Saturday, 19 September 2015

The Magician's Apprentice - Review

Naturally, don't read any further if you haven't seen the remarkable first episode of Series 9.
Of course, we won't be able to judge this fully until we have seen how it ties in with the second half.
Prior to broadcast, we had seen the prologue and the prequel, so knew that the Doctor had made his will, and was meditating in Medieval Essex prior to facing some great danger. This related to someone whom he had abandoned, which he has come to regret. Now he must face the consequences.
The pre-titles sequence sees the Doctor land in the middle of a war zone. He tries to save a young boy who has found himself caught in the middle of a minefield. The mines in question are the Handmines - with the eyeballs in the middle of their palms. A very creepy concept.
The Doctor then finds that the boy is called Davros...
He turns his back on him and runs.
(This is the third time the TARDIS has materialised on Skaro, and the Doctor didn't realise it. You'd think he would have some sort of warning system set up by now).

Now, Davros is dying and wants to face the Doctor one last time. He sends his "Darth Vader" - the serpentine Colony Sarff - to find him. (Davros gets referred to as The Dark Lord of Skaro).
This allows us to revisit the Maldovarium (Ood, Hath and Sycorax in attendance), then the Shadow Proclamation. This sees the return of the Judoon as well as Kelly Hunter reprising her role as the Shadow Architect. Claire Higgins (Ohila) finally gets to appear in the series proper, when Sarff visits Karn.
Sarff is a wonderful creation. He glides around, and his name is explained when it is revealed that he is comprised of a bundle of snakes.
Things then shift to present day Earth. Aircraft are suddenly frozen in the air, and UNIT call upon Clara when they can't locate the Doctor. (Another appearance for Jemma Regrave's Kate Stewart. She'll be back in six weeks time). Seems this is the work of Missy, simply trying to attract their attention. Clara recommends searching for anachronisms through Earth's history. There is a nod to a well-known continuity quibble with mention of three alternative Atlantises.
Michelle Gomez makes a welcome return - as mad and as sadistic as ever, but very, very funny with it.
Missy has to use a Vortex Manipulator to travel through time - so she does not have a TARDIS of her own.
The Doctor is finally traced to his Medieval retreat - making the most ludicrously daft entrance ever. He's standing on a tank, playing what sounded like the Doctor Who theme on an electric guitar. He has also introduced the word "dude" several centuries early.
Sarff turns up and transports the Doctor, Clara and Missy to Skaro.
Davros is once again played by Julian Bleach. We get some nice clips of previous Doctors' encounters with Davros - audio for Davison and McCoy, but Tennant and the two Bakers are seen on screen. The Fourth Doctor's moral dilemma about killing a child you knew would grow up to be a monster comes back to haunt him.

The Dalek city is strongly influenced by the Ray Cusick version seen way back in The Dead Planet. Lots of classic era Daleks on view, as well as the bronze RTD ones and the red / gold Supreme who we last saw in Davros' last appearance.
Lanzarote once again plays both itself and an alien planet - Skaro this time - in the same story.
Things turn nasty when first Missy, then Clara appear to get exterminated. To make matters worse, the TARDIS is destroyed. Of course, this will all come out in the wash in the second half of the story.
The cliffhanger sees the Doctor (from the future) return to the battlefield, and point a Dalek exterminator at young Davros.
The trailer for next week's episode (which the BBC accidentally leaked on BBC2 this morning) seems to imply that the Doctor will be offered the chance (by Davros) to wipe out the Daleks. To make us think that Clara and Missy really have been exterminated, neither feature in this.
To be honest, this could easily have been the opener for a season finale.
If this is just episode 1 of 12, we are in for a real treat this year.

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