Hello there! Today’s post is my first collaborative review of Doctor Who, series nine! I meant to post this earlier today – you know, BEFORE EPISODE TWO AIRED – but I had to study. And studying comes first. SO. I’m actually writing this first part of the post last… and as soon as it’s been published, I’m going to go watch “The Witch’s Familiar!”
…and the Internet will be super super fast because there’s hardly anyone in the dorm today – they’re all at a football game. MEANWHILE I AM HIDING IN MY ROOM AND DOING INTERNET-Y THINGIES. As one does. LIKE SERIOUSLY MY ROOMMATE SPENDS ALL HER FREE TIME ON SATURDAY WATCHING FOOTBALL AND I’M LIKE “LALALA I’M JUST READING AND WATCHING TV AND WRITING.” This is the life, I’m telling you.
Matt is a teen blogger who likes to read, write, play Guitar Hero, and wait patiently for Maggie Stiefvater’s next book. He used to believe in Santa Claus, but then Judy Blume had to go and spoil that for him. His favorite doctor always seems to be the current one. He blogs at The Little Engine That Couldn’t.
Warning: Spoilers ahead, sweetie!
Engie: So. That episode. THAT PLOT TWIST. I was not expecting that. That was a hell of an opening episode!
Matt: It almost reminded me a little of the Impossible Astronaut two-parter, in terms of scale/importance. Hopefully this series’ arc won’t fizzle out in the same way.
Engie: I thought the whole episode would be about the hand mines. I thought we were getting a brand-new type of antagonist… when in reality, we got one of the oldest, most famous Doctor Who antagonists. Like, I thought it was really clever how the show made me freak out about the hand mines when they were actually just there as a distraction, right? Because this is a Dalek episode. I can’t even remember the last time I was THIS surprised by a plot twist on the show. BASICALLY I FREAKED OUT WHEN THE LITTLE BOY SAID HIS NAME WAS DAVROS. I think Moffat did a great job of tying this episode to “Genesis of the Daleks.”
Matt: I’ve never actually seen that episode. (I will one day, I swear.)
Engie: It’s about how the Fourth Doctor was sent by the Time Lords to the creation of the Daleks… to destroy them so they will never terrorize the universe, basically. But there’s a catch – he’s not sure whether he should do so. Can he just go back in time and essentially wipe out another species? At one point he says:
“If someone who knew the future pointed out a child to you and told you that that child would grow up totally evil, to be a ruthless dictator who would destroy millions of lives, could you then kill that child?”
Engie: And that’s what this whole episode is about. It makes for a really compelling story! And YAY FOR FOURTH DOCTOR REFERENCES LIKE YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW FANGIRLISHLY HAPPY THAT ME MADE. Also… usually when Moffat references earlier episodes, that’s literally all he does – he references them. There’s a throwaway line, or some sort of running joke about scarves and bow ties, or whatever. Here, though, he drew upon old material to create an entire episode – two entire episodes, actually – and I think he did a great job. Like, the reference wasn’t PART of the story – the reference WAS the story.
Matt: It kind of reminded me of the scene in the Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins, where they had to decide whether or not to kill the baby Bane?
Engie: OH MY GOSH I HADN’T EVEN THOUGHT OF THAT BUT YOU’RE TOTALLY RIGHT. And Twelve isn’t really going to kill Davros, right? I doubt he would murder a child. THEY WOULDN’T SHOW THAT ON TV. I think he’s going to try to, like, make Davros a better person – lead him in a different path so he doesn’t grow up to create the Daleks. But if he failed, somehow, then Davros would still end up being the creator of the Daleks, and Moffat wouldn’t have to rewrite continuity. Because if the Doctor does kill Davros, then the Daleks would never have existed in the first place…
Matt: Knowing Moffat, I wouldn’t be surprised if he just rewrote decades of Doctor Who canon. Whatever happens, I think there’s going to be some sort of twist in which the Doctor was a few steps ahead of Davros the whole time. There was a theory I read that what we’re seeing of the Doctor in this episode isn’t completely linear.
Engie: Speaking of linear timelines – or the lack thereof – I saw a theory I LOVE that maybe this episode really does show Clara’s death. I suspect Moffat is actually just trying to make us think she died, but it would be the ultimate fake-out if we thought that he was going to bring her back, and then he didn’t. Basically, the theory said that the story reverts back to an earlier part of the Doctor’s timeline – he doesn’t go back in time, but the events that we see from now on actually happened before “The Magician’s Apprentice.”
Engie: Then again, it may just be Moffat’s usual halfhearted attempts at making us think someone died LIKE FOR REALSIES THIS TIME.
