NEW DR WHO REVIEW : “The Magician’s Apprentice” & “The Witch’s Familiar” – S9 – E1&2/13 (Spoilers)

Riffing heavily on Genesis Of The Daleks/Tom Baker’s “Do I Have The Right…!” speech, The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar explored the idea of terminating a child. If that child was to grow up and become a despot, classic time-travel moral conundrum stuff.

Thrown in, was a good walk down memory lane, for the Doc and Davros. Who chewed the scenery for a good portion of this. It was good to see some nostalgic reminiscing between the pair, which had shades of the Tom Baker and Davros exchanges in Genesis Of The Daleks

Happily dispensing with Moffat’s usual cacophony of runaway plots, motifs and intermingled timey-whimey tie-ins; The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar went for a twisty drama-filled time-travel paradox story which tied in with the classic series.

In this case, it was a child Davros (Dalek creator); caught-up in the Kaled/Thal civil war and trapped in a deadly minefield of “hand mines”. A typically trademark – Moffat gross-out moment – a field of grey human-hands; sporting eyeballs.

The Doctor was passing though, as a potential saviour for the child Davros. Even flipping him his sonic screwdriver but taken aback when the child confirmed he was the child version of Davros. Talking of Sonic’s the Doctor has now turned them into a pair of sunglasses!!?!

A dying Davros contemplates whether he should have taken out an over 60's policy.

A dying Davros contemplates whether he should have taken out an over-60’s policy.

Who works best when it drops a time-travel conundrum into the mix. Especially, when that conundrum – in this case. Involves the incarceration of the Doctor and (apparent) Dalek extermination of both Clara and Missy – and the destruction of the Tardis. Fancy revisiting and rectifying that “save Davros” situation, Doctor?

In terms of a cliffhanger ending though, the Doctor was presented with the perfect impossible fix. Again, as Tom Baker’s Doctor also mused in Genesis Of The Daleks. If the Doctor chooses not travel into the past and destroy the Davros/Daleks, then it will also bring good to the universe by uniting races. So which was it to be, Doc? Clara or the Universe?

A nice touch of a dying Davros, playing all of the Doctor’s previous meetings – on screen; was a nice classic series touch. As if all of their various meeting were really an on-going slowburn chess game, being played slowly over the last 40 years of the show and building to this moment.

Dying Davros even bizarrely opened his “real” eyes to try and view the Skaro sunrise one last time. As we all assumes he was blind. This was not something anyone expected. Typical Moffat funpoke at classic lore (handbreak on the Tardis!?).

The Twelfth Doctor’s mission throughout season 8 was to understand, if he was a “good man” or not. The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar established that he was and he had a consciense. Deciding not to exterminate child Davros and infact save him.

Additional nice moments, included; were the classic series Daleks represented. So painfully missing from The Asylum Of The Daleks. Aswell as the unveiling of the Dalek city, which was a harkback to the one seen in Hartnell’s; The Daleks.

We finally got some background into how planet Skaro came back after being vapourised by the Hand Of Omega. Even if it was just that the Daleks rebuilt it. The classic looking Dalek city, from The Daleks was a nice touch.

Missy being back for this double header, was a nice touch as a temporary Doctor companion and Michelle Gomez continues to impress with her demented Mary Poppins act. Assuming that she really is a female version of tbe Master. It would be nice to get some more backstory – or at least a tidbit on how this trans-gender regeneration actually happened.

Meanwhile on Skaro, almost every Dalek from classic to new series is cleverly represented.

Meanwhile on Skaro, almost every Dalek from classic to new series is cleverly represented.

Missy happened to mention – in passing – that she had known the Doctor “as a woman”. Which must be a sly nod to the fact that the next incarnation of the Doctor is probably going to be female. The Missy Master definitely seems to be an audience tester, for such a purpose.

The only thing not really working here was the multiple snake-man in a black hooded gown. Who was seemingly employed to courier the Doctor to Davros. Snakeface seemed unable to actually locate the Doctor, preferring to just go around asking all-and-sundry his whereabouts.

This was contary to the fact that a human cadaver Dalek had already located both the Doctor and the Tardis. Didn’t make a lot of sense, really!

Companion Clara had a reduced role in this, taking backseat to the Doctor and Missy love-in. Which worked perfectly well for me, after season 8’s criminal overdose on Clara Who and the Danny Plank show.

However, Clara being trapped inside a Dalek shell and trying to communicate but for the Dalek to keep saying – “exterminate”, was a clever piece of TV.

With last week’s extermination of Clara rapidly undone, at least we all had a brief moment of joy – as she went up in smoke. Clara has outstayed her welcome (case in point – she is now head of UNIT Earth/Alien relations!!) and with confirmation she is (finally) going this season. I wait with baited breath on the specifics.

Much in the vein of season 8’s excellent; Listen. The Magician’s Apprentice/Witch’s Familiar went for the jugular, with a spirited and pacy double opener. At least we were given a cliffhanger, after season 8’s over reliance – on one episode stories.

I really (really) hope that Moffat has listened and learned from season 8 and Who, is turning the corner. More importantly, giving Capaldi the material such an excellent actor needs to stamp “his” Doctor. Time will tell…..

4/5

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