Doctor Who Review: “The Witch’s Familiar”

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Dear DocBlogger:

Please help! She’s making me crazy. I swear she must be a Gemini because she talks about us being a team one minute and then handcuffs me the next. I seriously think she might kill me one day. How can I tell which is the real her?

Untrusting in Utah

Dear Untrusting:

Trust me Missy is not to be trusted. Tell her to run.

DocBlogger

***

Spoilers ahead, Sweetie…

Sometimes I think that when I breathe things into to ether, the BBC actually hears me from across the pond. It’s the Law of Attraction, a la Doctor Who. Last week I had the nerve to wonder out loud if Clara Oswald’s apparent death in the first episode was going to bring us “soufflé girl,” a.k.a. Oswin/Clara Oswald converted into a Dalek. I don’t know about you, but I nearly lost my shit when, in The Witch’s Familiar, Missy convinced Clara to step inside that Dalek tank. I remember the exact moment when I realized she wasn’t going out wrapped up like a sardine in a can, but that was too close for comfort, my friends. I am now channeling my energies into Lotto numbers.

The Episode in a Nutshell

The continuation of The Magician’s Apprentice, The Witch’s Familiar at least answers our questions about the ladies’ fate right from the opening shot. Missy walks Clara through a previous, seemingly impossible scenario in which the Doctor survives, while Clara spins from a rope tied to her ankles. She challenges the poor girl to determine how the Doctor did it. Clara asks all the right questions, and Missy explains the solution, which also clarifies how the ladies similarly survived the Dalek attack that appeared to kill them. The bigger lesson learned is that the Doctor survives because he always assumes he is going to win.

The Doctor unseats Davros from his Dalek tank and, masquerading as the Dalek leader, is admitted to the main room. Surrounded by Daleks, a Doctor without hope demands Clara’s safe return. At the same time, Missy and Clara have made their way back into the city and have discovered that while all dogs go to heaven, apparently all Daleks end up as decomposing, barely alive but exceedingly angry sewer sludge. Missy decides that they need to kill and take over a Dalek themselves and uses Clara as bait. Luckily, Missy has a brooch made of dark star alloy, which she uses to puncture an unsuspecting Dalek’s armor. Angry decomposing Daleks take their revenge and Missy protects Clara as the Dalek is killed.

Davros admits to the Doctor that through the cables in his infirmary he has been connected to the life force of every Dalek on Skaro and that they keep him alive. He taunts the Doctor with the opportunity to commit genocide, “so many backs with a single knife,” but the Doctor instead shows the importance of compassion by not only passing the opportunity by but also explaining that the reason he came to Davros was not because he was ashamed but merely because Davros was sick and asked for him. We next watch (some of us in horror) as Missy convinces Clara to step inside the Dalek tank as together they figure out how it works. We learn that emotions fire the gun and that most of the things Clara says translate into “Exterminate.” I was left wondering what those poor Daleks may have been trying to tell us all along.

A good portion of the episode shows Davros and the Doctor interacting: making confessions, offering heart-felt congratulations, and asking for redemption. They laugh, they cry, and we think maybe dying Davros isn’t so bad after all. Compassion seems to drive the Doctor into offering a bit of regeneration energy to help Davros see his last sunrise, at which point Davros’s cables turn to snakes and secure the Doctor. Vital regeneration energy is instead channeled to all Daleks so they become hybrids – half Dalek and half time lord. It’s a horrible thought. Meanwhile Missy leads Clara!Dalek into the main room and seems to be handing over complete control of the Doctor (Clara in a handy carrying case) to their enemies. She then leaves Clara among Daleks, who have frozen as part of the regeneration process as she goes off to find the Doctor.

Then in a final countdown, we learn that the Doctor is no fool, knew Davros’ plan all along, and now all the sewer Daleks are oozing out of the pipes to destroy their brothers. Missy puts a Dalek gun in the Doctor’s hand and encourages him to shoot an advancing Dalek who is actually Clara. Clara tries to convince the Doctor of her identity and is finally able to do so, saying “I show mercy.” The Doctor tells Clara to just think “open” and she is released. In true DW fashion the Tardis reassembles and we learn that the Doctor’s screwdriver has been reimagined as a set of sunglasses (wearable tech). Missy is cornered by Daleks and the Doctor travels back in time to young Davros in the hand mine field to make sure that the word “mercy” enters the Daleks’ vocabulary and is available to Clara when she needs it.

I’m Exhausted

The first thing I was struck by was how exhausted I was at the end of this episode. The Witch’s Familiar contained an unbelievable amount of dialogue and enough bouncing around that I wanted to draw out a flow chart just to keep track of it all. Add Missy’s manic-depressive personality and Clara in a Dalek tank and I was pooped as the Doctor walked off into the mist holding young Davros’ hand.

There was so much to process. Moffat seemed committed to teaching us so many lessons, like:

  1. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer (Missy, put down that pointy stick)
  2. Life is what you make of it (i.e. always assume you are going to win)
  3. Never show compassion to someone who just accused you of being too compassionate
  4. Poor Daleks could have been screaming for help and all we ever heard was “Exterminate”
  5. Be merciful to those you don’t know because in the end, it may be your (friend’s) saving grace
  6. Sunglasses are the new screwdriver

And Davros, you sneaky bastard. You had me going there for a while, buddy. Even though those cables looked like snakes early on, I was still hoping you were frankly pulling a “Missy,” becoming yet another frenemy with whom the Doctor could ultimately find an uneasy peace. I wish I knew when the Doctor figured you out.

Needless to say, I was relieved/saddened that Clara made it out of the Dalek tank. Honestly, it would have been brilliant if that was truly how soufflé girl originated. However I understand that it’s just a bit too early for us to lose Clara. I know there’s been more than a bit of speculation about how long she’ll stay with #12, so I’m going to throw in my two cents and say I don’t think she’ll last the entire season.

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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