RECAP & REVIEW: Doctor Who – ‘The Witch’s Familiar’

So what happened?

Well for starters Clara and Missy didn’t actually die after the whole showdown last week. Using her super Time Lady powers, the latter managed to harness to the energy the Daleks blasted at them to teleport them into the middle of nowhere on Skaro. After ascertaining that Clara isn’t a complete idiot, they head back to the dalek city armed only with a pointy stick and attempt to infiltrate the place in order to save The Doctor by heading into the sewers, which are made up almost entirely of the gloopy corpses of the previous generations of Davros’ creations. After withstanding an attack from one very much alive dalek, Missy encourages her young ‘friend’ to get inside the outer casing of the creature and utilise its weaponry for their own ends, cackling to herself as its circuitry overrides the companion’s abilities to express her identity and her human emotions, before leading on to Dalek HQ as fake prisoner.

Davros looking attractive there with his 'Third Eye'.
Davros looking attractive there with his ‘Third Eye’.

Meanwhile The Doctor is busying himself with stealing Davros’ daleky wheelchair, and terrorising his plunger-headed minions until Colony Sarff slithers along and co-opts some of his snake friends into literally squeezing Twelve into submission. Forced back into the hospital bay with his dying arch-enemy, his capacity to value compassion over revenge is once again brought to the fore as Davros shares with him his justifications for acting the way he has throughout his long life and his love for his evil creations, mirroring The Doctor’s need to preserve his own people when he froze Gallifrey at some unspecified point in Time and Space. Wishing to fulfil his last request to see one more sunrise, he re-hooks him up to his life support system and attempts to use some his regeneration energy to boost him, apparently unwittingly being lured into a trap as the snakes strike again and hook him up long enough so that his Time Lord DNA is passed on not only to Davros, but to every single Dalek on the planet, thus creating a superior hybrid alien with the ability to regenerate and kill at the drop of a hat.

Of course the King of the Daleks is supremely pleased with himself at tricking The Doctor once again, even after Missy manages to storm in and save her friend. He’s secured a longer life for himself and made his creations more powerful than they’ve ever been before, but little did he know that the trick had been anticipated and that as a result of their new-found power, the Daleks in the sewer/graveyard are now openly revolting by rising once again and forcing the whole city to collapse in on itself. Fleeing from the catastrophe after taking his confession dial and his trusty sunglasses with him, Capaldi’s character follows Missy and they encounter a terrified Clara who’s still trapped inside the body of the Dalek she inhabited earlier. Realising she has the opportunity to use The Doctor to rid himself of his own companion, the Time Lady utilises the fact that the young teacher is still incapable of stating who she is and what her real intentions are by informing him that this was the dalek that killed her and that he should act in kind. It’s not until she begs for mercy that he realises something isn’t right and tells Missy to run for her own safety, before liberating Clara and taking her to find the previously thought destroyed, but actually just hiding TARDIS with the aid of his new Sonic Sunglasses.

The Doctor saving a Young Davros from the 'Hand Mines'.
The Doctor saving a Young Davros from the ‘Hand Mines’.

From a safe distance, the two of them watch the city implode and something continues to plague Twelve: the fact that Clara was able to beg for mercy whilst inside the body of the Dalek, something she wouldn’t have been able to do if there wasn’t something resembling the capacity for compassion in Davros’ psyche. Realising what he has to do, he jumps back into the TARDIS and we’re faced with the scenario last week’s episode ended on. The Doctor pointing a gun at the young, innocent boy who grew up to be one of his greatest enemies. Instead of using it to obliterate him, he turns the weapon on the hand mines surrounding Davros and escorts him back home, thus bringing things full circle and ultimately justifying his determination to be compassionate, not vengeful.

‘Monster’ of the Week

Marieke: Surprise! The Doctor isn’t the monster after all, he would never kill a young boy. Not even when it turns out to be Davros. Saving him actually makes Davros a little less brutal, if only by introducing the concept of ‘mercy’. Which is what eventually saves Clara. Who turned into a monster herself, by sitting inside a Dalek because Missy told her to do so (wow easily persuaded much?). It was a nice bit of insight on how Daleks really work. I love you? EX-TER-MI-NATE. I am your friend? I AM YOUR EN-E-MY. Heavy emotions? EX-TER-MI-NATE and random shooting. Even with a good person inside, these creatures are filled with hate. Being their creator, Davros showed himself to be the evil mastermind we all knew he’d be. He probably was dying, but he was also after regeneration energy. But the Doctor saw right through that. Also let’s not erase colony Sarff, which is a huge floating monster, if you see him that is. If you don’t, you’re surrounded by snakes. Yikes. An honourable mention goes to Missy. Star of these two episodes, Missy. Oh Missy. She was as evil as ever trying to persuade the Doctor to kill Dalek!Clara (he’d have been devastated!). With brilliant one liners and actions, I definitely want to see more of her. Maybe the search for Gallifrey will make Missy join the Doctor for a while whilst they bicker and almost kill each other… Hey I can dream, right?

