The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar Unreview

Go tell that long tongue liar,
Go and tell that midnight rider,
Tell the rambler, the gambler, the back biter,
Tell ’em that God’s gonna cut them down
Traditional folk song

I entertain by picking brains
Sell my soul by dropping names
I don’t like those, my God, what’s that
Oh it’s full of nasty habits when the bitch gets back
Elton John, The Bitch Is Back

The Magician’s Apprentice

They seek him here, they seek him there, they seek that damn elusive Doctor everywhere.

The Doctor is missing and nobody can find him. Colony Sarff can’t find him. Missy can’t find him. Clara can’t find him. The Doctor is harder to find than Wally (or Waldo if you are an American).

But first…

A war zone, alien in nature, with a bi-plane spitting down laser bolts. Feels like an alternate version of World War One. A boy is, for some reason in the middle of the battle. trapped by hand mines. These mines being hands with eyes on their palm, they grab hold of you and then pull you down into the ground. If the war seemed like WWII, then these mines bring a feeling of surrealism to the mix. The hand mines remind me of obscure Eastern European cinema.

The Doctor arrives. He throws over his sonic screwdriver so that he and the boy can speak but when the boy reveals his name, the Doctor leaves straight away. This is a child with whom the Doctor has a connection.

Can you guess what the boy is called? Rumpelstiltskin? Slartibartfast? Wet Eric? Nope, none of those. The boy is Davros. It is possibly safe to assume that this is the childlike form of the old crackpot we all know and adore. Yes, Davros, creator of the Daleks.

Centuries later Colony Sarff, the bizarre lovechild of Voldemort’s segway and Nagini, is looking for the Doctor with a message from his master. But can he find him? Can he heck! He visits the Shadow Proclamation’s headquarters, then a sleazy bar owned by everyone’s favourite beheaded blue oaf, and then he pops over to the planet Karn, His message from Davros being “Davros knows. Davros remembers”. But what does Davros remember? What does he know? We might think that we know the answer to this but with a story by Steven Moffat, we can never be sure. He might just recall that he left the gas on or that his car keys are on the table by his bed or perhaps he might remember that he now has the access of his legs. By the way, I predicted, after watching the story, that Davros would regain his legs by the end of this season.

Sarff has a face like one of those picture books you used to have as a child. You know the ones. They had cardboard pages cut into three and you could flip one part over to make the, for example, a bird have the head of a lion. Hours of fun if the TV was broke. Yeah, that. That is what Colony Sarff’s face looks like. Kinda.

On Twitter after The Magician’s Apprentice, one Anti-Moffateer complained about how he had Davros return from the dead unlike all the times Davros supposedly died in past episodes and then popped up again. This is typical of the Anti-Moffers in that they dislike Moffat doing things they turn a blind eye to when other writers do the same thing. Did these people complain about Davros returning from the dead when Russell T Davies did it? No, they didn’t. In any case, if the Daleks can time shift their way out of trouble, then there is no problem with Davros doing the same. Yah boo sucks to you.

Sarff reports back to Davros who is slumped in his pimped-out mobility scooter. And guess what? He still has the sonic screwdriver. Now, how can he have it now but not have it in all the previous stories we have seen him in? Oddly, none of the Anti-Moffaholics mentioned this canonical mistake. How remiss of them. They were too busy, according to my Twitter feed, complaining about how they don’t understand what is going on. I suggest they watch Peppa Pig, that might be more their level.

I should say that I am not especially a fan of Moffat but he is no better or worse than RTD. He just is. I am just anti-spitefulness. Being hateful to a show because it isn’t going your way is just the sort of thing that pole-axed Doctor Who in the late 80s. If you want to complain, fine. Just be less spiteful.

Soooo, where was I before I started grinding my axe? Ah…

Present day Earth and Clara is trying to teach the kids the joys of something they will forget as soon as they leave the room.

Jenna Coleman gives her usual big eyes and elegantness. Nothing to complain about here. But she comes alive when she gets all sassy with someone I am about to introduce in a bastardised Shakespearian verse.

But soft, what sight through yonder window breaks Clara’s concentration?
It is a plane frozen in the sky, and Missy is the culprit.
Arise, fair Clara, and visit the envious Missy,
Who is already sick and pale with madness
That thou, her best friend’s companion, art far more fair than she.

