Author’s Note: Although I released this incredibly late due to me having ZERO time this week, I wrote it entirely before I saw The Witch’s Familiar. As I type this is still haven’t gotten around to watching the episode. First world problems.
Where is the Doctor? When the skies of Earth are frozen by a mysterious alien force, Clara needs her friend. But where is the Doctor, and what is he hiding from? As past deeds come back to haunt him, old enemies will come face-to-face, and for the Doctor and Clara survival seems impossible.
In the world of Doctor Who, it seems we spend a disproportionate amount of time discussing three particular kinds of episodes: series openers, series finales, Christmas specials. The latter two are somewhat justified, but openers always tend to send the fandom into a flurry of over-analysis about the series to come and impending uphill/downhill (depending on who you ask) direction of the show. Why we can’t give it a few episodes before we come to a proper conclusion is anyone’s guess.
The fact is, this phenomenon has arisen purely in the last ten years; in the twentieth century, not nearly as much emphasis was placed on the first episode of a new series. Way back in the early days, an adjustment in the 1964 broadcasting schedule meant that some of the First Doctor’s least fan-appreciated stories – namely as Planet of Giants, Galaxy 4 and The Smugglers – went out as season openers instead of season finales as originally intended. In the 1970s, as the seasons became shorter and the show forcibly became more conscious of its’ peripheral audience, the openers became a little more organised and set the precedent for being the slot that welcomed new companions and brought back popular enemies. Even so, decisions such as the Fifth Doctor’s mid-series regeneration and Patrick Troughton’s bizarre 1985 appearance showed that the opener still wasn’t always seen as the go-to for marking a major event.
The point is, The Magician’s Apprentice had a feeling of contentment reminiscent of the Classic series. There wasn’t a new companion, the Doctor didn’t die in the first five minutes, and the Daleks didn’t burst through the door before the opening theme. Fans were told a relatively minimal amount about the story, which is a contrast to having half the plot spoiled on just about every possible news source. Sure, it marked the first appearance of Davros since the Russell T Davies era and furthermore looked in on his childhood and the supposed last moments of his life, and brought the team to Skaro in the middle of a group of very angry Daleks, but for a change almost every Whovian was caught by surprise.
And to make up for keeping the lid on all of that, the rock & roll Doctor set out to make a lot of noise. Literally.
The Magician’s Apprentice: Initial Reactions
- Hmm, a war. Doctor Who doesn’t do ‘mud & trenches’ wars that often actually, it tends to go for cold, technologically complex conflicts instead.
- Archers shooting at lasers…part of me wondered if we really were supposed to be on Earth. After all, all their weapons looked pretty human. Perhaps an attempt at metaphorically linking the battle on Skaro to World War II like Terry Nation’s original intention?
- But HE’S SO CUTE. WHY does child Davros have to be so cute?!?!
- As soon as I saw the hand minds, my mind said “weeping angels”. I enjoy being wrong.
- So if we’re looking at the wasteland on Skaro, that means the hands are…MUTOS!
- Something just occurred to me. The hands with eyes popping out of the mud reminded me of those Dalek eyestalks popping out of the snow (and people’s heads) in Asylum of the Daleks. Are we calling this one a deliberate nod?
- Sonic screwdriver flying out of nowhere…I was waiting for this bit. I love watching the Doctor enter a scene from another character’s point of view.
- “Which war is this, I get them all muddled up.” That made me even more inclined to think the story was set on Earth.
- “My name is Davros”. DUN DUN DUNNNNNN.
- Let’s just back up and recap for a minute, because this becomes important. As seen in Genesis of the Daleks, Davros is the creator of the Daleks. There was a war between the two races that inhabited the planet – the Thals and Kaleds – that went on and on without end. Davros was a mad Kaled scientist that came up with the idea of ‘the perfect warriors’ – mutant Kaleds encased in a metallic shell. As he’s putting the final touches on his creation, he decides that emotion is a weakness. Let’s just say that things didn’t end too well for either side.
- Wait, WHAT DID THEY DO TO THE TIMING OF THE CREDITS?! Why? Why?! I was just becoming OK with the clock face thing. Its’ an unspoken rule that the Doctor’s credit always appears at the beginning of the main melody.
- Ooh, it’s the Star Trek-esque alien bar where River procured her Vortex Manipulator!
- The good old shadow proclamation! Or should I say, “to ho blo sho so ho flo do plo wo sho po ro plo co lo flo mo flo to flo plo no bla”.
- I just noticed that creepy snake dude doesn’t actually walk; he kind of slides across the ground. Very clever indeed.
- Love it every time I see The Sisterhood of Karn. It’s amazing how something relatively insignificant in the Classic series can become a ‘big deal’ in the new.
- Every now and again, the Doctor goes ‘missing’ – “I’m retiring” haha. You can thank Douglas Adams’ original proposal for Shada for that joke.
