Saturday, September 26, 2015

Doctor Who Recap: [9x01] “The Magician’s Apprentice”

     It’s that time of year again: when what was once lush and alive has now shriveled up and fallen to the ground with the new season.

     Not leaves; the hearts of fangirls, of course!

     I’ll admit: every fan base does have a different experience. Some, like the watchers of The Big Bang Theory or Gravity Falls, couldn’t be happier with their show’s return, because even though it’s turned a drastic corner, it’s still hilarious.

     Then there are the fans still waiting for the premiere, like Once Upon A Time (which starts tomorrow) or Sherlock (which, aside from its upcoming Victorian Christmas Special, starts in another decade or so).

     Then there’s Doctor Who: the show that’s usually fraught with conflict and confusion when each new episode airs, but glazed with nostalgia and admiration after the fact.

     Well, to keep that tradition alive, last week’s highly-quotable episode “The Magician’s Apprentice” was just that: fraught with enough twists and turns and cliffhangers to keep the fans mad during the seven-day gap until the next installment. So what exactly happened at the start of Season 9 last Saturday?

     The show begins with the usual cryptic “what’s going on!?” moment, as we see humans[?] probably on an alien planet or in the unforeseeable future of Earth, seeing as they’re in a war with laser-shooting biplanes and yet also running on foot and wielding longbows.

     Suddenly in the midst of the chaos, a soldier spots a little boy running in the field!

     He catches up to the kid, who’s frightened out of his wits… but then they discover that they’re surrounded by Guillermo-Del-Toro-esque “hand mines,” which react to movement… and they drag the soldier underground before he can help the kid!

Such a waste of a good character, too...

     But suddenly a buzzing electric stick flies through the air and lands beside the boy, relaying the calm voice of a strange man with a Scottish accent!

     It’s the Doctor, of course, here to save the day along with his big blue box! He tells the boy that he has a chance to survive — a slim one, but a chance nonetheless!

     The Doctor has such an incredible way with kids: he treats them like adults (or, one could say he also treats adults like children), always telling them the truth and guiding them through tough situations with knowledge and hope. Though this child is shy at first, the Doctor pulls him slowly out of his shell and prepares him to escape the hand-mines: “Tell me the name of the boy who isn’t going to die today!”

     “Davros. My name is Davros.”

     Now I’ll be honest: it’s been so long since I watched some past episodes that I may have had to run a quick Google search to refresh my memory — but once the phrase “creator of the Daleks” came up, it all flooded back to me.

     Crike, is the Doctor ever in a pickle. But he has to save the kid, hasn’t he? He’s the Doctor, and he always does the right thing. He even said so himself in the season trailer: “I’m the Doctor, and I save people!”

     I know Davros will be responsible for the universe’s greatest genocides in future — sort of a galactic Hitler — but that’s the thing about this situation: we’ve seen this show travel back in time and [sort of] try to kill the adult Hitler, and it didn’t work out. In theory, attempting to kill a child Hitler might not succeed, either, and could even be part of the fuel of the flames on which the Third Reich is built.

     So if the Doctor leaves Davros to die as a boy, that’s still far from a guarantee that Davros will die and that time will be altered. The creation of the Daleks is almost a fixed point because they’re so influential around the universe, so rather than attempt to kill their creator and probably end up as his number-one enemy and source of internal child trauma… why not save him? Then Davros will owe the Doctor his life, and perhaps one day he’ll deliver on that debt. That could be the key to stopping the Daleks forever! (Not that the writers would ever do that, but it could… delay the Daleks a bit.)

     Wow, time travel is weird. I probably just opened an entire can of worms for the comments section, too.

     …anyway, back to the episode!

     Now in the present day, we see a creepy hooded figure in roller-skates hunting for the Doctor in galactic cantinas and destroying anyone in his (its?) path!

Even though we see his face,
I immediately was reminded of the Headless Monks...

     This stripe-faced minion (of course it’s a minion; no evil villain in this show would ever stoop to making the search himself) eventually reaches the Shadow Proclamation, but even they don’t know where the Doctor is… though they know this henchman serves Davros.

     As a last resort, the minion visits the Sisterhood of Kaan and asks them to deliver a message to the Doctor (who is, of course, listening in on the conversation): Davros is dying, and the Doctor must face him one last time, because “Davros knows. Davros remembers.”

     When this henchman returns to Davros (who has the sonic screwdriver from his boyhood) and admits the Doctor can’t be found, Davros reminds him that he can easily find the Doctor by finding… his friends.

     Cut to Clara’s job as a schoolteacher… but she doesn’t seem to be doing much teaching today, because all planes over the world have frozen in time. UNIT publicly calls her away from school (probably causing several of her students to suspect that she’s a spy).

