DOCTOR WHO Series Nine Review: “The Witch’s Familiar” (Co-written With Matt @ The Little Engine That Couldn’t)

the witch's familiar posterHi! Today, it’s time for my second collab review of Doctor Who, series nine. Because the opening story was a two-part episode, I’m reviewing with Matt @ The Little Engine That Couldn’t once again!


P.S. You can find previous collaborative reviews of Doctor Who‘s ninth series here.


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!


So in my introduction to these reviews, I mentioned that I’d like to try something different this year? Like, different review formats, or focusing on specific aspects of an episode instead of trying to cram in every single thought we had on everything in the episode?

We both noticed a lot of parallels between this episode and older ones – like, so many parallels. With both Classic Who and earlier episodes of New Who. So in this case, Matt and I are going to discuss this episode in the context of all those parallels!


Engie: Twelve strongly reminded me of Nine in this episode.

Matt: I definitely see what you mean. I can’t really imagine the Tenth or Eleventh Doctors interacting with Davros this way. Ten would probably just yell and gnash his teeth, and Eleven would quickly go from joking around to making threats in that quiet, serious voice of his. But I can definitely see Nine having a similar conversation here.

Engie: There’s a Ninth Doctor quote that has been on my mind a lot lately, even before the episode – it was part of a list of things each Doctor has been called, and one of Nine’s names was “coward any day.” I’m not sure what episode that’s from, but I think it might be another Dalek episode? Anyway. This whole exchange just seemed very much in the spirit of “coward any day.”

TWELVE: I’m just a bloke in a box, telling stories. And I didn’t come here because I’m ashamed. A bit of shame never hurt anyone. I came because you’re sick and you asked. And because sometimes, on a good day, if I try very hard, I’m not some old Time Lord who ran away. I’m the Doctor.

DAVROS: Compassion then.

TWELVE: Always.

DAVROS: It grows strong and fierce in you, like a cancer.

TWELVE: I hope so.

DAVROS: It will kill you in the end.

TWELVE: I wouldn’t die of anything else.

DAVROS: You may rely on it.

Matt: I could even read it in Eccleston’s voice.

Engie: I mean, “because sometimes, on a good day, if I try very hard” – I totally thought he was going to go into some “Everybody lives, Rose! Just this once, everybody lives! Oh, I need more days like this!” thing.

the witch's familiar2.

Engie: Twelve also reminded me a lot of Four. Wait, what am I even saying? The entire episode – as well as “The Magician’s Apprentice” – reminded me of Four’s era. WHICH MAKES SENSE, BECAUSE THIS STORY IS BASED ON A QUOTE FROM ONE OF HIS SERIALS. The dialogue, and particularly the interactions between Twelve and Davros, felt so Four-ish.

Matt: I really need to watch some of Four’s episodes.  (I’ve never seen a full one.)

Engie: OH MY GOD. Yes, you do. They’re amazing. Amazingly ridiculous. They’re cheesy and they make me laugh and… they’re so much fun! And that scene where Twelve rides around in Davros’ wheelie chair? I could totally see Four doing that. OMG THE DOCTOR IS ADORKABLE.

Engie: One quote, in particular, reminded me of the witty/ridiculous banter and deadpan delivery of Four’s era.

“I hope you are grateful. It wasn’t easy to procure. And very nearly unique, of course. You should feel privileged… the only other chair on Skaro.”

Engie: OH MY GOD. Also, that scene where Davros tried to fool the Doctor, but the Doctor turned out to have been playing along with him? That reminded me of Four.

Engie: TBH, the only thing that would’ve made this episode more Four-ish would be if Twelve pushed Davros around in his wheelie chair WHICH IS A THING THAT HAPPENED IN CLASSIC WHO.

Engie: ALSO ALSO ALSO the quote about “where you dump some smelly old uncle/family pet/genius scientist that couldn’t even invent legs.”

missy the witch's familiar3.

Engie: Moving on to another Classic Who / New Who parallel… LET’S TALK ABOUT THE MASTER. MISSY WAS SO FREAKING AMAZING IN THIS EPISODE.

Matt: I love how she was funny, and yet she was so viciously evil at times. Like when she was trying to get the Doctor to kill Clara, that was so messed up. She reminded me of the Joker a little. (To be fair, the Master has always reminded me of the Joker.)

Engie: There’s a quote I love from Whovian Feminism’s review of episode one.

Michelle Gomez plays her with a peculiar charm. She’s got Roger Delgado’s swagger, John Simm’s intense and slightly unbalanced passion, and Anthony Ainley’s way of brushing off any inconsistencies about how he survived certain death.

