The Witch’s Familiar closes out our first two-part story of the season in excellent form, and Series 9 is off to a great start. With the surprise return of Davros last week, many were wondering where this story was headed. Would this be the story to kill off the Daleks? Is this truly the end of Davros? Will the events of Genesis of the Daleks be undone? And now we have our answers. This first story has taken the show far from it’s fairytale-centric mentality of seasons past, and given us a more cerebral, inverted look at who the Doctor really is. Spoilers do follow. (And I apologize for the late review. I generally like to watch an episode of Who twice before giving it a score).
The episode begins in a very meta fashion, with Missy telling a harrowing tale of how the Doctor escapes surefire death at the last second. She is telling this to a tied up Clara, while sharpening a stake. Why? Why not. But the question is asked, why does the Doctor always escape. Because he’s clever? Or is something greater happening? Some unseen web of fate guiding him, via hope? Interesting food for thought, whilst also giving us a brief explanation as to how Missy and Clara survive, in so many words. Strangely written, but exceptionally executed.
The most organic element of this
episode entire story, is the time that the Doctor and Davros spend together. Many fans, myself included, wanted an episode purely about Davros and the Doctor in a room, talking. Much of this episode was just that. And it really was beautifully done. Despite Davros’ inevitable and downright low betrayal, we got such an incredible moment between the Doctor and one of the show’s most iconic villains. We were privileged to get such unreserved emotion out of such a manic and evil character. Davros weeped tears of joy for the Doctor! He laughed with the Doctor! And don’t one of you dare tell me those emotions were just a show to get the Doctor to do what he wanted him to. I truly feel as though he, despite his master plan, was indeed wrought with emotion – perhaps truly at the end of his life.
How the concept of Dalek sewers ever got passed the drawing board, I’ll never know. This is simply one of the most unnecessarily odd additions to their canon yet. Why couldn’t it just be a Dalek graveyard? Are we to assume all their excrement simply goes to the same place they put their “dead”? And now that the Doctor’s given them some life-force energy, do we have a giant fecal Dalek on the loose?
Davros’ plan to steal the Doctor’s regeneration magic for his own personal and his creations’ use was actually quite genius. I can’t think of a Doctor Who villain attempting to steal life-force energy in the past, so this is a great idea, as master plans go. Much better than, say, his last appearance when he stole a bunch of planets and planned to end the universe. This, along with the fact that his appearance this time around was so unique, make this one of my favorite Davros stories, right up there with his first appearance.
One has to wonder what Missy’s ultimate plan was throughout this story. Not that the Master ever truly needs one, but I’m kind of curious where she was headed. Was she trying to have the Doctor kill his companion? Was she attempting to get the Doctor to realize that the Daleks are suddenly more merciful beings now? Clara was definitely nothing but a tool for her to use, so was she trying to teach the Doctor something about himself? Or is she just crazy? Well, yes. She is crazy, and Michelle Gomez proves herself time and again a bonkers version of the Master, one I’m finally starting to truly appreciate. (Yes, yes, very hard to wrap head around the fact that the Master is a she now, blasphemy, pollution, agendas, death to the showrunner). If you don’t mind my comparison, you could compare the Doctor and the Master to Norse mythology. She’s very much the Loki to the Doctor’s Thor, wreaking mischief wherever she gets the opportunity.
Compassion proves the Doctor’s greatest weakness as he lets himself fall prey to Davros master plan, but as he mentions, he’d die of nothing else. And that’s the Doctor in a nutshell. Instead of going back in time to kill a young Davros before he could create the Daleks, he goes back to show a bit of compassion.
Hopefully those sunglasses don’t become the equivalent of the Sonic Screwdriver down the line. I’m really glad they got rid of the sonic device, and am not pleased that they simply replaced it with another. Here’s hoping it’ll only be used to recall the Hostile Action Displacement System (HADS).