Engie: I mean, I thought “The Magician’s Apprentice” would be about magic, but it wasn’t! What if it refers to something else? If the Doctor is the magician and he’s trying to change Davros, then Davros is the apprentice. Right? And episode two is “The Witch’s Familiar.” Soooo… Missy, right? With Clara as her “familiar,” because she was trying to be all friendly with her in this episode.
Matt: Yeah, Missy is totally the witch in that equation, and Clara is (sort of?) her friend, so I think Clara’s going to end up being really important in the next episode.
Engie: I feel like Missy thinks they’re closer than they really are, which is amusing. Like, she keeps being friendly to Clara and Clara’s just like, “Um… OK… you killed my boyfriend, but OK.”
Matt: I liked her “death is for other people, dear” line. I feel like that was just Moffat making fun of himself. It doesn’t fix the fact that death has no meaning on this show, but it made it easier to swallow.
Engie: MOFFAT GETS META.
Matt: I love meta Moffat!
Engie: OK OK IT’S TIME TO TALK ABOUT TROPES. Moffat, whyyyyy? We’ve heard that it’s “the Doctor’s darkest hour” OVER AND OVER AGAIN. The first time I heard that? I cared! But now? Now it’s just like… yeah, yeah, whatever. Moffat keeps trying to up the ante and it doesn’t work after the fifty gazillionth time. Also, another “death of the Doctor (but not really)” storyline? But we had that at Lake Silencio… and on Trenzalore… why do we need that on Skaro too?
Matt: Yeah, I rolled my eyes at that part too. At least he didn’t do that thing where you see a hooded figure that’s obviously the Doctor, and then the Doctor reveals himself and it’s like DUN DUNNN DUNNNN.
Engie: And Moffat used the “let’s kill characters for shock value (but not really because I’m gonna bring them back LOL JK)” thing again. Unless that theory about Clara is true, he didn’t really kill Missy and Clara. I mean, he “killed” Missy in the series eight finale and absolutely no one fell for it because he’s done that sort of thing so many times before… and when he brought her back in this episode, no one was surprised!
Engie: Character deaths on this show have very little emotional resonance because 99.9% of the time, they’re gonna come back from the dead, or they were never really dead in the first place because they teleported away like one second before the Daleks could exterminate them, or whatever.
Matt: I didn’t fall for that for one moment. I do think that however Missy and Clara survived, it’s the same way Missy survived the series eight finale. With the transporter thingy.
Engie: The Doctor’s death/darkest day thing just didn’t FIT, either. I think the Davros thing was more than enough plot! That created plenty of conflict, drama, et cetera – so why add the “death” of the Doctor? It felt like there was too much crammed into this episode. Sometimes one storyline really is sufficient. I mean, the Davros plot was by no means simple, so adding ANOTHER plot to an already complicated story just weirded me out.
Matt: Also, has UNIT always been so hilariously inept? Or is that just a recent thing?
Engie: OH MY GOD. That did feel weird. Like, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart is THE FREAKING LEADER OF UNIT and she needed to have things explained to her by Clara? IDK, man, it was just like… why was Clara-the-primary-school-teacher more competent at UNIT-y things than the actual leader? It did feel weird that Clara’s character development here came at the expense of another character. Kate has been competent in all the other episodes, so… I don’t even know.
Engie: So, what did you think of the episode as a whole?
Matt: I love it when Doctor Who does two-parters, and they usually have the potential to be amazing. Also, Missy’s back, and I love Missy. My main complaint is that I feel like the show was stalling a little. I feel like Moffat had this great idea for a cliffhanger, but not enough material for a full episode to get there.
Matt: The character dynamics didn’t feel stale, as I expected them to. I was really bummed out that Clara wasn’t leaving last Christmas, but I didn’t mind her here at all.
Engie: Clara’s still not my favorite, but I didn’t mind her here either. It’s unfortunate that just as she’ll leave the show just as she’s beginning to be written moderately well.
Engie: I… mostly liked the episode! I wish Moffat weren’t so attached to particular tropes, and I think the story would’ve felt less cluttered if he’d stuck to telling a story about Davros, but whatever. I loved the throwback to “Genesis of the Daleks” and thought it was a really good tribute to the Fourth Doctor – even better than the one in “The Day of the Doctor!”
Engie: This is definitely one of my favorite Dalek episodes, as well – on par with “Dalek” and “Into the Dalek!” A lot of the episodes with the Daleks are completely cheesy, but sometimes they’re really, really good…
Engie: Thanks for reviewing with me, Matt!
Matt: No no, dear Engie. Thank you. Tell your college friends that Matt said, “Yo.”
Engie: I will!
What is YOUR opinion on “The Magician’s Apprentice”? I’d love to know!