Missy and Clara explore the Skaro sewers, The Doctor learns the consequences of his compassion, and Davros tells a joke.
The revelation of a rebuilt Skaro and the supposed death of Clara and Missy has the Doctor on the offensive, quickly taking control of the situation from Davros (among other things) and going two for two on memorable entrances. But, just like The Doctor, Davros and the daleks are sitting on a few more tricks.
Meanwhile, Missy tells a fantastic story of The Doctor, without escape, without hope, and basically happy, while explaining her escape from her last death attempt and their escape from the daleks. The flashbacks shown during this story are entertaining, most notably for glimpses of the Fourth and First Doctor in brief action. With entertaining jokes and threats from Missy, Clara decides their next plan of action to save the Doctor, who, for the the first time in history, seems to have no hope.
As Missy and Clara find their way back to The Doctor, putting Clara into an all too familiar and horrible situation, Davros discusses the end of his life with his lifelong enemy. Remarking on compassion being what will lead The Doctor to his ultimate downfall, the Dark Lord of Skaro begins to surprise the Time Lord by showing emotion, possibly even regret for his actions, and he even tells a small joke, which, for the Creator of the Daleks, is a BIG deal.
After watching “The Magician’s Apprentice” and spending a week wondering “if The Doctor was the Magician, who was the Apprentice,” (which I’ve concluded was Davros), going into the episode brings up a similar question; who is the Witch and who is the Familiar. The answer is easier to conclude as much of the episode shows Missy guiding Clara, in her own twisted way, into the steps of her plan, setting her role as the witch, and Clara the familiar. But the title is shown to be a clever play on words, as Clara acts the part of the Witch’s familiar, but also finds herself in a familiar situation, alluding to our first introduction to Clara “Oswin” Oswald.
From the beginning of “The Witch’s Familiar,” Michelle Gomez steals the show as Missy. Consistently, she has taken the madness of The Master seen in John Simm during the Tenth Doctor’s run, and brings it to a whole new level by, not dancing, but standing firmly on the line between hilarity and insanity. Missy is becoming the Joker to The Doctor’s Batman. Even the act of sharpening a spear for survival with a knife stands out, causing the viewer to wonder if this was a production mistake, or done on purpose. As the Doctor so eloquently puts it in this episode; she’s the Master, just accept it.
As the first story arc of season nine ends, just as any good episode of Doctor Who does, the viewer is left with a few questions. Questions that can only be answered by knowing the mind of The Doctor.
One thing we do know; Sonic Shades are cool.