how ‘The Witch’s Familiar’ wrapped things up. But, like the first part, the second part was a mixed bag!
Of course, Missy and Clara turned up at the beginning of the episode. Was that the shortest apparent death to life time frame in Doctor Who history? There’s some mumbo-jumbo to explain how they survived, involving using the energy of the enemy’s rays to boost a transporter. But it was all typical guff, an over-explained non-explanation. The proceeding Missy/Clara scenes provided relief from the ‘main event,’ but was it necessary relief? There were a few laughs to be had, for example when they entered the Dalek sewer or Clara went undercover as a Dalek. Unlike Missy’s appearance in ‘The Magician’s Apprentice,’ she served some purpose in this week’s episode.
But have we had too much of Missy? Has her threat dissipated due to over-exposure? Her craziness becomes numbing after a while; irritating instead of beguiling. Think of The Joker in The Dark Knight; just twenty minutes of screen time, but those twenty minutes dominated the film (the film is noticeably weaker in his absence). Missy is a similar kind of crazy, and that kind of crazy needs to be given to us in small doses. It’s not Michelle Gomez who is at fault; she plays the character flawlessly. It the writing behind the character that’s at fault. However, there is a bit of threat redemption towards the end…
“Are you ready to be a god?”
As with last week’s episode, the main event was the elongated exchange between The Doctor and Davros. Save for an ill-fated escape attempt (which included The Doctor making a great dodgems gag!), The Doctor spent much of his screen time talking to Davros in a (mostly) scintillating dialogue. It was two enemies slowly coming to terms with what they’ve done in their history, and possibly seeing that they have more in common than either would care to admit. Davros, at one point, asked The Doctor “Am I a good man?” It’s a question we’ve heard The Doctor ask himself time and time again. Davros wanted to hear that he had done the right thing. I guess that’s something The Doctor wants to hear every now and again, too.
There was a sense of not only two enemies having a reconciliation, but a chess game being played between the two characters. Davros was more obviously exploring The Doctor’s weaknesses. He asked about why The Doctor ran away from Gallifrey, and mentioned a Timelord/Dalek hybrid (but I thought The Doctor only met the Daleks after running away from Gallifrey?). I’m sure the hybrid will come up again in Series 9. Of course, tempting The Doctor with the ability to kill all of the Daleks/insert enemy has been done before, but Davros’ spin on the temptation was that The Doctor could do it for no reason i.e. people/planets weren’t in danger. As with last week, I could have listened to them talk last week, especially when they veered into ‘frenemy’ territory. Capaldi and Bleach gave the best performances each have ever given in Doctor Who.
However, it was inevitably marred by a rather silly plan by Davros and a quick resolution that posed more questions than it answered. A typical Moffat resolution, if you will! We also didn’t see the resolution of last week’s other cliffhanger, The Doctor aiming a gun at child Davros, until the end of the episode. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a letdown. All in all, it was another mixed bag. ‘The Witch’s Familiar’ was carried by The Doctor and Davros having a chat! All the rest were necessary, but irritating, distractions. Once again, the threat of the Daleks has been reduced (if that’s even possible anymore). And we’ve had Missy shoved down our throats too much, and that’s only in two episodes! But at least there was a combination of the bad and the good. They battled, and I’m unsure of who won…
VERDICT: 6/10. The Doctor and Davros stole the show again, but everything else brought the episode down.
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(Click here for my review of Doctor Who, Series 9, Episode 1: The Magician’s Apprentice)