Missy was behind the sky freezing. All in a bid to get the attention of Clara (and UNIT). She needs help in finding the Doctor after he sent her his Last Will and Testament. Traditionally this is given to a friend of the Time Lord in question a day before they are to die.

Missy is the Doctor’s best friend? I know Steven Moffat has said on many an occasion that this is so but I am not convinced. I think it is more a case of Missy being the only other member of his kind that he could send the Will to. Missy sees it as part of their friendship because…well, she is bonkers.

Missy and Clara locate the Doctor in the Dark Ages and, yeah, things are pretty much the same as modern-day England except that…no, it is exactly the same still. Trust me on this, I am British.

The Doctor has replaced his sonic screwdriver with a sonic electric guitar! How do I know it is sonic? It is an electric guitar, all electric guitars are sonic. Anyway, the Doctor has misinterpreted his friend Bors’ challenge of an axe battle.

Oh, and the Doctor has a tank! Did I mention that? As his predecessor might say, “I like tanks now. Tanks are cool.”

The Doctor hugs Clara, which is a surprise for Clara and doubly so for this prickly unhuggable Time Lord to be hugging in the first place. Note, he doesn’t hug Missy, his bestest friend in the whole universe.

All of this is broken up when the snake on a segway, Colony Sarff turns up with his message for the Doctor. The Doctor, feeling guilty for not saving Davros, agrees to go with Snakeboy after he collapses into a load of hissing snakes (hence the ‘Colony’ part of his name, I guess) and threatens all of the Doctor’s medieval chums. Clara and Missy insist on coming with him and despite the Doctor’s objections, they all get taken on a mystery journey to a space station…

Need I mention how cool the snake handcuffs are? Or is that taken as read?

Given that he shares the name of a criminal from The Dalek’s Master-Plan, this might not be such a surprise but Bors turns out to be a Dalek agent who finds the TARDIS and then sends it to the Daleks (whether they may be).

Our heroes (and Missy) are taken to the space station where the girls are thrown into clink and the Doctor is taken to see Davros who is dying. Given that Old Blue Eye is seen in the trailer for the next part of this story, I doubt if he is actually about to kick the bucket (or should that be nudge the bucket?).

As the Doctor has a chinwag with Davros who serenades him with video and audio clips of their previous encounters (thank goodness for that fly-on-the-wall documentary crew that followed Davros for centuries…), Missy and Clara discover that the space station is on an invisible planet. Skaro.

Oh, by the way, spoilers!

Yes, the home planet of the Daleks. And then Clara and Missy are captured by every type of Dalek you could imagine. This is not a good day for them (Clara and Missy that is) and it gets even more worse when they and the TARDIS are exterminated (all of which the Doctor witnesses).

It is wonderful to see the old Daleks intermingled with the new. In Asylum of the Daleks, they did this but they bottled out of showing us the oldies in any great detail. Finally they deliver on their promise and it is sublime to see them in a recreation of the original Dalek city from their first story… Of such stuff is fan fiction written.

In the last scene of the first episode, we see the Doctor returning to the childlike Davros. He is apparently about to exterminate him.

Now call me a cynic but I don’t believe for a second that Clara, Missy or the TARDIS has been destroyed and neither do I think that he will kill Young Davros. But who knows?

The Witch’s Familiar

So all the exterminating is undone. Missy and Clara survive. And I probably should have warned you about spoilers. Are you surprised? If so, report yourself to the local Whovian fanclub for a scolding. If not, report yourself to the local Whovian fanclub for a scolding, you jaded cynics. But what about the young Davros? More about that later.

I knew that Moffat would never kill Clara and Missy. It would have been atypical of him. Being killed in his version of the series never means that you are killed. Usually. Sometimes. Once in a blue moon.

So how did they survive? We all saw Davros entertaining the Doctor with old video recordings of their previous encounters in the first part (“Do you remember that time when we went to Cromer and you forced that Macra to eat me? Good times!”), now we have Missy telling a story about an encounter that was never seen on TV. She mentions how the Doctor was once being chased by invisible android assassins. We see glimpses of the First and Fourth Doctors before Missy makes the Doctor being mentioned the current one. This, incidentally, it a neat touch since these two episodes are inspired by the first Dalek adventure and Genesis of the Daleks which featured those respective Doctors. Moffat is playing with our knowledge of the show here, the scamp that he is.

