What worked and what didn’t in ‘Doctor Who’ Season 9’s two-part opener

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So, what did you think of Doctor Who Season 9’s epic opening story?

> Buy Season 9 on DVD on Amazon.

> Buy Season 9 on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Following yesterday’s double-bill omnibus screening on BBC One, let’s take a look at the best, worst and middling bits of ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’ and ‘The Witch’s Familiar’




The Doctor

Doctor Who The Witch's Familiar Peter Capaldi Twelfth

Although the mid-section of ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’ was fairly uninspiring, there was one indisputable highlight that bridged the gap between the story’s first episode and the vastly superior ‘The Witch’s Familiar’: the main character.

Whether this less crotchety, more tactile and openly compassionate Twelfth Doctor will win over the Peter Capaldi naysayers is debatable, but there’s no longer any question of his performance being dismissed as Malcolm Tucker in a Jon Pertwee jacket.

Capaldi’s Doctor is now a fully-rounded character in his own right, whether he’s raging against the dying of his own light by chocking out power chords on a Stratocaster, pinballing through enraged Daleks in Davros’s wheelchair like Ironside on Ecstasy or saving Clara with kindness and a ray gun.

Also: strong combo of t-shirt, cardie, coat and Patrick Troughton’s trousers.



Doctor Who 9 1 The Magician's Apprentice Davros

From writhing around on the floor like an overturned earwig to fooling the Doctor (rather too easily) into believing he was actually a good guy and all the bad stuff he’d done was just to help his people – no, really, straight up, guv’nor – Davros was one of the best things about this story: brooding, sly, wistful and malevolent.

The moment he opened his eyes in ‘The Witch’s Familiar’ – his actual oculars, that is, rather the usual forehead-mounted prosthetic – was chilling and strangely touching at the same time.

For a moment, it was almost as if the Fuhrer of Skaro really had repented of evil after all and simply wanted to see a final sunrise before death. But who would fall for anything so ridiculous?




The Daleks

Doctor Who The Witch's Familiar

For once, there were actually some things to praise about the Daleks: the business about the Hybrid (half Time Lord, half shuttlecock) was the usual portentous Skarovian nonsense, but the notion that an element of mercy had been fed into the Dalek DNA as a result of the Doctor saving the life of a youthful Davros was a genuinely good one. So was the notion of Daleks coming back from the dead as demented zombie slime from the drains.

Sadly, neither was enough to compensate for their usual innate crapness. They roll around like dodgems with failing batteries, burbling and shrieking about maximum extermination (how this tallies with the suggestion that ‘exterminate’ is Dalekese for ‘reload’ is unclear) without once looking like the all-powerful intergalactic conquerors they’re supposed to be. The Dalek Supreme, meanwhile, is like Pizza Hut’s Chicken Supreme: wholly unworthy of the title.


Sonic Sunglasses

Doctor Who 9 Peter Capaldi Twelfth The Magician's Apprentice

Just … no.





Doctor Who The Witch's Familiar Michelle Gomez Missy

Ironically, given that the previous section is (rather tenuously) named after her, Missy is definitely a maybe.

If she were judged solely on the basis of ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’, there would be no question. It took River Song a couple of years to become an annoying parody of herself; Missy managed it within a few minutes of her second full story.

Last year she was an enthralling psychopath of snark – the best and most amusing incarnation of the Master since Roger Delgado. In the first episode of this series, she was a pub drunk, all tedious cock jokes and cackling. Definitely a miss, Missy.

Thankfully, things improved in ‘The Witch’s Familiar’. Michelle Gomez was given something decent to work with and Missy became a character again, rather than a caricature. Her taunting and subsequent decanting of a Dalek was grotesquely enjoyable; her attempt to fool the Doctor into killing Clara was ice cold and compelling; her fangirl farewell to Davros was comic genius.

Yet the niggling feeling remains that putting her and the creator of the Daleks in the same story was like a bacon and sausage sandwich. The combination of the constituent elements ought to be brilliant, but afterwards there’s a lingering sense that they’d be better enjoyed individually.



Doctor Who 9 1 handmines The Magician's Apprentice

Spooky ingenuity from Steven Moffat or a muddy rip-off of Pan’s Labyrinth? YOU DECIDE.


> Buy Season 9 on DVD on Amazon.

> Buy Season 9 on Blu-ray on Amazon.

What did you think of the episodes? Let us know below…

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