RECAP & REVIEW: Doctor Who – ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’

So what happened?

Answering a call for help from a small boy who has run amongst a field of ‘hand mines’ during a war on an alien planet, it’s not until he’s already thrown his sonic screwdriver to him and asked his name that The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) realises he’s attempting to help none other than the creator of the daleks, Davros. Duh! Duh! Duh! Unsure how to react, Twelve slips away in the Tardis and leaves the youthful version of his arch-enemy to fend for himself, taking himself into hiding out of shame.

Twelve (Peter Capaldi) rocking the shades and guitar combo.
Twelve (Peter Capaldi) rocking the shades and guitar combo.

Meanwhile Clara (Jenna Coleman) is happily teaching the kids in her class and reminiscing about snogging Jane Austen when she spots a plane suspended in mid-air. Within seconds U.N.I.T are on the phone and she’s whisking herself off to their headquarters where they soon discover that it’s the not dead Mistress of Mischief, Missy (Michelle Gomez), that is responsible for thousands of planes being halted in their journeys. Naturally it’s only her trying to get their attention though and after a meeting with Clara where they establish that she, as a fellow Time Lord/Lady, has to be The Doctor’s best friend because he left her the equivalent of his Last Will and Testament, she finally allows the planes to go about their business, before whisking the perky companion off to a medieval fighting pit where they’ve tracked the missing Doctor down to. Sure enough, he’s there, teaching the adoring crowds a plethora of anachronistic facts and making grand entrances on tanks whilst playing his electric guitar, easily defeating his intended opponent with his usual bewildering brilliance.

Davros, creator of the Daleks, taking a light nap.
Davros, creator of the Daleks, taking a light nap.

Not so brilliant is the fact his concerned friends have led Colony Sarff (Jami Reid-Quarrell), the elderly, now dying Davros’ second-in-command, right to him, an alien apparently composed completely of a snake nest and intent on taking Twelve back with him to see his boss. Relenting to the request, Missy and Clara also insist on going with him and are taken to what seems to be a space hospital where he is allowed confront his nemesis, while they remain in an impenetrable cell. Of course it’s not and Missy has them out of there in no time at all, only to discover that they’re not in a space hospital at all, but the previously destroyed planet where the daleks were first created, Skaro. When they’re recaptured and taken back to a room full of the plunger-headed, little blighters, The Doctor is forced to look on in horror as both his friends and his beloved TARDIS are exterminated, as Davros’ criticism that compassion is his greatest flaw rings in his ears.

Cut to some time in the future/past and we see him pointing a weapon at the younger version of Davros we saw in the opening few minutes…

‘Monster’ of the Week

Marieke: Or of two weeks, since we’re back in ‘to be continued’ territory. We could easily say ‘Oh Daleks again’ and I’m sure many have had that thought. They’re still as deadly as ever, exterminating both Clara and Missy (or did they?). Perhaps the true monster is Davros, who invented them and then absolves himself of any responsibility for the monster race he created. But he’s dying so maybe have a little sympathy… Or not. The monster this time could also be the Doctor, aiming a laser type gun (was that Dalek technology?) at little boy Davros to save his friends by preventing the Daleks from ever being created. The Doctor wanting to murder a boy, even if it is Davros, is a big deal. I doubt the Daleks will never make a return, so we’ll have to see how the story turns out. Perhaps two Daleks end up walking on Abbey Road with the Doctor and barefooted Clara. Just a thought.
Oh and let’s not leave out murdering at will Master Missy, who owns the part and is a joy to watch. You know, that man had a family…

Missy (Michelle Gomez) being, well, Missy.
Missy (Michelle Gomez) being, well, Missy.

Danielle: I guess we are in “Is The Doctor the real monster?” territory and not for the first time, even with Capaldi’s incarnation alone. I suppose the show seems to be once again hinting that evil is something that’s planted in the psyche through hardship and maltreatment, rather than being innate. All very high-brow stuff for your average Saturday night ‘kids’ show’. Of course the answer to the question will probably depend on whether he’s prepared to pull the trigger and kill a then, innocent young boy, and the effect that has on wibbly, wobbly timey wimey.

Creep Factor

Marieke: I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an intense opening on the show before. Shooting an arrow at a plane is a bit daft, but then the hand mines are introduced. Hand mines, a lame pun on… Wait… Hand around his ankle…What why huh… And it gets creepier when the ground opens and the soldier gets pulled into the ground and disappears. Then we see eyes on the hands (Pan’s Labyrinth feel anyone?) aiming for the then unknown boy. This is certainly a memorable opening and the strongest in a long time.
Finding out that our at that point unlikely trio have ended up on Skaro adds to the creepy atmosphere as well, although I doubt people find the obviously deadly Daleks creepy anymore. The outside though, proper dystopia techno desert look. And didn’t we all get a chill down our spine when the little boy said his name is Davros?

Colony Sarff expertly managed to keep his balance whilst apparently riding a segway throughout the episode.
Colony Sarff expertly managed to keep his balance whilst apparently riding a segway throughout the episode.

Danielle: Colony Sarff was pretty creepy in a Star Wars/Sith Lord/Daaaaaaark Side kind of way too, especially if you’re not a fan of snakes. Much of the unease was counteracted by the fact he appeared to be riding a segway throughout most of the episode though. I was almost begrudgingly impressed that he managed to maintain his balance.

Mystery

Danielle: The biggest mystery for me was how and why Missy was apparently able to come back from the dead to then die again at the hands of the Daleks. Surely if she’s able to come back without regenerating, it sets a precedent for the likes of Osgood and even Danny Pink to make a reappearance? Or did I miss something?

Marieke: The whole Doctor dying again is a mystery. Bit of an old road to take, no?

Familiar Face

U.N.I.T. collegues: Jaye Griffiths (left) and Jemma Redgrave (right) behind the scenes.
U.N.I.T. colleagues: Jaye Griffiths (left) and Jemma Redgrave (right) behind the scenes.

Perhaps best knows for her stints in The Bill and Silent Witness, Jaye Griffiths popped up briefly this week as U.N.I.T scientist, Jac. Whether she’ll be a permanent replacement for Osgood remains to be seen.

A Word on Twelve

Marieke: He much more feels the part for me here, but the ratings are at an all time low. History will tell if that is mainly the writing, Capaldi maybe being not as much of an audience attracting Doc as his predecessors or both. I honestly feel this episode deserved better.

Danielle: I’ve always been on board with Malcolm Tucker being in charge of the TARDIS, so that’s never been an issue for me. I doubt the lower ratings will be too much of a problem either with time-shift viewing, iPlayer and overseas sales. They probably expected to take a hit up against the Rugby World Cup and The X-Factor at the same time, and no doubt they’ll expect things to improve after next week. Such a solid episode did deserve better though.

The Verdict?

All things considered, it was a strong opener for Series 9. The ante was well and truly upped with the introduction of an origin story for Davros, and it was interesting to see Twelve react badly to yet another moral grey area. Clara and Missy also make an unexpectedly entertaining duo as co-companions to Capaldi’s troubled character. The only real fly in the ointment might be that new/casual viewers may be put off by them delving this deep into Whovian history and revisiting the events surrounding the destruction of Skaro. But hey, who could fail to love The Doctor rocking a cool pair of shades, riding atop a tank and riffing on an axe as he makes his entrance into an arena to fight a man with an actual axe? Not us, that’s for sure!

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