If you’ve read any of my previous MoviePilot articles, read any of my rant-y Facebook statuses, tweets or even just spoken to me about Doctor Who, you know that I have a love/hate relationship with the show, not un-similar to the Doctor’s relationship with the Master… or Davros for that matter.
‘The Witch’s Familiar’, episode 2 of series 9, is, in my opinion, the best episode we have seen in a long time. For me, everything went downhill after the midseason finale of series 6. For me, the last good Doctor Who episode was ‘The Rebel Flesh/ The Almost People’… until now. Yes, there have been good episodes since, but not great ones, and a lot of episodes instantly leave me thinking “well, that was garbage” until watching it a year later and then thinking “meh, it was okay”. For me, an episode of any TV show needs to leave me instantly thinking “OH MY GOSH THAT WAS AMAZING”. ‘The Witch’s Familiar’ left me thinking just that.
Before I go through the episode I suggest you read my review for the last episode, And be warned, I to tend to write really long articles, so you can just scroll down to my Conclusion section at the bottom where I just wrap up my review!
Along Time Ago In A TARDIS Far Far Away…
Straight off we find Clara and Missy, obviously alive, in a waste land. Missy explains how Clara and she survived the Daleks by telling a story about the Doctor where he used the energy from an enemy’s weaponry to power a teleport device allowing him to escape. It was a cool and well-made action scene with glimpses of the First and Fourth Doctor. Although it was a little too long and a bit of a waste of time, the scene tells us a little bit about how well Missy knows the Doctor and how much she actually admires him as well as explaining how she didn’t die in the series 8 finale. It also shows us a little bit more of Missy’s madness, as whilst she’s telling the story she’s sharpening a piece of wood with the intention of eating Clara if they can’t find a way out of this situation. Missy also raises the question “why does the Doctor always survive?” and Clara answers “Because he assumes he’s going to win” which makes the audience ask “what if the Doctor doesn’t think he’s going to win?”
“Admit it! You’ve all had this exact nightmare!”
After the opening credits we keep flicking between the Doctor and the Daleks and Missy and Clara, which I really liked. It’s such a small thing, but flicking between two different story lines really does help with depth of plot and pacing. Pacing has been a massive issue with Doctor Who in the past but it’s was on point in the episode, infallible.
The Doctor forces Davros out of his chair at gun point leaving on the floor. Then the Doctor enters the chamber of the Supreme Dalek in Davros’s chair saying “Admit it! You’ve all had this exact nightmare!” which was very, very funny, and then he demands Clara back, willing to kill any Dalek that tells him she’s dead. So, the Doctor knew she can’t have died. At one point he reveals a cup of tea and says “Question: How did I get the cup of tea? Answer: I’m the Doctor, just accept it”, which again, was very funny, but I think was Steven Moffatt saying “Yes! I know I’m bad at explaining stuff, stop whining! Please!”
Then we flick back to Clara and Missy who have found themselves in the Skaro Sewers, only, Dalek’s don’t produce waste… Missy tells Clara that the Dalek word for sewer means the same as the word for graveyard. Dalek’s don’t die, just decay so this is where all the old Daleks go to become, what I like to call, POO DALEKS. This is another huge reference to ‘The Genesis of The Daleks’ where we see Davros leaving failed Dalek mutant experiments in the sewers. Again, I have to mention Missy and Clara’s dynamic; fun and hilarious; you’re not too sure what Missy is up to and neither is Clara so she doesn’t trust her, but you kinda want to trust Missy.
“Am I a good man?”
Davros is back in his chair and he gives the Doctor the only chair on Skaro, claiming it was very difficult to find and that the Doctor should be grateful. Again, funny, and we’ve also got to remember that Kaleds, before mutating into Daleks were a humanoid race, as we can see with young Davros, so as some point on Skaro there would have been quite a lot of chairs!
This scene is incredible… I got so soaked in, I cried. This conversation between the Doctor and Davros is just so heart-warming. First, Davros shows him tries to convince the Doctor to use his life support machine, connected to all over Daleks, to kill them all. The Doctor refuses due to his compassion and then they just talk, bare their souls to each other, laugh together and cry together. Davros shows he’s happy for the Doctor that Gallifrey has returned and in his final hours of life, turns off his blue fake eye and opens his real eyes to “see your face with my own eyes” all ‘Return of The Jedi’ style. Then he asks the Doctor if he’s a good man just like the Doctor did last series. Mate… I can’t even…
“I AM A DALEK! I AM A DALEK!”
