Sunday, 27 September 2015

The Witch's Familiar - Review

Usual warning - do not read until you have seen the episode...
Well that was unusual. We've never had to wait until the end of an episode to see the resolution of the previous week's cliffhanger before.
First things first - the apparent deaths of Missy and Clara, and the destruction of the TARDIS. We never believed any of these things really happened (or if they had then there would be some timey-wimey solution).
Missy and Clara were simply spirited away by Vortex Manipulator, whilst the TARDIS HADS was deployed. What the "D" stands for has varied over the years. In this instance it stands for "Dispersal".
Missy and Clara end up in the wastes outside the Dalek city, and have to form a very uneasy alliance in order to break back in and find the Doctor. As suspected, the title of the episode refers to this.
Michelle Gomez was as brilliant as ever. Lots of fun to be had with a pointy stick. I laughed out loud when she pushed Clara into the Dalek sewer - despite seeing the gag coming a number of Rels before.
As mentioned, the pre-credit sequence does not cover the cliffhanger resolution. Instead we get reference to an unseen adventure for the Doctor, as told by Missy. She can't recall which Doctor, so there is a glimpse of the Fourth (was that a cameo by Jon Culshaw by any chance?), and the First, before we see the current incarnation facing 50 invisible android assassins - only to escape into a pit full of vampire monkeys.(I sooo want to see a story about vampire monkeys. Dear Mr Moffat...)

The Doctor, meanwhile, is still with the dying Davros. We know that the wily old Kaled is up to something, but I have to admit I got totally caught up in his sob story and felt genuinely sorry for him. Maybe Moffat really was going to kill the character off...
It was an exceptional performance from Julian Bleach. We discovered that Davros actually still has real eyes (which does beg the question - why has he never used them?). Bleach's performance was naturally enhanced by the fact that he could use those eyes, rather than just act through the prosthetics.
The Doctor - like me - gets caught up in his story and starts to feel sorry for him - even agreeing to help keep him alive to see one last sunrise on Skaro.
He is so taken in, that he volunteers to give up some of his regeneration energy. Bad move...

Missy and Clara meanwhile are in the sewers. Seems Daleks can be destroyed, but they cannot die of old age. The old 'uns get flushed down into these tunnels, and are still living and sentient to an extent.
We find out a whole lot about what makes a Dalek tick - physically and mentally - when Clara hides inside a casing. Once linked into its systems, the Dalek sometimes says what Clara says, but if she says something un-Dalek like, it comes out all wrong.
Apparently Davros is genetically linked to all the Daleks. When he dies, they do as well (at least as far as Davros says). This turns out to be Davros' big plan. He starts to drain the Doctor of his regeneration energy and it gets transferred to the Daleks.
This ties in with the mystery of why the Doctor originally left Gallifrey. Seems there is an old Time Lord prophesy about the creation of a Dalek / Time Lord hybrid - and the Doctor feared that it might be he. Again, this is all coming from Davros - so can't necessarily be trusted. Unfortunately, as far as the Time War is concerned, the Doctor has blabbed to Davros that Gallifrey has survived. Scope for a future major plot-line...
As usual, the Doctor has been clever. The energy hasn't just gone into the Daleks in the city, it has also gone to those abandoned mutants in the sewers - who have a bit of a grudge regarding how they have been treated...

It is only at the very end that we revisit the cliffhanger from The Magician's Apprentice. The Doctor was never going to shoot little Davros, so - as I suspected - he uses the Exterminator to blast the Handmines and clear a path for the boy to escape. In doing so, he plants the seed of "mercy", that will worm its way into the Daleks' DNA...

It has been a brilliant series opener in my opinion. (Both episodes are being repeated in a feature-length version on Sunday 27th, for UK viewers, as tonight's episode was up against an England Rugby World Cup match on ITV. England got beat. By the Welsh. Scotsman laughs silently to himself).
Lots to enjoy. The Doctor stealing Davros' chair and leaving him lying in the infirmary just one of the things that we will remember this story for. (Evidence at last that the scientist does not have a withered lower half. He only exists from the waist up).
No sign of the blue-faced alien who we saw in some photos taken during filming. Suggests that Missy will be in the finale as well. Maybe Daleks as well. When last seen, she was surrounded by Daleks, but was on the point of making some kind of deal with them.
You can always rely on Davros to get out of anything, so it's not the last of him we have seen either. (Sarff did appear to bite the dust. Hopefully not).
This story has referenced a few previous Dalek stories. One other to mention is Evil of the Daleks - as the Doctor and Clara stand and watch the Dalek city burn.
Next time - ghosts. Under water.

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