How the Doctor escaped was that he used the energy being shot at him to teleport his way out of trouble. This was how Missy and Clara escaped being exterminated and also how Missy escaped being shot by the Cyber-Brigadier (Moffat’s worst mistake) in Death in Heaven. Simples plus it helps the poor souls that I mentioned in the first part who complained about Missy escaping without an explanation.  We never got an explanation in the old days of Doctor Who.

The Doctor is still in Davros’ boudoir. He doesn’t believe that Clara is dead either. Or is that more a case of hope? In any case, he pops Davros out of his mobility scooter and uses it it to break into the room where the Supreme Dalek and the other Daleks are. This is the moment where I almost punched the air. I cannot describe how much this made me laugh. This is the one reason why you should watch these two episodes. Yes, fantastic story but the Doctor in Davros’ chair, priceless.

The Daleks, being Daleky, try to exterminate him but the chair has a forcefield. Bless Davros and his paranoid black heart. Incidentally, seeing Davros on the floor was one of the more unsettling things in this adventure. Funny but unsettling. The most unsettling thing is coming up soon.

The Supreme Dalek, y’know the one with the spiffy red paintjob and yellow buttresses, says that Clara is dead. Doesn’t seem upset about Missy, does he? By the way, note the Special Weapons Dalek from Remembrance of the Daleks. I love that Dalek.

The Doctor tries to threaten the Daleks with one of their lasers but they aren’t buying it, they know he doesn’t use weapons. And then Colony Sarff’s snaky henchsnakes rise up from Davros’ chair and swarm all over the Doctor and causing him to lose consciousness.

Inside the Dalek city (or should that be underneath?), Missy and Clara are in the sewer/graveyard. Muddy stony walls all glistening with slimpy goop which is actually the remains of Daleks. Daleks cannot die naturally, they just turn into soup. So, yeah, more unsettling than Davros with all that electrical gubbins poking out. Remember the first Dalek story where Ian, Barbara and the Thals were going through similiar-looking caves to get into the Dalek city? Moffat is echoing the past.

Missy tricks Clara into setting an alarm and then, her evil knows no bounds, handcuffs her to the wall! I love this version of the Master, you wouldn’t get Roger Delgado being so devious or treacherous. When a Dalek comes in to investigate, Missy punctures it with a bit of jewellery. She pokes it more times than a teenager pokes some random pop singer on Facebook. Admittedly, this doesn’t do too much damage but it does open up holes for the gooey Daleks to drip and sludge themselves into the Dalek.

The goopy slime Daleks want revenge for being abandoned and so they destroy the Dalek. Missy then pulls out the occupant of the Dalek with the same aplomb that a little boy pulls out a bogey from his nose. Yeah, disgusting. Daleks are like Dime Bars (or armadillos): crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside.

Guess who has to get into the Dalek so that they can trick their way into the city? Yeah, exactly. When Clara is in the Dalek, she discovers that whenever she tries to say her name, the Dalek system says “I am a Dalek” instead. Any emotion expressed simply ends up as “Exterminate”. Some people have said that this emphasises their lack of compassionate emotions but all it does it cause me to think that however individual a Dalek mutant may be, it can never say what it feels. For me, this scene makes me think that the Dalek is a slave of the machine that keeps it alive. It may be evil but the machine reinforces that evil and doesn’t allow the Dalek to express itself.

I am Bob = I am a Dalek!
What brings a girl like you to a place like this = Exterminate!
I like your t-shirt. It is really cool = Exterminate! Exterminate!
You are so pretty = Exterminate!
Do you fancy coming back to my place for a coffee? = Exterminate!

This is why Daleks are so bad at dating. And writing children’s books:

My name is Sam = I am a Dalek!
Sam I am = I am a Dalek!
Do you like green eggs and ham? = Exterminate!

Saying “Exterminate” also recharges their guns. At least we have a reason for why they keep saying that one word over and over and over…

The Doctor, it turns out, wasn’t destroyed by the snakes. Yeah, you are surprised, right? He awakens on the only chair that Skaro can boast. Who said that Davros was a bad host? Even the Thals admire his vol-au-vents.

Davros reveals that he is only still alive because of the life-support cables that connect him to every Dalek on the planet. Which seems a bit strange. Are the Daleks transferring energy through some sort of Skaro wireless technology? And if so, why hasn’t Davros upgraded his pimped-up mobility scooter to wireless technology? In any case, even with all that life-energy, it isn’t enough. Davros is dying.

