Before I begin this week’s review, I’d like to share with everyone that the season 9 episodes of Doctor Who are starting to be released on the BBC America YouTube channel. Last week they posted “The Magician’s Apprentice”, so I’m assuming they’re going to post “The Witch’s Familiar” as well. They only leave the episodes posted for about a week–“The Magician’s Apprentice” is gone now–so you have to be quick!
Okay, onto the review. This was certainly a vast improvement over last week; the pacing felt much more even, and it felt like stuff was actually happening in this episode in general. There wasn’t as much off-keel, out-of-character wackiness for the Doctor this week, just regular wackiness–like stealing Davros’s chair.
Davros himself was something of a surprise this week. He opened his real eyes for the first time since he was introduced in 1974’s immortal “Genesis of the Daleks”, and there was something oddly poignant and tragic about it. The same could be said of his statement of having given the Doctor “the only other chair on Skaro”. That chair was a stark reminder of what the Daleks used to be and how much they’ve lost. Davros appeared to understand the magnitude of this loss…but it was all just a ruse to trick the Doctor into giving regeneration energy to the Daleks (which, by the way, the Doctor knew was a trick). Julian Bleach did an outstanding job in that scene of taking Davros from a pitiable and sympathetic character back to the cold-hearted villain we all know and love.
Missy went on to prove that either as a man or a woman, she will always be rotten to the core. Her attempt to trick the Doctor into killing Clara in her Dalek disguise was one of the worst subterfuges she ever tried to pull on the Doctor. Missy may claim to be the Doctor’s friend, but at the end of the day, the only person she cares about is herself.
Speaking of Missy, it was established today that she, too, had a family on Gallifrey; she mentioned her daughter in passing to Clara. Although it’s well known that the Doctor had a family on his home planet, this is the first time we received confirmation that the Master had a family as well. I mean, yes, in season 3 he was married to Lucy Saxon, but they did not have any children. On Gallifrey, however, he had at least one child.
Circling back to Clara now, it struck me today that Moffat is wasting an opportunity with her. Why does Clara never flash back to what she’s seen in the Doctor’s time stream? She saw all of his past lives, so she should have known about the Master, the Daleks, and Davros all along. Also, it would have been interesting to see her flash back to being Oswin when Missy made her climb into the Dalek container.
All in all, I think “The Witch’s Familiar” was much better done than “The Magician’s Apprentice”. Here’s hoping they can keep up their streak with next week’s “Under the Lake”.