Engie: And I think that’s so true. The Master – and here I’m talking about all their regenerations, not just the current one – is ridiculous and unhinged and unpredictable and swaggering. (I think I said this when I talked about her in my reviews of the series eight finale.) And Gomez just plays that perfectly.

Engie: Like, even down to the littlest things – not just what she says or does, but… well, I guess what I was going to say is related to what she does, but I’m not talking about her larger role within the plot. I’m talking about, like, her mannerisms. Like the way in which she carries herself, or how she looks when she’s happy. Little things like that. It’s cool, but it’s also really freaking weird because sometimes I kind of forgot it was her because she reminded me so strongly of an earlier regeneration.

Engie: AND AND AND THAT ENDING OMG. She acted like their bestest friend, only to try to convince Twelve that he should kill the Dalek-that-is-really-Clara. I read some reviews of “The Magician’s Apprentice” that said Missy was acting out of character, but she really wasn’t – she was just messing with them.

Matt: I kind of want the Master as a companion, even though that would probably get old real quick. Really, I just hope Missy’s back for the series finale, and then disappears for a series or so.

Engie: I feel like she’ll definitely be back soonish because of the whole “finding Gallifrey” thing.

Matt: Oh yeah. Perhaps that’s part of the season arc, eh? (Oh, who am I kidding, that’s definitely the series arc.)

Engie: BASICALLY I WOULD LOVE TO SEE MORE OF MISSY. But I also feel that having her in only a few episodes makes her more special, you know? Like Jack or River – you look forward to them because they don’t show up very often.

Engie: Hmmm, I’m checking Wikipedia and IMDb, and Michelle Gomez isn’t listed as part of the cast in any other episodes?

Matt: They’re probably keeping it secret. [Crosses fingers]

Engie: [Crosses toes] Yes.

Matt: [Crosses eyes]


Engie: In other reviews I’ve seen people describe the Missy/Clara dynamic in this episode (and the previous one) as a sort of off-kilter/demented version of the Doctor and his companions. AND I CAN TOTALLY SEE THAT. It felt a bit like Ten & Donna, if Ten were 34583453745 times more malicious.

Matt: Yes, definitely. Clara kept trying to trust Missy and it always ended terribly for her.


Matt: I guess Clara’s almost died so many times that getting pushed off a cliff is now just a minor annoyance to her.

Engie: Honestly though, I think she’s just… curious, because first she met a Time Lord, and now there’s a Time Lady, and she just sort of gets sucked into their adventures because oh my god these people are from an entirely different planet. And Missy is very charming when she wants to manipulate people into doing something for her, so.  In our last review we thought “The Witch’s Familiar” referred to Missy and Clara, and we were absolutely right.


Engie: The last thing I want to say about Missy – and this doesn’t quite fit into the whole parallels thing, but it’s close enough, so whatever – is that I loved her quote from early in the episode:

“Shh, now… OK, I’m going to tell you a story of the Doctor. It’s classic. On the run, no TARDIS. No friends, no help. In other words, the Doctor, happy. It was a long time ago. Doesn’t matter which face he was wearing, they’re all the Doctor to me. So let’s give it to the eyebrows.”

Engie: I love that. I thought it did a good job of showing that, really, his face or personality quirks don’t matter – no matter what, it’s always the Doctor. It doesn’t matter which face you imagine in which adventure.

Matt: Yeah, that was a sort of sweet moment. Slightly undercut by the whole “threatening to eat Clara,” part, but mostly that was a nice moment.



Engie: We were introduced to Clara – well, one of her echoes, Oswin Oswald – in “Asylum of the Daleks” over two series ago and OH MY GOD SO MANY PARALLELS IN THIS EPISODE. When Missy made her get into the Dalek wheelie chair thing and wired her in, I was just like “oh god I don’t see how this can possibly end well.”

Matt: The “Asylum of the Daleks” callback was brilliant. At first I was watching that with just a general sense of uneasiness, and then it hit me that this was how we first met her. I don’t remember exactly when, but somewhere during the scene I felt a chill run through me and suddenly I was convinced that Clara would end up getting trapped in the Dalek for good, and this would end up being the prequel to that episode. Sure, there’d be more than a few holes with that development, but I’d actually be pretty cool with that.

Engie: I was on the edge of my seat during all those scenes because I thought she was going to end up being a Dalek. That somehow Twelve couldn’t get her out of the Dalek, or that the controls would mess with her mind somehow, and that her whole story arc would circle back around. It would’ve been the perfect way to end it, honestly. At any rate, it was super creepy.

Matt: This is, like, the third perfect ending Clara’s had, and they haven’t taken any of them.