Missy continues to be a hit at Fezzy Towers.
Missy (Michelle Gomez) continues to be a hit at Fezzy Towers.

Danielle: There’s very little I can add to that other than to echo my love for the murderous Missy, who ultimately turned out to be the more effective ‘baddie’ this week. She might have tried to get her ‘friend’ to do away with Clara, but God is she funny! Hope she does pop up again this series. Convention says she’s bound to.

Creep Factor

Marieke: It actually went down this week. The hand mines turned out to be target practice for the Doctor (I bet they didn’t see that one coming. Although…). Skaro was just Skaro, even though places without furniture can be very creepy. Maybe the sewers/graveyard should get a mention, with brown Dalek goo seeping everywhere and into Daleks. The Doctor’s regeneration energy makes the goo a malicious fluid killing their newer Dalek counterparts. Killed by old Dalek poo. I don’t think we’ve seen something like that before.

Danielle: It’s funny, isn’t it? Dalek detritus being more frightening than the actual Daleks. Then again I’ve never really thought they were particularly scary, maybe because they’ve always reminded me of pimped up, free-wheeling kettles with bad manners. I don’t know. Perhaps the fact they’ve been so overused over the years neutralises any real sense of impending doom too?

The shiny new Dalek/Time Lord hybrids were ultimately defeated by the enemy within: their own dung.
The shiny new Dalek/Time Lord hybrids were ultimately defeated by the enemy within: their own dung.

Mystery

Danielle: I think for me the biggest mystery is what’s on that confession dial that The Doctor seems so intent on keeping to himself. Could it be something to do with his actions previous to him fleeing Gallifrey, and before the the opportunity for him to save his people came about? Or is this something a little closer to home with regard to his current situation? In light of the fact we know Jenna Coleman is leaving this year, could he know something about her future that makes him feel so guilty that he’d be compelled to confess it on something that’s only to see the light of day after his death? Answers on a postcard…

Marieke: Where is Missy? That will be all.

A Word on Twelve

Marieke: Last week I talked about the ratings. It seems iPlayer definitely boosted them. I am still wondering though, is that just the new type of watching? Is it something cultural? I know here in the Netherlands there are prime time shows which do get proper ratings. Doctor Who is supposed to be an all family programme, having the family cuddle up on or behind the sofa to watch it all together. It seems to be failing with this mission. Is the line up on other channels, like X-factor, too strong? Is 12 not as interesting to watch straight away? I did like the two parter omnibus on Sunday which worked very well, but I am also wondering what it adds to television viewing. I guess we’ll have to see how the ratings turn out eventually and maybe with Strictly being back the ratings on prime time will go up because people keep BBC1 on.
Also a word on Clara perhaps..? The trailer for the third episode in which she complained that she wants adventure and excitement makes me think maybe her time with the Doctor has run its course. What else will she be able to add to the story line? We know Jenna Coleman is going to leave to become queen Victoria. Let’s hope her Doctor Who story line will lead to an appropriate ending.

Danielle: It’s was the England vs Wales rugby match that once again slashed the ratings this week. There is evidence that audiences, especially younger ones, are shifting their viewing habits online, but I don’t think that’s the issue here. The fact is live sporting events will always outperform dramas etc, because of the necessity to watch them, well, live. I’m pretty sure Doctor Who will bounce back considerably in the coming weeks.

Peter Capaldi contemplating the poor ratings.
Peter Capaldi contemplating the poor ratings.

The Verdict? 

Overall this was a really enjoyable hour of TV with the humour keeping things chugging along nicely. It was also great to see the dynamic between Clara and The Doctor deepening and Missy contributing to that in her own twisted, diabolical way, as well as having our interest piqued as to what Twelve may have felt the need to confess on that dial. The only real let-down was the lack of real jeopardy there in the Davros plotline. It seems like a big cheat for the The Doctor to know all along that his arch-enemy was scamming him for some of his precious energy, and that’s before we get onto the matter of him mysteriously knowing that the TARDIS wasn’t destroyed. Yes, we know he’s stupendously smart and I don’t necessarily expect family shows to be tied up all neatly in a bow plot-wise, but that kind of convenience smacks of laziness on the part of the writers. With any luck, things will be a bit tighter next week.

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