Can you believe we went almost a whole year without The Doctor? To be honest, I blame the Time Lord’s lack of appearance as the catalyst for the awful events in 2016. Thankfully, our favorite Gallifreyan is returning to our TV screens next month. If you’re anything like me, I tend to re-watch the previous season of a series directly prior to its newest season. So, I’ve decided to do just that with Season 9 (or Series, depending on where you live) of Doctor Who. Nothing like reliving the glory days before plunging into the excitement of the unknown. Now, without further adieu, I give you “The Magician’s Apprentice.” I don’t expect any complaining about spoilers. This episode aired two years ago, y’all.
We open with a war torn, barren field on a mysterious planet. Definitely taking place within the very distant future. We hear gun shots, screams. Soldiers are running about, in a panic. A small boy (Joey Price) whizzes through the mist. Two soldiers spot him, taken aback at the presence of a child on the battlefield. One of the soldiers (Jonathan Ojinnaka) asks the boy if he is lost. We see the ground shift beneath their feet. The soldier attempts to calm the boy when he notices the latter’s panicked expression. Then, the soldier pulls out a scanning device to detect other life forms. He explains to the boy that they are standing in a field of Hand Mines and must remain absolutely still. The hands feed off of sudden movements.
Meanwhile, we see a hand rise from the mud and grab the ankle of the soldier. Said hand yanks the soldier downward, pulling him underground. Then, multiple hands slowly claw their way upward. A singular eyeball lives in the palm of each hand, peering at its surroundings. The boy screams for help, immobilized figuratively and literally. Suddenly, we see a sonic screwdriver fly through the air. It lands in front of the boy. Well, that can only mean one thing…
Then, the mist parts and we see The Doctor (Peter Capaldi). The boy picks up the screwdriver, which allows him to hear The Doctor clearly from afar. Our Doctor tells him he has one chance in a thousand of survival – but that’s all he needs to survive. Always with the words of wisdom, that one. He encourages the boy to take that chance at surviving. To soothe the boy’s nerves, The Doctor asks for the name of the boy that’s going to live. The latter answers “Davros.” Oh shit. We see The Doctor’s face fall with the realization of just who (heehee) he’s saving. Future creator of the Daleks. You know, those metal tank dudes that slaughtered billions of people.
Later, we are at The Maldovarium. Nice to see a familiar setting. A cloaked figure slithers into the pub. It’s very much like the Cantina in Star Wars – loads of different extraterrestrials communing together over games and booze. See? Alcohol brings people together. Anyway, we see an Ood, which always makes me happy. Said cloaked figure is called Colony Sarff (Jami Reid-Quarrell). He asks the now silent crowd if they know the whereabouts of The Doctor. Nobody responds, which pisses off ol’ Sarffy. He uses his snake powers to torture them into answering, but who actually knows where The Doctor is at any given time?
Then, Colony Sarff travels to the Shadow Proclamation in his excursion to find our Time Lord. He runs into a familiar face, the Shadow Architect (Kelly Hunter). Again, he demands she tell him where The Doctor is hiding. She puts her foot down and refuses to divulge any information. Instead, she asks Colony Sarff what Davros wants with The Doctor. That’s right. Snake guy works for the one and only Davros.
Later, Sarff finishes his tour of deep space with a pit stop to Karn. We see the Sisterhood of Karn, spearheaded by Ohila (Clare Higgins), is there to greet him. Ohila demands Sarff reveal why Davros is seeking his oldest enemy. Sarff tries to use his powers, but the Sisterhood is too damn powerful for that nonsense. Finally, Sarff informs Ohila that Davros is dying and requires The Doctor’s presence. Also, that Davros “remembers” what The Doctor did. And with that last cryptic message, snake guy slithers away.
Meanwhile, The Doctor was hiding during this interaction on Karn, observing Sarff. Ohila calls out the Time Lord’s name and asks him what he did to Davros.
Later, we see Colony Sarff return to a hospital-esque chamber, containing a plethora of cables, cords, anything remotely electrical. We see the man himself, Davros (Julian Bleach) resting. He looks awful. Like, maybe he should have perished a good half century before. Sarff informs him he failed to find The Doctor. Davros of course knows he can be found. He tells Sarff to look for The Doctor’s friends. Oh no. Stay away from my Clara! Speaking of which…
Meanwhile, Clara (Jenna Coleman) is collecting chewing gum from her students in a bucket. Miss Oswald is very strict when it comes to gum chewing in class. She rallies her students together for a lesson on author Jane Austen who, according to her, is a fabulous kisser. Before Clara can skip down Mansfield Park (get it?), she spots an airplane, seemingly frozen in the sky. Being the terrific Nancy Drew that she is (perks of hanging around The Doctor), she draws a circle on the window. She notices said airplane doesn’t venture outside the drawn circle. Uh oh.
