Doctor Who: The Magician’s Apprentice / The Witch’s Familiar

Peter Capaldi is back for season 9 of Doctor Who, this time looking less like a magician and more like a man in his pajamas. For the first time since pre-Capaldi Doctor Who, we seem to actually have an original storyline. I spent all of season 8 blogging my way through each episode with direct parallels to previous episodes–and not even old episodes either! The two-part season 9 opener has so many new additions to the mythologies that I’m worried they’ve used up all their good ideas for the season already. Let’s have a look at some of their new ideas…

Handmines

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If you know your Doctor Who mythology, you might have recognized Skaro’s Thousand Year War by the fact that there are both planes and bows-and-arrows on the battlefield. The war has been going on so long, the range of weaponry seems almost…anachronistic. But what you wouldn’t have recognized is the handmine weapons. Don’t get them confused with hand grenades. These nasty little suckers are hands with a solitary eyeball (not unlike Davros or a Dalek) that pull you under the ground. We can add this to the list of DW‘s scarier monsters.

The planes have stopped

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A neat trick, one that Missy didn’t break a sweat to accomplish. All planes in the world pausing overhead reminds us of other global phenomenon where Torchwood or Unit got involved, such as the Cybermen ghosts or the 456-possessed children of Children of Earth. Unfortunately, this intriguing mystery just leads us to Missy and is never spoken of again.

The Doctor’s will

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 15/09/2015 - Programme Name: Doctor Who   - TX: 19/09/2015 - Episode: The Magician's Apprentice (No. 1) - Picture Shows:  Clara (JENNA COLEMAN), Doctor Who (PETER CAPALDI) - (C) BBC   - Photographer: Simon Ridgway

(C) BBC – Photographer: Simon Ridgway

We all want to know what’s in the Doctor’s last will, and it’s possible we’ll never know, but what is interesting is that it was delivered to Missy, the Doctor’s oldest friend (and enemy), and not a companion like Clara. The delivery of this Timelordian-decorated gold dial suggests the Doctor believes he’s going to die. He’s making a house call to Davros and he owes him a favor–why wouldn’t he? To prepare for his death, the Doctor takes an adventure in his time traveling phone box to medieval England where he plays electric guitar and teaches the locals the word “dude.” How very Bill and Ted. 

Sarff

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Actually, I really could have done without a man made of snakes, but you have to hand it to them, Davros’ head of security turned out to be an integral part of the plot.

Invisible planet

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For no real reason other than it was cool, the space station Clara and Missy expected to be on turned out to not be a space station at all. Missy and the Doctor both note that the gravity feels too real, and when Missy steps outside, she finds herself not in deep space but on solid ground. Soon the landscape comes into focus and they find themselves on Skaro. Their space station was, in fact, a building all along. This is so much better than saying Skaro was hiding behind a rock or through a vortex this whole time.

The chair

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You have to admit, you’ve always been jealous of Davros’ whizzy chair, so chances are that the Doctor was jealous, too. Chairs are a bit of a joke in this episode:

Doctor: “Davros is an insane, paranoid, genius who has survived among several billion trigger-happy mini tanks for centuries. Conclusion? I’m definitely having his chair!”

Davros: “I hope you are grateful. It wasn’t easy to procure. And very nearly unique, of course. You should feel privileged. The only other chair on Skaro.”

Sewer graveyard

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Daleks are engineered to live forever, so what do you do with them when their physical flesh begins to breakdown? Rather than an old folks home establishment, Daleks throw their elderly into the sewers to rot. Even before you consider the feces-looking Dalek bodies might ooze-attack you, this is a terrifying idea–that any species would throw living creatures of its own kind underground to live forever, decay, and go mad. Not just a cool new piece of the Skaro mythology but, again, an integral part of the plot. Well done, writers.

Vampire Davros

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We knew that Davros was being kept alive by all those wires he’s hooked up to, but we didn’t know that those wires are sucking the energy out of his creation. He is vampire-sucking the Daleks in order to stay alive, so when the Doctor steals his chair, Davros is left without his “fangs” and begins to finally die.

Emotion fueled Daleks

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Daleks have very few emotions besides hate, but Missy teaches us in The Witch’s Familiar that emotions fire the egg beater gun and saying the word “exterminate” allows them to recharge it. Missy puts Clara inside a Dalek shell and we can see first hand how thoughts are translated into the “Dalek experience.”

“You are different to me” becomes “Exterminate!” This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Jenna Coleman inside a Dalek casing, as her alter ego Oswin Oswald had also become a Dalek and died as one. Is this just a clever little nod or will this become part of the plot later? One hopes the latter. In fact, I am suspicious that we never saw the Doctor take Clara out of the casing. Missy warned us that she doesn’t know what will happen when they pull the teeth out of Clara’s brain and whether her skull will heal, so you begin to wonder if she’ll be able to make it out of the shell alive. Then the Doctor gets all weepy and apologetic, supposedly because he thought she was dead and almost killed her again, but wouldn’t it be interesting if it was because he knew he couldn’t detach her and the rest of the season Clara is spent thinking she is a human but really she is a Dalek just like Oswin Oswald? No? Too much? Hey, Amy Pond spent a season as a flesh avatar while pregnant on some distant planet.

Wearable tech

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At first, the sonic sunglasses seem like a bit of a cop out because the Doctor lost his screwdriver and has no way to call back the TARDIS. But then you remember that he pulled the exact same stunt in Doomsday, playing around with a pair of 3D glasses the whole episode before revealing that they detect “void stuff.” Sylvester McCoy, too, wore tech glasses in Silver Nemesis, and Matt Smith in The Hungry Earth. 

Eyes

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Speaking of eyes, are we adding to the eyeball theme in this episode? Remember all that stuff about Clara wearing a dress with eyeballs on it and everything? Doctor Who has a reputation for hiding clues in episodes a whole season in advance. The eyeball handmines and the blue Davros eyeball, along with the fact that Davros opens his eyes for the first time in a long while, adds to this ongoing eyeball motif, which I am hoping brings us back to The Fires of Pompeii, which had the psychics with eyeballs painted on their hands, and where Peter Capaldi first appeared on the show, even if as a different character. With the rumors that David Tennant may be appearing in the forthcoming episode, let’s go back to Pompeii!

Hybrid soldier prophesy

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Davros suggests that the reason the Doctor ran away from Gallifrey was because of a prophesy. This prophesy says that the Doctor will have an important role in the coming of a mega-soldier, a hybrid of two warrior races. Davros does not say whether the prophesy names the two races or whether he jumps to the conclusion that the races are Daleks and Timelords. Harnessing the Doctor’s regeneration energy, Davros thinks the prophesy is being fulfilled now, but the sewer Daleks stop him before a mega-soldier can be created (or so we can assume). Will this prophesy come true later this season? Will Missy’s meddling have something to do with it? It could be really cool, but it also has the potential of being really lame.

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