- So I just realised that the snake dude tried to ‘split apart’ on Khan but Ohelia wouldn’t let him. “Your powers mean nothing here”.
- I just want to point out that Davros didn’t remember his first encounter with the Doctor until the end of his life. That part is important for my theory.
- How did I not notice before that Davros was clutching the Doctor’s sonic?! Ooh, I bet that’s significant.
- I think they’re trying to make Clara a ‘cool teacher’, but I’m not sure I like it. I don’t have an issue with her apparent ‘bossiness’ as a companion, but she’s being a bit annoying in the classroom.
- Come on Clara, can’t you just get out your own phone and look up #PlanesHaveStopped? It’s probably as much effort as getting the kids to do it for you.
- ITS THE DOCTOR’S THEME! YAY!
- Ok, so I didn’t mind the part where Clara is like “I need the rest of the day off. Bye.” She’s back to being awesome again.
- So studying Clara’s full outfit thinking ‘damn, I love that jacket and skirt.’ Suddenly out of the blue by sister turns to me and goes “do you just base your entire fashion sense on her?!” Not exactly. It’s an awesome coincidence.
- In fairness, she is that cool teacher that rides a motorbike.
- Ok, there’s something I’m picking up on here. Kate is a total feminist. She likes working with Clara, and her technical assistant is a woman. And then, of course, we have Osgood.
- “The Doctor channel”? Hahahahahaha. BBC America should make a cable channel called that.
- “Oh, saucy!”. LOL I’m not going to lie, she’s growing on me.
- You can sort of tell that Clara is trying to act brave as she approaches Missy but is actually freaking out.
- There’s something more to this confession dial thing. The Doctor definitely sent it to Missy for some sinister reason.
- Ooh, that’s a cheeky way of implying the Doctor was a female at one stage without actually admitting it. It doesn’t make sense though, because the 12-regen cycle thing established that William Hartnell was the first incarnation of the Doctor.
- Essex. 1138 AD. I got so confused at this point.
- That’s it. Standing on a tank playing an electric guitar is officially my favourite Twelve moment.
- I love how Clara’s just staring at him in awe. Missy, on the other hand, is not amused.
- “In a few hundred years that will be funny” hahahaha.
- So the big question is, which one of them is the ‘pretty woman’?
- “Are you all medieval?” “DUDE” I love this so much. Seriously.
- “Which one of us is dying?” The fact that he doesn’t say anything and just hugs Clara is really freaky. Who said the last will and testament belonged to the Doctor?
- I loved the references to the bow tie and long scarf.
- “Snake-ness is a dress”? Hahahahaha
- I cracked up when Missy got jealous of Davros for being the Doctor’s arch enemy.
- “[I know this is] goodbye. Goodbye Clara”. I am SO SCARED for her right now. I think that the party is actually him mourning her death. I’ll discuss my theory a bit later.
- Wait, they’re Daleks?! Well, I guess that’s how the Doctor didn’t contaminate culture.
- “THE TAR-DIS WILL BE PRO-CURED” made me think of a logistics company. Not exactly Dalek-esque.
- Davros made the Daleks, and the Doctor ‘made’ Davros. Wow.
- Come on Clara. Rule #1: The Doctor lies.
- The look on his face when she says “Now you have to come back.” Its’ like he’s thinking “I will, but you won’t”.
- “The gravity should be a tiny bit sexy” hahaha whut.
- The flashbacks of all the Doctor’s encounters with Davros were an amazing throwback! YES! And then referencing that Four hypothetically pointed out the exact debacle Twelve is facing now in Genesis of the Daleks was just awesome.
- It’s pretty cool that the Daleks can make Skaro look like space. It’s like the ultimate defence measure.
- As soon as I saw those buildings I screamed out “SKARO!”
- When Clara was like “what’s Skaro?” I got confused. Then I remembered it was Oswin Oswald on Skaro last time, not Clara herself.
- The fact that Davros calls that Daleks his children is just creepy.
- The Daleks are so obsessed with destroying the TARDIS. Seriously.
- “You should never believe a man without a vehicle”. Yep, that’s it, I officially love Missy. I take back anything I ever said about her.
- “Don’t. Just don’t.” Ooh, here comes my theory!
- Yep, I definitely think Missy ‘zapped’ herself away before the Daleks killed her. As for Clara, I’m not so sure.
- So here’s my very loose theory: Originally, the Doctor left Davros to die when he was a child. Davros remembered this at the end of his life, and it lead to the death of Clara. The Doctor goes back and saves Davros with the hope that it would save Clara.
- Meanwhile, an earlier version of the Doctor hears that Clara is dead, and the party is actually him ‘mourning’ her. Thoughout the episode he realises, to his horror, that the party actually lead up to her death. Very messy indeed.
Next Week: The Witch’s Familiar
I’m excited for this one, because I feel like I can’t form any opinions about this story until I see the resolution. Yay, I love two-parters!