Series 9 is here! After 9 months, the wait is finally over. I have spent the last two Saturday nights in front of the telly eating jelly babies and pizza (not at the same time) and with a huge grin on my face because this story is AMAZING!
Warning: full spoilers ahead!
This opening two parter sets a very high standard for the rest of the series. If the other stories are as good as this one, then Series 9 may very well be my favourite series of the revival, beating even Series 4.
The plot is unique, revolving around a line made in Genesis of the Daleks (“If someone who knew the future pointed out a child to you and told you that that child would grow up totally evil to be a ruthless dictator who would destroy millions of lives… could you then kill that child?”) Rather than just be a copy of that story, this one expands on that question and asks more. There are two main strands across this story: The Doctor and Davros (!), and Missy and Clara. While the Doctor and Davros strand is the most interesting and deep, as well as being the focus of the story, the Missy and Clara strand is also very entertaining.
What’s interesting is that the Doctor and Clara are barely together in this story. Clara is mainly with Missy. Their relationship in Part 1 is very tense, especially with the cafe scene. In Part 2, the relationship is more crazy and unpredictable. Some of my favourite parts of The Witch’s Familiar involve Missy’s craziness. Her pushing Clara down the hole to check how deep it is and handcuffing Clara to lure a Dalek are two examples of her unpredictability. She is slowly becoming my favourite Master. My favourite scene with her is the scene where she tried to convince the Doctor to kill Clara in the Dalek suit (a great call back to the first Dalek story, where Ian went inside a Dalek casing). It is a clear example of her ultimate goal- to make the Doctor be like her. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Missy in this series.
The Daleks in this story have a great build up. They are absent from The Magician’s Apprentice until the fantastic Skaro reveal and the squee-worthy appearance of the 60’s Dalek. Then they appear in full force, with the Supreme Dalek and Special Weapons Dalek making welcome returns. While I have never hated their overuse in the series, they have lost their sense of threat present in Dalek in 2005. Since then, we’ve had Daleks defeated by fairy dust, creating pig slaves, defeated by a superpowered Donna, and Skittles Daleks.
They were acceptable in Doomsday (though far too powerful), The Big Bang (though they were unnecessary), Asylum of the Daleks (though it should have been a Cyberman story) and pretty good in the Specials (though again, unnecessary in Time of the Doctor) and Into the Dalek, but here they were superb. They ruthlessly exterminated Missy and Clara and the TARDIS all without a hint of mercy. I knew they would survive, but it was still very well done. In The Witch’s Familiar, they took a back seat to the Doctor/Davros plot, but they were still effective through it. I don’t mind Daleks not exterminating people, I mind them being presented as jokes, idiots or just there for fans. Here, they were vital to the plot and worked as side villains.
My favourite parts of the story were the converstions between the Doctor and Davros. In Part 1 Davros was a menacing figure for the short time he was on screen, while in Part 2 he is turned into a complex, quiet character. I genuinely believed Davros was dying and that all he wanted was to see the Doctor and have him heal him. While his plan is quite simple (and probably just a set up for the finale), the dialogue is stunning. A lot of the second episode is just the Doctor and Davros talking about compassion and mercy. Two scenes stand out for me: the first is the scene where Davros is tempting the Doctor to touch the wires and the second is where Davros opens his eyes and seems to be encouraging the Doctor to find Gallifrey. Of course it was all a trick, but the scenes are still powerful enough to make the twist forgiven.
The main theme of this story is all about friends and enemies. The Master is helping the Doctor, and the Doctor trusts her enough to give the confession dial to. There is a strong indication in this that the Doctor and Master were friends and still respect each other somewhat. I also love the fact that Missy is annoyed when the Doctor calls Davros his arch enemy. Davros in this story also seems to be encouraging and kind to the Doctor, before revealing his plans.
There were so many amazing scenes in this story. Some of them were-
- The pre-credits to The Magician’s Apprentice.
- The cafe scene.
- The cliffhanger.
- The Doctor in Davros’s chair.
- Davros persuading the Doctor to touch the wires.
- Davros opens his eyes.
- Missy tricking the Doctor into nearly killing Clara.
- The end scene.
And now it’s time for the bi-weekly part of the reviews where I randomly speculate on things!
- The Dalek/Time Lord hybrid is probably the story arc of Series 9. I think Missy’s final scene here hints towards an alliance with the Daleks.
- The confession dial is almost certainly going to play a part later on in the series.
- Who is the Master’s daughter? Clara? Someone else? Or just a throw away line?
Overall this was a brilliant start to the series. I honestly feel that the Capaldi era is going to go down in history as the best in New Who. I am so excited for next week’s story, Under the Lake. I just hope it can match the standards of this opener.