Doctor Who – “The Witch’s Familiar”: Speak brashly and carry a pointy stick

“Why does the Doctor always survive?”

– Missy

I have to admit it: as much as I enjoyed last week’s episode, I had my doubts that Steven Moffat would stick the landing.

Last week’s episode was so much fun, by the last act was filled with a number of outlandish things that couldn’t actually be what they seemed. The TARDIS was destroyed, Clara and Missy were gunned down by Daleks and the Doctor went back in time seemingly to gun down a young Davros in cold blood.

I was pleasantly surprised that Moffat found a way to turn these events on their head that didn’t seem like a cop out or a deus ex machina. Missy’s story about the Doctor as means to explain how she teleported herself and Clara out of harm’s way was a lot of fun (especially with the brief glimpses of two classic Doctors). The TARDIS just camouflaging itself as means of protection was a simple and logical way to explain that (though I wonder if pretending to destroy it last week really accomplished anything worthwhile). And I really enjoyed the reveal that what seemed like the Doctor going back to kill Davros was actually him going back in time to teach him mercy.

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But beyond just escaping the corners Moffat painted himself into last week, I really enjoyed the writing this week. In particular, I really dug Clara and Missy being paired together. It adds a really fascinating dimension to Missy’s character. Her dynamic with Clara really reminded me of the Joker’s relationship with Batman – in both cases, the villain likes putting the hero in potentially deadly situations, but only as a game. Like the Joker, I imagine Missy would be genuinely disappointed if she actually succeeded in getting Clara killed.

Her attempt to get the Doctor to shoot Clara inside the Dalek armor was the perfect culmination of this. Again, I don’t think she wanted to see Clara die as much as she wanted to see if the Doctor and Clara could find a way out of it without accidentally shooting one another. (I am surprised Clara’s Dalek armor didn’t start firing its weapon since Missy said that the gun was powered by emotion.) The Doctor telling Missy to run and Missy retorting that he’s the one who runs was the perfect cap to the scene.

And while Missy and Clara make me think of the Joker and Batman, I’m guessing I wasn’t the only one reminded of Return of the Jedi while watching the Doctor’s scenes with Davros. I’m not sure if it was a deliberate homage or if Moffat had just recently watched Star Wars and it seeped into his subconscious, but Davros was clearly trying to get the Doctor to join the Dark Side when he told him to pick up the cables and kill off the Daleks. And Davros telling the Doctor he wanted to see him with his own eyes as he was dying is almost exactly like Darth Vader wanting to see Luke’s face as he dies. It was a bit odd to see Doctor Who so closely mirror Star Wars, but I’m holding out hope it was a fun little intentional homage.

I wonder what the lasting impact of this episode will be. I’m not sure how much of a lasting impact receiving regeneration energy will have for the Daleks. But, perhaps more impactful is the fact that whatever Daleks survived would now have the capacity for compassion. Also, Missy clearly seemed to be brokering a deal with them, which is bound to come back to haunt the Doctor soon. Perhaps she will help to give them the Time Lord-Dalek hybrid they were angling for.

It’s been a strong debut for season nine. I’m excited to see what else Moffat and Co. have in store for us.

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And another thing …

  • I would like to know more about those vampire monkeys.
  • I’m not sure how I feel about replacing the screwdriver with sunglasses. It could be fun if the Doctor finds creative ways to use it. But visually, the screwdriver is more compelling.
  • “I love you” translates to “Exterminate!” It’s got to be tough dating a Dalek.
  • So Davros’ chair has a force field that protects him from Dalek gunfire, but it in no way protects him from the Doctor picking him up and stealing it? That seems incredibly shortsighted.
  • Once again, Clara ends up inside a Dalek, though for much less tragic reasons this time. I liked the callback to her debut. Though this time she can still make soufflés.
  • “I’m the Doctor, just accept it.” I don’t think I like the precedent that sets.
  • Colony Sarff seemed criminally underused this episode. I really got into the character in last week’s debut, but he was practically nonexistent this week. I hope this isn’t the last we see of the colony.

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Written by Joel Murphy. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact Joel at murphyslaw@hobotrashcan.com

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