Doctor Who Magician’s Apprentice Series 9 Episode 1 Review


Series 9 Episode 1 has finally aired.  After months of anticipation, with many eager fans chomping and drooling at every bit of released information, every behind the scenes picture, every extra interview, every guest star announcement, September 19th, 2015, 9:00 pm (EDT) we finally got what we’ve been waiting for.  But did we like it?

I think I did.  While there were still a few things that I had to groan at, for the most part, it seemed The Magician’s Apprentice delivered.

A foggy battlefield shows us a war on a distant planet, with a clash of anachronistic weapons.  Bows and arrows against laser firing bi-planes.  As the conflict seems to die down, a young boy is found trapped in a minefield, surrounded by “hand mines” — so named because they are hands with eyes in the palms, reaching up from the ground, detecting moving things and pulling them under the planet’s surface.  As we see a hand mine pull the man who was trying to help the boy under, another figure offers his assistance.  The Doctor tosses him his sonic screwdriver, and tells him that though he only has a one in a thousand chance to survive, he only needs that one.  He then asks the boy his name, to which he replies “Davros.”

An alien is seen visiting different planets looking for the Doctor.  He visits the Shadow Proclamation, and even Karn, unable to locate him.  He leaves a message for the Doctor with the Sisterhood from the dying Davros: “Davros knows, and Davros remembers”.  I’m a big fan of the show, and have been for more than twenty years so I’ve been more than a little worried since I heard that the series would be revisiting a young Davros.  My biggest worry is that it would erase or in someway ruin all that was Genesis of the Daleks. Genesis is a key story from the original series with Tom Baker as the Doctor, who was sent back by the Time Lords to a point before the creation of the Daleks with instructions to find a way to halt their future tendencies.  If he couldn’t destroy them, he was to find a weakness in them.  If you haven’t seen it, you should track it down.

Planes all over current day Earth are freezing in the sky, and Clara Oswald is called to UNIT to help locate the Doctor to help them solve this current crisis.  They don’t get the Doctor, but the other renegade Time Lord, the Master…..Missy.  Missy who contacts them through a psychic network somehow and has her face 3D pop out of a monitor in UNIT HQ.  Okay, now I can really tell that Moffat wrote this one.  Those sort of jokes, that sort of humour is just not needed in the show.  It’s the same as the “Boing” sound effect when the Doctor was put to sleep by Madam Vastra in last year’s premiere.  I think it really speaks down to the audience and insults their intelligence.  It seems now that Missy is the one freezing the planes so that she could get Clara’s attention, because she can’t find the Doctor either.  Now, hold on.  How is Missy back?  She is clearly the same Missy that we saw in Dark Water and Death in Heaven, because she references the late Danny Pink, so her being an instance from earlier in her own timeline doesn’t work.  I don’t think they really will have an explanation, and if they do, I think it will be pretty lame and forced together.  Whatever it is, it may be the same explanation that they use to bring Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) back, as she’s already been announced for the two Zygon episodes this season.

Missy tells Clara that she’s got the Doctor’s “will”, which is intended to be delivered to his closest friend.  Of course Clara assumes that means her, and it turns out that it was meant for Missy.  We actually get a somewhat decent explanation as to the nature of the relationship between the Doctor and the Master, and some minor character development too.  Eventually the duo come to trust each other a little bit, and manage to find the Doctor, who has been living out his expected last days by basically having a party for three weeks.  Here the Doctor rides into a medieval axe fight with an electric guitar and a military tank, as jokes are thrown about and it seems like the show will run right off the rails.  Fortunately it doesn’t, as the alien tracking the Doctor arrives to confront him and deliver him Davros’ message, as well as throwing back the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver.  Did the Doctor help Davros escape the minefield?  Did Davros do it on his own, and curse the Doctor forever for not helping?  Is that why he created the Daleks in the first place?  (No, it isn’t, see Genesis of the Daleks again)  All of these questions are now on our mind as the Doctor, Clara and Missy are taken to Davros on a space station where he is clearly dying.  Separated from the Doctor, Missy and Clara discover that the space station is really a building on a planet that has been hidden and turned invisible.  That planet of course is Skaro, and we see the Dalek city, pretty much as it appeared in the original series back in 1963 (even the doors in Davros’ chamber were the same as the doors in the Dalek city in that first Dalek episode, which I thought was a very nice touch).  Cut off from his friends by Davros, the Doctor watches as Missy, Clara and his TARDIS are exterminated, killed and destroyed  by the Daleks.  We close on the young Davros again, still trapped in the minefield, but the Doctor has returned, proclaiming he’s not there to save the boy, but there to save his friends.  Raising a Dalek weapon, the Doctor shouts “Exterminate!”

The Good:

  • The “rock star” Doctor from the trailer made sense, and the humour worked well to offset the rest of the episode, and as I said didn’t turn things silly.
  • Nice throwbacks to the classic series with the designs of the Dalek city and even some classic Dalek colours too.  I’m partial to the blue sphere/silver casing models myself.
  • Also did you notice the Doctor seemed to be wearing the second Doctor’s pants (Troughton), and mentioned wearing a bow tie (11th) and a long scarf (4th)?
  • Good suspense all episode long.

The Bad:

  • Potential for lots of plot holes, such as how Davros survived Journey’s End (S4) and how we got to Skaro again, though they opened that plot hole in Asylum of the Daleks in S7.
  • Part of the cliffhanger was pretty good, the Doctor at the end was super effective, but Clara, Missy and the TARDIS being killed/destroyed were not.  We all know they’re not dead.  Clara’s been seen in publicity shots and trailers for future episodes, and obviously the Doctor will have the TARDIS.  Maybe they did decide to kill Missy, but I seriously doubt it.

The Ugly:

  • That stupid effect of Missy’s head coming out of the computer screen
  • The super creepy “messenger of Davros” (whose name I didn’t quite catch) was revealed to be a big snake covered in smaller snakes…really cool actually, and it explained the look of his face perfectly, and the gliding motion when he walked, but it still was ugly…because snakes creep me out!

I think I liked 95% of this episode, which is significant, because I’ve been turned off a lot the last few years by the direction Steven Moffat has take the show.  Still there was some “dumb” humour in this one that I didn’t like, but there was also some intelligent humour, and it thankfully stopped before it was taken too far.  I like the idea of having cliffhanger endings again, but I’m not sure I liked having the premiere episode be a two-parter.  A lot of this season it seems has been set up as two part episodes, though Moffat has gone on record saying that they’re not going to announce which ones will actually be two parts, and that some that we think will be won’t; and some that we wouldn’t expect to be, will.  That seems a little fishy to me, but we’ll have to wait and see.  I’m really looking forward to next week’s episode, and that is something I haven’t been able to say for quite a while.  Next week: The Witch’s Familiar


Posted on 15-09-20, in Doctor Who and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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