The Magician’s Apprentice reviewed

Missy and Clara on SkaroSo, Doctor Who is back, not with a bang but with a massive, high-octane full-volume in your face spectacular. Magician’s Apprentice launched to almost universal praise. Lots of visuals, nice references to old Who and great performances it was a tour de force… wasn’t it? Cue the spoilers!

The story

The Doctor visits a battlefield and is on the cusp of rescuing a young boy before finding out he calls himself Davros!

Someone exotic (Colony Sarff) is looking for the Doctor; meanwhile someone has stopped all the planes on Earth. We get a whistle-stop tour of Karn, a Cantina and watch as Clara works with UNIT before they are invited to a meeting with Missy. Missy believes the Doctor fears he is about to die, and they need to go to him.

The Doctor has gone all rock and roll in mediaeval times, and Sarff follows Missy and Clara as they go the Doctor. Of course it is all a trap and this most unusual three musketeers are whisked to Skaro to meet a dying Davros. Davros on his deathbed remembers his earlier encounter with the Doctor and has his sonic screwdriver.

[pullquote]What can the Doctor do?[/pullquote]

If this wasn’t enough, we have massed Dalek’s killing first Missy and then Clara before destroying the TARDIS. What can the Doctor do? Why, go back and kill young Davros on the battlefield. Surely?

The storytelling

A big noisy episode with flashy visuals and a lot of window-dressing around a strong plot. The core ethical dilemma about killing a child for the greater good is at the core of what time-travel stories can be. UNIT are little used and much of the first part of the episode is flashy diversion. Strip away the guitar, the partying and the ad hoc dancing around the plot gaps this is a strong story let down (in my view) by the ending — at no stage do we believe anyone is really dead or the TARDIS is really destroyed. The dramatic escalation (unless the whole series is about doing without the old Type 40) doesn’t wash.

Michelle Gomez steals the show and her frenetic performance as Missy is the best part of this rich tale, though the invention of Colony Sarff is good, even if the name reveals too much, The original battlefield also goes out of its way to be alien: I don’t like the strange grabbing hands with the eyes, nor the bi-planes with laser cannon; I do get the battles have been going on until technology is all but exhausted. The giveaway was the bow and arrow versus the plane.

Final thoughts

Two things: a prediction and a wish.

The prediction: nobody has died (yet), I hope time isn’t re-written rather it is the Daleks playing a trick. I do believe Davros is lying as why did the knowledge of the Doctor in his past never become relevant before? Did he never deconstruct the sonic? I think it is all a test a psychological trap to break the Doctor by testing his most fundamental beliefs. Yes it may be the TARDIS is gone along with Missy and Clara but if so this just means fiddling with time again. Really?

And my wish: wouldn’t a few episodes with Clara as a reluctant companion to Missy be excellent? Let Clara make some difficult moral choices as they two of them seek the Doctor across the series? Give Missy a companion I say!

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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