     Clara joins Kate Lethbridge-Stewart and analyzes the threat: the planes could be used as bombs, but this isn’t an attack because attacks don’t give warning. This is a call to attention, and right on cue they get a text message:

     “YOU SO FINE.”


     That’s right, folks, Missy is not dead!

Real. Big. Surprise.

     She arranges to meet with Clara (by skillfully suggesting that they bring along snipers so that they’ll feel safe enough to talk with her). They really shouldn't, but they of course go anyway.

     Clara arrives and the negotiations begin, with Missy insulting the loss of Danny Pink.

     To Clara's credit, she handles it it well. Missy explains that she wants to find the Doctor, but no one can right now… and this time it's important, because the Doctor sent out his confession dial (Time Lord will and testament) to his closest friend, which means he suspects he’s about to die. But he didn’t send it to Clara: he sent it to Missy. She claims to be his closest friend, who has cared about him, “Since the Cloyster Wars. Since the night he stole the moon and the president’s wife. Since he was a little girl. One of those was a lie, can you guess which one?”

     Missy explains that they’re ancient friends. Of course they’re always fighting; that’s what friends do. But she hasn't "turned good," if that's what anyone thinks the friendship means. And to prove it, she starts picking off the government agents around them, one by one!

     But UNIT doesn’t want the snipers to shoot Missy just yet…

     So Clara demands that Missy stop. If she really came because the Doctor is in trouble, then she should prove it by cooperating. “Your best friend is in danger: show me you care.”

     Missy releases the planes (which weren’t bombs, just attention grabbers), and confers with Clara: if the Doctor had one last night to live, where would he go? Earth, of course… but where?

     UNIT analyzes all the known anomalies on the planet that can be traced to the Doctor’s time-stream. But, as it turns out, Time Lords aren’t always killed by violence, but by personal meditation — so Clara asks which of those anomalies is centered around a time and place where no major crisis has ever or will ever occur.

     The result? Ancient Britain.

     Missy kidnaps Clara with a vortex manipulator and they shoot into the past, where a medieval gladiator is facing a magician… a magician with an electric guitar, plaid trousers, a graphic t-shirt, and a military tank.

     Welcome to Doctor Who, everyone.

     Apparently the Doctor is throwing himself a mad party before his death. When he notices Missy and Clara watching, he invites them into the arena with a few riffs of “Pretty Woman” on his guitar.

     He’s been partying for three weeks, even though he thought it was a single day. Now he thinks, “it must be nearly bedtime.” When Clara asks what he means and if he’s dying, he simply replies, “I spent all day yesterday in a bow tie, and the day before that in a long scarf.”

     He and Missy flirt in thorough Scottish fashion… but that’s interrupted when a snake starts choking someone! That snake is a part of Davros’s henchman, who — as it turns out — is made entirely of snakes! He followed Missy and Clara here somehow.

     He threatens to kill everyone in the arena unless the Doctor will come and speak with the dying Davros. And to make sure the message gets across, he has brought the old screwdriver. 

     When asked by his friends if it’s his, the Doctor admits he doesn’t carry a screwdriver anymore: even Missy is surprised at that. Clara asks why he’s ashamed: what has he done?

     Cue the flashback, where the Doctor… leaves the boy Davros in the field of hand-mines to die!?

     The Doctor agrees to go see Davros… but Missy and Clara insist on coming, too, and they’re all beamed up to the ship.

     Meanwhile, the Doctor’s opponent gladiator searches for the Tardis and finds it… but he’s not a gladiator. He’s a Dalek pawn! “The-Tardis-is-procured! The-Tardis-is-procured!

     The Doctor explains to Clara that Davros was born in a War so old that no one could remember its origins, and he created the Daleks to be the ultimate weapon to victory. “Davros made the Daleks… but who made Davros?”

     They’re brought onto a little space station (with surprisingly normal gravity) and Clara interrogates the Doctor: if he knew Missy wasn’t dead by sending her the confession dial, then he’s been lying to Clara. So he'd better make it up to her.

     While the Doctor is taken to see Davros, Missy explains to Clara that this gravity is perfect, and not at all artificial. Like a planet. She opens the airlock, which means they might get sucked out…

     The Doctor meets the dying Davros at last, and Davros digs up old things the Doctor once said: particularly the remark, “If someone knew the future, pointed out a child to you, and told you that that child would grow up totally evil, to be a ruthless dictator who would destroy millions of lives, could you then kill that child?”

     Davros explains that the Doctor has come out of guilt and shame, to which the Doctor replies, “You flatter me.”

