Doctor Who Review: “The Magician’s Apprentice”

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Dear DocBlogger:

He plays with my heart and he toys with my affections. He introduces me to these amazing people only to take them away. Then, when I’ve almost forgotten about them, he brings them back into my life. He makes me fall in love then dashes my hopes. He shows me the worst and then convinces me to forgive.

-Conflicted in Colorado

Dear Conflicted:

Never, I repeat NEVER, trust Steven Moffat.

-DocBlogger

***

Let me first start out by saying I had a love/hate relationship with “Angry Eyebrows” all last season. I know, it was probably that whole, “just got dumped by my boyfriend (Matt Smith) and it’s going to take me a while to warm up to someone new (Peter Capaldi)” thing because I was seriously invested in #11.

It’s not the age difference. I like older men.

My issue is that the other Doctors all believed that every human was unique, wonderful and worth saving. By the end of Season 8, I knew that #12 didn’t. It saddened me. It hurt my soul a bit. But I committed to getting over myself and pinned my hopes on Season 9.

Spoilers ahead, Sweetie…

The Episode in a Nutshell

The Magician’s Apprentice grabbed my attention from the start. I love that moment at the beginning of a Doctor Who episode when I have to quickly get my bearings in terms of time and place. The sepia tones created a nostalgic feeling and at once there’s a real threat and a child in trouble. Our Doctor appears, tossing his screwdriver as a safety line. Finally, the reveal – the child is Davros, an archenemy if ever there was one, leader of the dreaded Daleks. The episode fades to commercial as we wonder what the Doctor will do.

Moffat is king at creating tension, juxtaposing seemingly unrelated story lines and then merging them together.Doctor Who fans know that patience will be rewarded, so we wait as a mysterious being skates across several planets (including what must be a tribute to the Mos Eisley cantina scene from Star Wars Episode IV) searching out the Doctor with a message that “Davros remembers.” Enter our companion who helps the best and brightest face down the still-merciless (and resurrected) Missy who, now in the possession of the Doctor’s confession dial, tells us the Doctor is about to die. Switch to 1138 AD, where the Doctor has brought a guitar to an “axe fight” so he can go on a medieval bender before kicking the bucket.

Everything comes full circle as the mystery being, Colony Sarff, appears to take the trio to face Davros. My favorite line in this episode, without a doubt, is the Doctor calling Colony Sarff “snake nest in a dress.” Missy gets jealous and Clara, as the Doctor Whisperer, lets us all know that our hero is ashamed of something horrible. They teleport to face the obvious trap that awaits them and fans discover that one of the medievals is actually a Dalek and the Tardis has been captured.

As the Doctor, Clara and Missy find themselves on what appears to be a tiny space station housing the dying Davros, Missy uncovers that they are actually located firmly on the now-visible planet Skaro. Separated from the Doctor, the ladies are surrounded and the Tardis is threatened, all while the Doctor watches and Davros narrates, claiming that he no longer controls the Daleks’ actions. Missy goes on the offensive, claiming her value, only to be exterminated quickly. Clara is reduced to acting like the proverbial deer in the headlights and is killed as she tries to flee. Powerless, the Doctor then turns on his captor who gleefully accuses him that his compassion is his greatest indulgence. As Davros goads the Doctor into admitting that compassion is wrong, we see the Tardis under attack.

Our ending shot is the Doctor back at the beginning, now about to exterminate young Davros in the “hand mine” field. Has he changed his mind about compassion? To Be Continued…

Why So Conflicted?

First off, I am honestly disappointed that Moffat and the team are kicking off a new season by rehashing old characters I don’t like to begin with. We ended last season with Cybermen (sigh) and we’re starting this season with Daleks.

But wait, there’s more.

I LOVED Missy last season. She was perfection in her heartlessness. We all hated her passionately. Until suddenly, as if the writers realized that a new Doctor was plenty and that fans couldn’t possibly also handle a new villain, she became the Master. They did her character a major disservice. But now she’s back and fans are supposed to forgive every nasty thing she did and accept her as the Doctor’s forever bestie. I’m sorry Moffat, but I don’t like it. It feels…itchy, like a wool blanket. It’s too easy.

If we are to explore whether it is right and just to take one life to save many others, then let’s clean the slate and do this right. Let’s juxtapose our Doctor against a horrible Nazi or two. Let’s have him decide between life and death over HIV patient zero. Then Clara, his external conscience, can be that barometer for him. Unfortunately, resurrecting Davros on his deathbed with a dying wish to get the Doctor to admit that he should have killed his archenemy when he had the chance is frustrating. Davros isn’t the least bit remorseful, so this rings hollow for me.

The good news is that by the end of the episode, I felt a spark, maybe even a connection, with Capaldi. Witty dialog aside, his acting was superb. His facial expressions reeled me in. I believed his emotions and felt his pain. I didn’t appreciate his easy banter with Missy, but I forgave it. As far as Clara’s death is concerned, I wonder if this becomes where soufflé girl originates and the door is opened for a new companion.

We’ll have to tune in next week and see.

Liz Bowen, a.k.a DocBlogger

Liz Bowen is a long-time Doctor Who fan and first-time blogger living in Colorado Springs. She enjoys seeing her childhood recreated in cinematic excellence and will waste entire evenings waxing poetic about the technical beauty that is Transformers. She indulges in writing Supernatural fanfic and is working on her first original book.

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2 thoughts

  1. “Rule No. 1 the Moffat lies.” 🙂

    Great review! I agree with most of what you’ve written.

    In all honestly, I really enjoyed this episode and I hope they keep the momentum throughout this entire series. Series 8 seemed to lack that cohesion and build up of tension towards the finale.

    From this first episode, I’m really looking forward to a fresh spin on the Doctor’s mythos.

  2. I enjoyed this episode overall, but I agree with you about Missy. I’m anxious to see what happens in tonight’s episode. Popcorn will be ready. I’m close in age to Capaldi, (52), but I had a hard time getting used to him as The Doctor. I really, really missed Matt Smith. (And when Smith started, he seemed to me too young. Must be my middle aged mind. 🙂 ) But heck, I still miss David Tennant. The best Doctor ever as far as I’m concerned. Now I love Mr. Capaldi in the part. The Doctor and he suit each other very well. Now I hear that Jenna Coleman has left the show. This season is her last. Makes me wonder…

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