We’re back! Britain’s longest running, most iconic TV show has returned for series 9! (Or season 35 if you prefer). After 51 years and 13 Doctors, we are still whizzing around time and space in that tiny blue box!
The big question is; does it still hold up?
If you’ve read my article on how I think Doctor Who should be fixed for series 9 you’ll know I’ve been rather pessimistic about the last couple of series’.
Series 8 was better, but still not great. I think one of the major issues of the show is that in relays on the fact that it’s Doctor Who, as if that’s enough to make an individual episode awesome. It’s like finding a dead rabbit in your tube of Pringles. Just because it has the Pringle wrapper on it doesn’t make it a great buy. In fact, if that happened to me I’d be writing a strongly worded article on a website that the company would probably never read… wait…
Let’s get down to this episode: “The Magician’s Apprentice”. This episode does in fact hold up… ish… Beware of spoilers! I’m going to go through the episode in chronological order, expressing my thoughts, but I will but summarising them at the end, so if you don’t want to read all of it, you can scroll down to the bottom for my thoughts and conclusion!
The episode opens up with an epic war scene, well epic for Doctor Who anyway. One of the really good things about the last couple of series’ is that it feels real; the sets, effects, everything. It really does feel real and gritty. I like this new tone. We don’t know where this battle is taking place or who is fighting. Then we find a small boy surrounded by the creepy ‘hand-mines’. The Doctor, naturally, tries to save him until the boy reveals his name; DAVROS! The creator of the Daleks! Opening Credits…
Instantly the episode is so epic. The Doctor is faced with a terrible decision: save the most evil man in the universe, or leave a small child for dead. This was the question posed by the Fourth Doctor back in “Genesis of The Daleks”.
My jaw dropped… I was so shocked and so excited…
After the opening credits we find a makeupless Marilyn Manson floating around the Mos Eisley Cantina and the Shadow Proclamation asking for the whereabouts of the Doctor for Davros. I call the space bar we see the Mos Eisley Cantina because this whole sequence is very Star Wars-y; the swiping transitions to different planets revealing loads of aliens with ridiculous (but really cool) prosthetics. I’m not saying this is at all a bad thing. Again, I love how Doctor Who feels more real and much more sci-fi, and less cartoon-y.
Next we find that all the planes in the world have stopped in mid-air. This huge epic phenomenon which would send the whole world into panic, just so Missy can get some attention… It would totally be something that character would do, but a waste of a potentially cool plot and a waste of time that could be spent better on the final moments of the episode…
I do like Missy. I think she’s a fantastic character, especially in this episode and I hope she does become a recurring character in this series as the rumours say. She explains, so beautifully, her relationships with Doctor as a love/hate relationship, like they’re ‘frenemies’. Even when watching previous incarnations of the Master, I’ve always thought of him/her like that annoying rebellious friend from your college days who hasn’t grown up yet.
I just really need to find out more about her… I need the link between John Simm’s Master and Michelle Gomez’s Missy.
When Clara and Missy meet under the eyes of U.N.I.T (loving that they’re still around) Missy shows Clara that the Doctor gave her his ‘Confession Disc’, a Time Lord’s last will and testimony given to their closest relation the eve before their death. The Doctor’s going to die again! UGH…
Here we are more than half way through the episode when the Missy and Clara find the Doctor in Medieval England throwing a 3 week long party, playing the Doctor Who theme song on an electric guitar and riding a tank. That was really cool. But again, it dragged on for too long. You find that Doctor is here, throwing this party to distract himself from the fact that he didn’t save Davros, and he knew that Davros was after him. Lo and behold, Colony Sarff appears and takes the three of them away. Again, great scene, just dragged on a little too long.
The Doctor is taken to Davros whilst Missy and Clara are locked in a cell on a space ship. But as you can imagine, the girls escape. They find that the space ship is actually a building on an invisible planet, Skaro! I loved how scared Missy seemed when they realised this...
Yes, Skaro is rebuilt! Ready will a massive city filled with mix of Classic Daleks and golden Daleks. But no Power Ranger Daleks…
Remember them? Weren’t they supposed to be the new ultimate Daleks leaving all previous Daleks obsolete? And why Classic Daleks? I love references to the classic era, but right now it just doesn't make sense... Since Matt Smith’s era the timeline and continuity of the Daleks has just become lost on the writers… And it really frustrates me… I hope it’s not just me…
When the Doctor enters Davros’ room we see a life support system lift up all Empire Strikes Back style revealing a bloke wearing a cheap Davros Halloween mask, dying from embarrassment. I’m sorry, but the last time we saw Davros he looked so awesome, so real! So, despite what I said earlier, the prosthetics really let me down on who should be the central character to this episode. And, as far as we know, all Davros wanted, before he died, was to tell the Doctor he remembers what happened when he was a child and for him to admit that compassion is a weakness… what?
Suddenly, out of nowhere, with no build up, the Dalek’s destroy the TARDIS (because that’s super easy now), kills Missy and Clara… Yeah bloody right…
Then we cut to the Doctor back on the battlefield with a trapped baby Davros. The Doctor reveals a Dalek pistol? And is about to shoot when we get the end credits. Awesome cliff hanger…
This episode would only work if it starts off an arc that last the whole series. We know that this is the first part of a story, assumingly a two-parter, but I hope this story will last for more than one more episode. And I don’t mean like in series 6 where we got an epic two-parter then the plot was forgotten until a crappy mid-season finale and then a single episode series finale wrap up… I want every episode in this series to be a chapter in a huge story leading from this episode. I know that this won’t happen though.
Unfortunately what will happen is the Doctor will spend ages contemplating killing Baby Davros and then gives up, goes back to old Davros, give him a speech about compassion and friendship, wave his sonic screwdriver and reverse the teleport that was supposed to look like guns to bring back Missy, Clara and the TARDIS, then just leave and forget about it.
We KNOW the Missy and Clara will come back, we KNOW the TARDIS will come back… they didn’t exactly make an effort in making us think they were all dead did they? No dramatic build up, no explanation to why the Daleks somehow have the power to destroy a TARDIS, NOTHING! It was sloppy.
Part two has a lot of explanation to do, it has a lot of good story to deliver to make this episode worth my time.
Doctor Who has a lot to do to make it a good show again. As mentioned in my previous article linked above, another issue Doctor Who faces is pacing; there were literally four scenes, each 10 minutes long and two actual things happened in the episode. I’ve said it before, each episode is either too packed with story and then weakly resolved or too lacking in story and it’s stretched out over 45 minutes. Steven Moffatt cannot pace an episode.
This episode spent 45 minutes building up, developing characters and picking up where we left off last series, which you do need to do on episode one. But this all got in the way of a potentially awesome Davros story which could redeem the Daleks (because, if we’re honest with ourselves, no one cares about the Daleks anymore).
My last point is that this episode is not, in any way, new fan / casual viewer friendly. It would be literally impossible anyone who hasn’t seen Doctor Who before to get into this series. You have to go back at least 5 series’ to get what the hell is going on.
I’m going to give this episode a 5/10. As I just said above, the pacing was poor and the plot was badly executed. But saying that, it's a great establishing episode; we really get the depth and breadth of time and space, we meet and developed all the characters in epic overly dramatic ways and we had loads of references and easter eggs to the show's history. This episode should have been a great way of introducing new viewers to the show, but unfortunately and it's completely inaccessible for new viewers due to the plot. This episode can be redeemed when we get the next part of the story. Let's hope this happens!