“Ah, pity. I intended to accuse.”

Sound of Music quotes for the win...

     Davros still believes he was right to create the Daleks, and his argument with the Doctor over the matter will be finally resolved tonight.

     Meanwhile, Missy and Clara find space to be warm and breathable… with a ground.

     They’re on an entire invisible planet, which only becomes visible when you breathe the atmosphere. (That must wreak havoc on passersby.) What planet would need to be hidden entirely?

     Skaro. Planet of the Daleks.

     Now the Doctor is trapped, unable to save Clara or Missy or his Tardis as they’re all captured! Clara tells the Daleks that they can’t enter the Tardis, but they don’t plan to enter it: they plan to destroy it.

     Missy tries to bargain with them by offering to teach them how to travel through time. The Daleks vote… but then they exterminate Missy instead.

     The Doctor whirls to Davros and begs on his knees for Clara’s life! Never have we seen him so contrite… but Davros does not rule the Daleks. They rule themselves.

     The Daleks then turn to Clara, waiting for her to run… and when she does, they exterminate her, too!

     Davros asks the Doctor to admit, just once, that compassion is weakness. He watches the Daleks turn upon the Tardis, raise their blasters… and destroy it.

     If you haven't noticed, I am strangely unbothered right now. We all know the show isn’t going to end, and that Capaldi and the Master and the Tardis aren’t going to die (Clara’s more debatable, but since Coleman already filmed this entire season as her, I suspect she doesn’t die here, either).

     Back on Planet Flashback, the boy Davros calls for help after being seemingly-abandoned by the stranger with the sonic screwdriver… but when he turns around, he finds the old man, now right behind him and in different clothes (the clothes that the Doctor wore to his death-day party and the trip to meet the dying Davros).

     “Are you going to save me?

     “I’m going to save my friend… the only way I can.”

     And the Doctor raises a Dalek gun at Davros: “Exterminate!

Yep. Bovvered now...

Tune in Tonight

     to see Davros offering the Doctor the chance to travel back in time and kill the child Davros! If the Doctor does it, Clara and Missy and the Tardis will live (along with all the victims of the Time War and tons of others), and all of the Daleks will never have existed… but by committing that murder, the Doctor would also justify the no-mercy philosophy that inspired the creation of the Daleks in the first place.

Quote of the Episode:

     “A musical instrument is not an axe.”

     “Yes, and a daffodil is not a broadsword — but I still won the last round!”

Current Questions:

     A. How did Missy survive? It’s not vital information, but I am interested.

     B. To this day, I still don't understand the Daleks and their [in]ability to time travel. Missy tries to bribe them with the Tardis, and other episodes suggest that the Daleks don't have time-traveling capabilities (and thank goodness for that). But if that's the case, how did Davros manage to send his minions back in time to medieval England to follow Missy and Clara and procure the Tardis? How is it that the Daleks manage to show up in almost any era that the Doctor visits, and yet they're always aligned with his timeline (rather than from his future or from his past in a tangled mess like River Song)?

Current Theories:

     A. Of course the Doctor isn’t going to kill the kid Davros.

     Remember the trailer? Im the Doctor, and I save people. So hes going to save Davros. Davros will owe him. And that favor will bring back the Doctors friends in some sort of timey-wimey way.

     B. If Missy survived, then of surely Osgood is alive. Especially since her return to the show was announced. (That doesn’t mean Osgood will be all-there if/when she returns. She could be damaged, half-cyborg, who knows?)

     C. “Ever since he was a little girl?” Well, there goes the internet.

     D. Not that this would ever happen in a thousand years, but what if Davros became the Doctor’s companion for a while? Talk about wild plot twists... but then again, that’s what Doctor Who is known for!

     What are your thoughts on “The Magician’s Apprentice”? And what do you think is going to go down tonight?


  1. I, surprisingly, enjoyed this episode (though predictability is predictable). Obviously Clara/Missy/TARDIS/Doctor aren't going to be dead. And I don't think the Doctor is going to kill Davros either. It's just not him.

    The snake guy was creepy. The guitar-wielding Doctor was wonderful. Even Clara surprised me and was pretty good in this episode. Good job, Doctor Who people.

    But mostly I love the throwback to Davros and Skaro!

  2. I loved this episode so much!
    I had to watch it three times before actually understanding everything fully but it was great!
    Besides Capaldi saying the word DUDE was just perfect, this man IS the Doctor and it's greatt.
    Hopefully tonight's episode is just as good!
    I loved the way you put in reaction gifs too =D

  3. Forgot my personal favorite quote of the episode:
    "Dying is what other people do."