We flick back to Missy and Clara. They have captured and killed a Dalek with help from the Poo Daleks. Missy puts Clara in the empty shell and asks Clara to say “I am Clara” which comes out in the Dalek speakers to “I am a Dalek” and “I love you” which comes out at “EXTERMINATE” which begs the question, do Daleks mean everything they say?
This is a strong link back to ‘The Daleks’, the First Doctor’s story were we meet the Daleks for the first time and Ian gets inside an empty Dalek’s shell and also the first time we meet Clara in ‘the Asylum of the Daleks’
I think Clara might remember this reference too, as she gets extremely scared and emotional which then, we learn, is what powers the Dalek weaponry.
“The coming of the hybrid; half Dalek, half Time Lord!”
Davros has moments to live, and all he wants is to see the sunrise one last time. The Doctor offers up some regeneration energy to the life support system and then Colony Starf ties the Doctor to the machine. Davros reveals his plan, using the machine that links all Daleks together to fulfil a Galifreyan prophecy; the Time Lord / Dalek Hybrid! I gotta be honest with you, I was terrified! Not so hot on this prophecy thing, I didn’t think it was necessary, but my word, Dalek’s that could regenerate?! A Davros that could regenerate! Bugger…
Just before things could get any tenser, Missy jumps in and destroys the life support machine. But is it all sorted? Nope! Davros’ life has been extended, the Daleks are “renewed”, whatever that means… but…
Hurray for the Poo Daleks!
All the Daleks got a bit of that regeneration energy, even the decaying Poo Daleks down in the sewers. They rise up and start to destroy the Dalek city.
Missy tries to convince the Doctor that Clara is dead and when Clara rolls up in the Dalek shell, because of the translation thing she can’t convince him otherwise. Clara then asks for “mercy” and the Doctor knows it’s her and he tells Missy to run as if he’s going to kill her if Clara isn’t all fine. There was a moment there when I thought Clara wouldn’t be able to get out of the shell as her brain was wired to the shell. I was then convinced that Clara might die.
The Doctor doesn’t have his sonic screwdriver, so he uses his brand spanking new sonic sun-glasses to bring the TARDIS, which wasn’t destroyed, just redistributed. I’ve always thought the screwdriver was over used, and I like seeing him work without it, but I think sun-glasses might be the wrong direction to take…
Because Dalek’s shouldn’t have the concept of mercy, the Doctor wonders why Clara’s Dalek can say it. He remembers when Davros explained that there were some design flaws in the Daleks due to Davros’ personally, so the Doctor goes back to young Davros to save him from the hand mines, teaching him mercy. The End.
So, what did I like?
I love Peter Copaldi, I know many don’t, but I think he’s a fantastic Doctor in every way. I love Missy, I think although the Master has always been an interesting character, Missy just brings so much depth and energy. I loved the humour, the episode was hilarious at times but it never took you away from the stakes, it was perfectly balanced. I’ve mentioned the pacing, which, when usually horrible, was perfect, and I feel the same about the score; the music is usually over the top, repetitive and out of place, but I thought it was perfect. And it was so emotional; you were scared for Clara, you felt Missy’s fear and the Doctor’s sympathy for Davros, whom you also felt something for. Doctor Who hasn’t made me feel invested in a character in a very long time. I usually judge a film or TV show by how I feel for the villain; I really loved Davros; seeing him vulnerable and also feeling sorry for him and well as tense just looking at him. All of these good things are things that Doctor Who has failed to achieve in a very very long time. This was, finally, a Dalek episode where I wasn’t like “oh dear, here we go again”. All of these good things, for me, redeem the bad things in this episode, but I still have to mention them.
So, what didn’t I like?
I didn’t like the resolution. As usual, the Doctor suddenly reveals he’s one step ahead of Davros and already knew his plan, meaning he must have known about the Poo Daleks, which he probably did, but I have liked a hint that he does know. I would have liked to have known how Davros and the Supreme Dalek survived ‘Journey’s End’ and why there were Classic Daleks. Although I liked the bit with Clara inside the Dalek, I didn’t like her in the episode at all… she was useless. I didn’t like the way the TARDIS just came back either or the sonic glasses. And as I said in my last review, as a series premier, it’s completely inaccessible for new fans.
There are way more good things about this episode than bad things. This episode has redeemed many problems that Doctor Who has had in the past, but still has a lot to work on. I’m giving this episode an 8/10.