The Doctor tells Old Blue Eye that he came out of compassion. He also blurts out that Gallifrey was saved, a feat which Davros congratulates him on.

Davros then turns off his eye and opens his real ones. At first they look inky black but no, brown like slurry. It is a sight which should be repulsive but you can’t help but feel sympathy towards this man. This is the strength of Moffat’s writing coming out here. They even crack a joke and laugh. Moffat is humanising Davros, damn him. I’m not crying, honestly.

Davros asks “Am I a good man?” Something this Doctor asked Clara in Into the Dalek. Davros, you plonker, no, you ain’t. You create a race of genocidal war-machines and then ask if you are a good man? Really? REALLY?

As Davros dies, he wishes to see Skaro’s sun rise. The Doctor tries to rewire him back to the life-support but it is too late. So he uses a teeny weeny amount of Time Lord regeneration power to give the machine a boost.

With all the glee that spouse tells their partner that they’ve been faking their orgasms for years, Davros call the Doctor a “schmuck” and a “sucker” and then crows about some legend about a Dalek/Gallifreyan hybrid. Call me Mr Skeptical here but how would Davros know about legends relating to the Time Lords? Who would tell him? Silly sod, he has probably gotten the wrong end of the stick after drunkenly overhearing a conversation in a pub.

To cut a long story short, after Missy tries to sell Clara up the river she, Missy that is, comes into Davros bedroom like a banshee and breaks the Doctor loose from the life-support system which is actually Colony Sarff (I think). Sarff snuffs it. No Voldemortesque return from the dead for Sarffy. Well, not yet.

Now it is time for the Doctor to call Davros a “schmuck” and a “sucker”. He knew all along about Davros’ cunning plan! This regeneration energy has not only revitalised the Daleks but it has also done the same for the revenants in the sewers and boy are they pissed. Revenge is sweet and black like oil.

As the Dalek city is destroyed around them, the Doctor and Missy encounter the Clara-Dalek. Shades of Asylum of the Daleks here what with Clara inside a Dalek and all the old Daleks. Moffat is now referencing his own stories. But Moffat being Moffat is also referencing Ian Chesterton being inside a Dalek for The Daleks. Missy, of course, tells the Doctor to kill it. Clara, being unable to say her name or express an emotion, is scared. Luckily, our hero susses it out and sends Missy packing. Clara is safe. Huzzah!

Suffice to say, left on her own, Missy escapes. Apparently the Daleks are a little slow on the uptake. If they had bullets rather than lasers, it would be a different story.

Oh, and the TARDIS? Yeah, that is safe. Did you read think it wouldn’t be? Good old HADS to the rescue. That is Hostile Action Displacement System to you newbies. Bone up on you Whostory.

Should I be textbook enigmatic or should I say what happened to the childlike Davros? Oh go on then! The Doctor saves him. As expected. And with that, that is your lot. Roll on next week!

Much of this two-parter is a response to the conversation between the Fourth Doctor and Davros in Genesis of the Daleks. It is fun seeing the echoes from the past resonate in this story

Two of the stand-out performances of this adventure are Michelle Gomez’ plus the scenes between the Doctor and Davros.

Michelle Gomez is fantastic here. She plays the female Master like a woman possessed by illegal chemicals and a tipsy kitten. Gomez is delightfully bonkers, her accent hitch-hiking through every Earth dialect it can. I love this version of the Master. You really feel as if she might stab you in the back. With the other Masters, you were relatively safe but with this female one…just beware in case she stabs you with a stick.

Peter Capaldi plays the Doctor as if he has got used to this incarnation, he is relaxed. He knows himself in-and-out. He gives a joyously performance at first before dialling it down to more subtle shades when he later encounters Davros.

I could say a helluva lot more but don’t take my word for it. Watch it yourself. This is a story that is sure to become a classic. Brilliant stuff.

Great start to the series and I cannot wait for the next story (another two-parter, oh boy!).

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About greebohobbes

All-round irritant, expert swordsman (loves lopping off the heads of ghouls), professional charlatan and outrageous wearer of black cocktail dresses...
This entry was posted in BekHobbes, doctorwho, opinion, unreview, whovian and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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