The Witch’s Familiar reviewed

Clara Dalek production artworkMy overall view of this episode is it was quite brilliant in many places, though I do worry it was too focussed on hard-core fans and will have alienated more casual viewers. With the unfortunate timing of the England-Wales Rugby World Cup game, Saturday’s viewing figures were as bad as they have been since the 1980s. An unfortunate coincidence of timing, but I do wonder if this will have longer term implications.

The story

Clara and Missy not dead (no surprise) and they team up to penetrate the Dalek city via the sewers. This allows us to learn of the all but dead Dalek remnants under the Dalek city, and get Clara into a Dalek outfit. Meanwhile the Doctor takes Davros’s chair, confronts the Daleks, is captured by Colony Sarrf and has a long, introspective 1-1 with Davros that ends with a wish to have one more dawn. The Doctor donates some regeneration energy (bad marks for dodgy science) and this is all a trick, the energy drains into the Dalek population and they can now evolve into Dalek – Time Lord hybrids. We learn this may have been predicted and may be why the Doctor fled Gallifrey (even if he hadn’t heard of the Daleks then?)

But wait, time for a happy ending, it’s all a trick of the Doctor’s, the sewer dwellers are evolving and decide (conveniently) to wipe out the Daleks and a few falling blocks of stone are suddenly able to smash Dalek casings. Well it looks good.

The TARDIS had hidden in dispersed form (really?) and re-assembles around the Doctor and Clara. This after the Doctor had been tempted by Missy to try to kill Clara in Dalek form. Good job for Mercy!

The storytelling

[pullquote]the story-crafting is rock-solid[/pullquote]

First note how the whole of Magician’s Apprentice was covered in a coupe of minutes at the beginning. Little actual material content I’m afraid. As a construction, though, the story-crafting is rock-solid. Everything fits and there are two massively poignant segments – the Doctor and Davros and Clara in the Dalek (again).

Not all is perfect though; Clara is (in my mind) the Witch’s Familiar, and is a plaything for Missy to torture, through down holes, threaten to eat, get trapped in a Dalek shell (for no strong reason), suffer psychologically and be saved at the end. Jenna Coleman’s portrayal is brilliant, and Michelle Gomez fully demonstrates how a female Time Lord is a perfectly viable central character.

As I said above Capaldi and Bleach are superb as the Doctor and Davros, it is poignant and honest to the characters. Is it one for the casual viewer? I worry not. Fandom has a tendency to feed off itself and this might be a good time to check in with less dedicated members of the audience. Maybe Doctor Who will eat itself.

Being critical aside, I liked this and my list of whinges is manageable (I still don’t like young Davros with the sonic and memories of the Doctor, nor do I like the glasses). Still, Steven Moffat doesn’t write it for me and why should he!

In the end I much preferred this to the first part, I assume Clara was also the apprentice of the first part and I do wish we had a set of Clara / Missy stories.

What did you think? Let me know!

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