Suddenly, someone calls for Clara, saying UNIT is on the phone for her, and they almost put him through to the Prime Minister. Yes, folks, our Clara leads a scintillating double life. And with that, she takes her leave. If only I could have used that excuse when I was in school…except minus the Prime Minister bit. I am American, after all.
Later, Clara arrives at UNIT headquarters in style on her motorbike (I’ve been watching a lot of BBC stuff lately). She is greeted by Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave). Clara is told that over 4,000 airplanes have been immobilized all over the globe. Nobody can contact the pilots or crews on any of the planes. However, while the air crafts appear to inactive, they are still moving, just frozen in one singular moment in time. Is there a Doctor in the house? Kate and co. reveal they have been attempting to contact The Doctor, but he is nowhere to be found. Clara insists he wouldn’t want to be bothered unless it was a true emergency.
Suddenly, the phone reserved solely for our favorite Time Lord starts ringing. We see the words “You so Fine” appear on a screen, followed with “Hey Missy!” As if on cue none other than The Master herself, Missy (Michelle Gomez), makes her grand entrance. Missy reveals that yes, she is alive. She is in “one of the hot countries,” enjoying a cup of coffee, as you do when a mysterious force causes planes to freeze midair. Missy also informs UNIT she needs seven snipers, but not for protection for herself. They are for Clara when she comes to visit Missy.
Later, Clara meets our newest Master in a seemingly abandoned town square. We see snipers stationed all around them, ready to take down Missy at a moment’s notice. She’s a Time Lady, dudes, your bullets would maybe tickle her at best. Missy tells Clara she to has been in search of The Doctor, ever since she received a Gallifreyan gift. She reveals a circular golden disc etched with Gallifreyan script. Missy informs Clara it is the Last Will and Testament of a Time Lord, meant for their closest friends. A confession dial. It is not to be opened until the moment of their death. Clara scoffs at the “closest friend” bit, wondering why Missy would receive this and not her. Missy has known The Doctor a very long time, and while they may try to kill each other, it’s all part of their twisted friendship.
Meanwhile, Missy also subtly admits to being the force behind the mysterious plane immobilization. She insists she’s merely using a simple Time Lord trick. Now, since the two are convinced The Doctor is dying, they set out to find him. If The Doctor were on his last legs, where would he go? Back at UNIT, Kate and her crew are monitoring the conversation between Missy and Clara. They decide to search for wherever The Doctor is “making the most noise,” but there isn’t necessarily a crisis involved. This search also encapsulates all time periods.
Suddenly, after both groups are steeped in deep research, our Doctor has been located. Essex, the Middle Ages. Missy activates her vortex manipulator, zapping her and Clara back in time. I need me one of those. Anyway, we see a theater space of sorts, with a crowd raucously cheering. We see a man standing in the center of the dirt-caked stage (Daniel Hoffmann-Gill). He is ready to do battle, y’all. But where is his opponent?
Then, we hear an intricate guitar solo. A set of doors part to reveal a military tank. Standing atop said tank is none other than our Doctor, jamming on an electric guitar while sporting some ridiculously cool shades. Seriously, I need grand entrance tips from him. His opponent is confused, thinking they were going to battle with actual axes. The Doctor reveals he does have an ax (his guitar). He continues to make jokes he insists will be funny in a couple centuries. Our Time Lord spots Clara and Missy. He invites them to the center stage. The Doctor shreds some “Pretty Woman” while Clara goes to meet him. She asks him how he saw her in the sea of faces. He responds that he always sees her. Aw. These two melt my heart.
Meanwhile, Missy enters to “Mickey,” which is oh so fitting for our Master. Missy asks him about the confession dial he sent her. This is what I love about Missy. She doesn’t pull punches. Our Time Lord admits that he’s not on death’s door quite yet. The Doctor reveals it’s still “today,” and it has been for three weeks. Meaning, it’s not tomorrow- his last day. I guess the positive side to being a manipulator of time is you can prolong the inevitable if you wish. And sometimes, even The Doctor doesn’t want to face the inevitable.