Engie: What was the other one? One was in this episode, and one was in the 2014 Christmas special, right?

Matt: Yeah, I thought that special’s ending was sweet, but I also would’ve been completely okay if the series eight finale was her last one. (I know most people probably wouldn’t, but I thought it was a nice ending for her.)

Engie: Ohhhh, yeah, OK, I can see that now.

clara twelfth doctor the witch's familiar7.

Engie: I’ll be honest – I’m gonna miss the sonic screwdriver. (If it’s really gone, that is, and the sonic sunglasses aren’t just some sort of gag.) But I’m also trying to keep in mind that there are plenty of sonic-y objects that weren’t screwdrivers in the canon, and in Classic Who, the Doctor was often missing his sonic, or just didn’t use it very much even when he did have it. I remember watching an episode with my dad – it must have been “The Day of the Doctor,” because both Ten and Eleven were in it – and he made some comment about how much they relied on their sonics, because that’s just not a thing the Doctor did in Classic Who.


Matt: Sonic sunglasses are mad rad. They’re the sort of things I’ve always wanted but just never realized until now. I love the doctor’s new look. He’s more of a rock star than a magician these days.


Engie: So what are your overall thoughts on this episode?

Matt: I loved “The Witch’s Familiar.” Some parts didn’t sit well with me – the whole “the Doctor know what Davros was up to all along!” twist just felt cheap to me, and I can’t really see why he’d risk so much regeneration energy just for that. But I loved Missy and Clara’s interactions, and the whole conversation between Davros and the Doctor.

Engie: I loved this episode too! I did have a few issues, but… honestly, I kind of expected them? Like, Moffat never explained why the Doctor thought he was dying, BUT I’M USED TO THAT. Moffat’s always like “I’m gonna tell you about THE THING!” and we’re like “nah, you’re not” and then he’s like “hahaha JK LOL you’re right I’m not.” It’s unfortunate that this didn’t surprise me, but… yeah.

Engie: BUT ANYWAY YEAH I LOVED THIS EPISODE. I liked it even better than “The Magician’s Apprentice,” which is rare – usually I prefer the first part of a story! (And not just with Doctor Who – in general, I don’t like sequels as much as the originals and tend to judge them more harshly because I want them to at least live up to the reputation of the first one.) I loved the dialogue, I loved all the parallels to both Classic Who and earlier series of New Who, and MISSY & CLARA WERE AMAZING TOGETHER OMGGGGG.

Matt: I think the confession dial is going to be part of the series’ arc.

Engie: True.

Matt: To be honest, I hope the actual contents are never revealed, because I prefer the Doctor as more of a mystery.

Matt: The only thing I have left to say is… where’s Maisie Williams? I want her here now!

Engie: OMG I SAW A THEORY THAT SHE IS MISSY’S DAUGHTER. Or a regeneration of the Doctor’s daughter Jenny. And I kind of like those theories, but at the same time I want her to be someone we haven’t met before, someone who’s not even related to someone we’ve met before. Her own person.

Engie: Thanks for reviewing with me!

Matt: You’re welcome!


What is YOUR opinion on “The Witch’s Familiar”? I’d love to know!

P.S. EXCELLENT NEWS! BBC3 announced TODAY that a new Doctor Who spinoff is in the works! Class will be released in late 2016 and focuses on the students at Coal Hill School, a significant location in the show – Clara teaches here, and the very first episode way back in 1963 was set here. There will be eight 45-minute episodes, and they’re all written by YA author Patrick Ness, who has written some short stories for Doctor Who in the past!

This is the first spinoff since Torchwood went off the air in 2011, so UGH I’M SO SO EXCITED. Especially at the thought of seeing more episodes with Courtney! I LOVED COURTNEY SO MUCH I WANT HER TO BE THE NEXT COMPANION AFTER CLARA LEAVES IN THE CHRISTMAS SPECIAL.

You can read more about Class here!

About nevillegirl

Elizabeth. University of Iowa class of 2019. Triple majoring in English & Creative Writing, Journalism, and Gender, Women's, & Sexuality Studies. Twenty-one-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, aspiring writer, and lesbian. Passionate about feminism, mental health, comic books, and cats.
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4 Responses to DOCTOR WHO Series Nine Review: “The Witch’s Familiar” (Co-written With Matt @ The Little Engine That Couldn’t)

  1. DOCTOR WHO SPINOFFS? YES! I have yet to see this episode, but your review is very promising! I love Clara and Missy’s relationship so much, though. And did you hear? River’s coming back for Christmas!!!

  2. Pingback: Totally forgot to mention this . . . | The Little Engine that Couldn't

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