Doctor Who – ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’

themagiciansapprenticeSeries Nine, Episode One


The opening episode of series 9 throws us right in at the deep end. The pre-credits sequence shows a war on another planet. A solider is trying to rescue a little boy, and tells him to beware of hand mines. They are hands which comes out of the ground and have eyeballs in the centre of their palms. It grabs the soldier and drags him underground. Then many hand mines come out of the ground.

The Doctor is heard telling the boy that he has a one in a thousand chance of survival… so he should forget the thousand and concentrate on the one. He throws him his sonic screwdriver and asks the boy his name. The boy tells him it is Davros! A shock revelation even before the episode has properly started. The Doctor knows Davros will go on to create the Daleks in the future, and we later discover that the Doctor decided to abandon him.

In the present day, Clara notices aeroplanes are motionless in midair in the sky. She gets a call from UNIT and it turns out this is happening all over the world. Clara thinks someone must be doing that to get their attention. They soon find out who, getting a message from Missy. She sends of text of her reworking on Toni Basil’s ‘Mickey’ and a video where she pops out 3D style and deadpans “Not dead, big surprise”. She wants to meet up with Clara. When they do, it turns out Missy has the last will and testament of the Doctor, which for Timelords is a disc called a Confession Dial. She wants to find the Doctor, thinking he must by dying soon. She hasn’t “turned good” though, and proves it by killing some people for no other reason than to make that point.

Clara and Missy work out between them that the Doctor will be having a party somewhere and sometime on Earth. They find out it’s in the medieval era. They teleport there. In one of the funniest parts of the episode, the Doctor is in the middle of a joust, and comes in like a rock star riding a tank doing a guitar solo wearing sunglasses. He makes some axe fight and fish tank puns. “In a few hundred years that’ll be funny. It’s a slow burner”.

Colony Sarf, a reptilian creature who it turns out is made up of a mass of snakes arrives. He’s been hunting for the Doctor and is working for Davros. Davros is dying and wants to speak with the Doctor. The Doctor agrees to go, ashamed that he left Davros for dead on the battlefield. Missy and Clara insist on going with him.

The Doctor meets Davros on a ship in deep space, there are references to their previous encounters in the Doctor’s different incarnations, most specifically ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ a 1975 episode from the classic series.

Missy and Clara escape, and find that they aren’t in deep space at all, but a planet which is using an invisibility cloak. The planet turns out to be Skaro! The Daleks have rebuilt it. Davros tells the Doctor “Where does an old man go to die but with his children?”

The Daleks have taken possession of the TARDIS, intending to destroy it. Missy tells them that with the TARDIS there’s no limit to what the Daleks could do, but they need her, as she is a Timelady and knows how to use it… or they could just kill her. They choose the latter, and are going to do the same to Clara. The Doctor begs Davros to stop them, but Davros notes that he created the Daleks doesn’t mean he has any real power over them. The Doctor wonders aloud why he ever let Davros live, to which Davros replies “compassion , Doctor has always been your greatest weakness”.

We return to the war scene at the beginning, with the Doctor looking like he’s about to kill the young Davros!

This was an excellent episode where a lot goes on, and there are many surprising twists and turns. So many different locations and events, and a lot of popular characters. As well as the Doctor, Clara, Missy, Davros and the Daleks, Kate Stewart appears briefly. There are references to past Doctors, from the clips and the Doctor referencing previous versions of himself, talking about wearing a big long scarf one day (Tom Baker) and a bowtie another (Matt Smith).

Michelle Gomez as the psychotic Missy is a once again a great addition. Getting jealous of Davros being the Doctor’s arch enemy instead of her is just one of the episode highlights featuring her. I have seen Missy been described by others as a female version of the Joker from Batman, she seems to see creating chaos as fun, but that includes casually murdering people. It’s a reminder while she might be an ally to the Doctor if the circumstances are right, she most certainly hasn’t “turned good”.

Some episode highlights were the hand mines, which are very creepy and while they were only breifly used here might be worth using more in future episodes. Clara has a line implying she might have snogged Jane Austen once.

This episode is so eventful it feels a bit like a movie, and there are a few films that appear to have had an influence, such as the Bill and Ted films, Pan’s Labyrinth and the Star Wars film series.

It’s main point of reference though is an episode from the classic series of Doctor Who. The 1975 episode ‘Genesis of the Daleks’, clips of which were used in this episode. In that the Doctor has a chance to stop the Daleks from ever being created, but he has a moral dilemma. Is it ethical to stop the Daleks from ever existing? The Doctor says when talking of this if someone from the future told you if a child would grow up to be a ruthless dictator responsible for millions of deaths and millions of destroyed lives, would you kill that child? This episode offers that dilemma in a more direct way.

‘The Magician’s Apprentice’ was very enjoyable and a very good episode and one of the best series openers the show has ever done. A great start to series 9.

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