Suddenly, we see The Doctor’s opponent (his name is Bors) start choking. The Doctor reminds him to stop eating marbles and attempts to save him. A snake launches out of his mouth, landing in front of the group. We see that snake belongs to Colony Sarff. Davros’ henchman insists on taking The Doctor to Davros, who requires his attention. Sarff tells The Doctor that Davros remembers. He tosses the now battered sonic screwdriver to The Doctor. Clara points out how shameful he looks at the sight of said screwdriver. Our Gallifreyan realizes he must accompany Colony Sarff to wherever Davros is. Clara refuses to let him go alone, so her and Missy join him. They are bound at the wrists by snakes and carted away.
Meanwhile, while en route to Davros, The Doctor explains to Clara exactly who this mysterious foe is. Davros is the creator of the Daleks. He essentially encased his people in crude metal tanks as a means to preserve them. They had been fighting a war for thousands of years, and now continue to slaughter anyone in their path without remorse. In short, Clara should be terrified at the prospect of meeting this man.
Later, they arrive at a building The Doctor assumes to be a hospital or space station. Clara, Missy and The Doctor are sequestered away in a holding cell while they wait to meet Davros. Finally, it’s time for The Doctor to go. Clara points out that The Doctor lied and must make it up to her, so now he has a reason to return in one piece. Before The Doctor leaves, he says the word “gravity” to the girls.
This word spurs Missy into action. She too notices the gravity is off for a space station – it’s too natural, too grounded. Missy decides to open the air lock and test the spacial waters.
Finally, The Doctor sees the clearly dying Davros. The scenes between Davros and The Doctor are some of my favorite Doctor Who scenes of all time. The two discuss whether Davros was right to create the Daleks. Is compassion, or rather lack thereof, wrong? Davros recalls their initial meeting when he was a child. He stipulates it would be wrong to kill a child even if said child would grow up to commit evil acts. The Doctor, of course, is struggling with his decision to save the young Davros, as it resulted in lost lives.
Meanwhile, Missy and Clara begin their space walk outside the space station. They appear to be walking on solid, albeit invisible, ground. Missy surmises it must be a hidden planet of some kind. She also notices that the invisible barriers are wearing off. Missy and Clara see an entire planet forming around them – one Missy thought was long extinct.
Then, The Doctor notices his surroundings changing as he adjusts to his environment. He peers out the window in disbelief. The Doctor realizes they are on Skaro, the home world of the Daleks. Sinister music plays. I’m hyperventilating in a paper bag. Skaro! A world everyone thought was long destroyed. Shit’s about to get real.
Meanwhile, Clara and Missy are spotted by a Dalek, who leads them back to the Supreme Dalek. We see said Supreme Dalek as the TARDIS in his possession and plans to destroy her. Missy, in an attempt to save her life, tells the surrounding Daleks she can help them fly the TARDIS and conquer the universe. You know, also being a Time Lady herself. The Supreme Dalek is having none of it and orders for Missy’s extermination. Our Master is blasted, vanishing entirely.
Then, The Doctor pleads with Davros to keep Clara alive and safe. Davros admits he has no control over the Daleks once they are created – they have willpower of their own. They feed off of Clara’s fear and they want her to run away. Clara stands amid the Daleks, initially paralyzed by fear. Unfortunately, she decides to run and is blasted as well. The Daleks then exterminate the TARDIS.
Our Doctor is beyond crushed. He lost Clara, the TARDIS and Missy in one fell swoop (or blast, in this case). Davros reasons that because of The Doctor’s compassion to allow the child to live, Davros grew up to create the very beings that exterminated his friends. Compassion is a weakness.
In a rage, we see The Doctor go back in time to that barren wasteland. We see the young Davros again. The TARDIS appears behind him. The Doctor reappears, explaining he has come from the future. He lifts a severed Dalek gunstick and points it at young Davros. He shouts “Exterminate!” with every intention to eliminate the problem at its source.
This is one of my favorite new Who season premieres. So beautifully well written, with a few familiar settings and a new one we haven’t seen (Skaro of course). Davros and The Doctor have wonderful scenes together. Credit must also be given to Capaldi and Bleach’s performances as well. Also, who would love to see Missy and Jack Harkness bond over their mutual appreciation of vortex manipulators? The obscene amount of dirty flirting alone! I also loved the complexities of the moral dilemma The Doctor faces. Save a child, who is entrenched in the dangers of war? Even if that child grows up to create metal death machines? Is compassion a weakness?
I hope you stick around, y’all! I plan on re-watching all of Season 9 leading to the Season 10 premiere. Until next time!
Doctor Who Season 10 premieres April 15th, 2017 on your BBC America affiliate.
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