The Magician's Apprentice Review

(92 comments)

Well, you can see why the promotional campaign was structured like it was. There’s really no way to describe The Magician’s Apprentice without just calling it a trailer. It’s a forty-five minute slab of raw plot designed to set up whatever The Witch’s Familiar is going to be, which looks like something involving Davros setting up a trolley problem with Missy and Clara on one track and every Dalek ever on the other.

In one sense, then, it’s a pretty faithful imitation of Dark Water. But where Dark Water was a moody eleventh episode think piece that got to pay off a season’s worth of character and theme, The Magician’s Apprentice has to basically start from scratch. Accordingly, it’s built almost entirely out of bombast and spectacle. To say that the episode is stuffed to the gills is an understatement: six Doctors (unless they used a McGann Big Finish bit I missed, which at this point you wouldn’t bet against), Missy, UNIT, Davros, every Dalek ever, the Maldovarium, an Ood, the Shadow Proclamation, Karn, and a joke about the different versions of Atlantis.

This is a familiar approach for Moffat at this point, and one he’s good at. Sure, those inclined to play “spot the recycled bits” will not be short of options, but there’s no inherent reason to focus on the fact that the setup is just The Impossible Astronaut with a hint of Name of the Doctor over the fact that a guy who’s made of snakes, hand mines (what the actual fuck), and all the planes stopping are all new and clever ideas. As is the guitar/axe battle, although I think you’d be hard-pressed to say that scene worked. (Still, Peter Capaldi as Doof Warrior is one of those things you don’t want to argue with as such.) It’s not the best iteration of this particular style of everything and the kitchen sink setup that Moffat’s done, but it’s not the worst either.

I recognize that my tone here is that of a long lead-up to a paragraph beginning with the word “but,” but that’s unfair. The “but” I’d build to is simple enough: that this is basically raw spectacle with minimal actual substance. And it’s not that this is untrue (although I’m sure Jane will come up with some spectacular stuff); it’s just that it’s more than faintly ridiculous to ask anything else of a season premiere. Its job is to bring back the state of being where one thinks of every day of the week primarily in terms of its proximity to Saturday. And so this sort of massively high-speed tour through the series’ strengths and default tropes works.

But it is, necessarily, more a summary of what the show’s strengths are than a demonstration of what it has to offer going forward. And for the most part, those strengths come in the form of the cast. Jenna Coleman, for instance, is at this point reaping the full benefit of being the most richly characterized companion in the history of the series. She’s not actually given a heck of a lot to do here - mostly she’s just getting to play Clara’s standard range opposite Missy instead of the Doctor. But being Coleman, she finds ways to make it fresh. Look at the beat where she tells the Doctor that he has to survive because he has to make it up to her for lying about Missy’s survival, for instance. It’s not actually particularly new terrain for her, but she sells it as a more learned and developed way of interacting with the Doctor. Even her classroom scene feels practiced and mature, and she makes the most of little details like the comparatively lowered boundaries between her school life and the life where UNIT calls her. (And just look at her joy grabbing her hero coat and going.)

And then when she is given new things to do she absolutely kills. Pairing her with Kate Stewart as a sort of frontline Doctor - the one you call before you bring out the big guns - is very possibly the episode’s most inspired decision. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Kate - I think Jemma Redgrave’s performance tends to feel phoned in - but she works in her scenes here better than she ever has, and it’s hard to not to suspect that it’s Coleman who makes that happen.

Capaldi is also in fine form. Unlike Coleman, he is given a fair amount of new things to do, and he reliably makes them feel new. As I said, the “axe fight” scene was something of a gratuitous excess, but the sense that the Doctor is genuinely at the end of his tether is real; there’s something genuinely frightening in his slightly unhinged mania. And his delivery of the line about not having a screwdriver anymore is flatly stunning. But there are also a host of little lines he sells beautifully - his quip about still expecting it to be a trap, in particular, is just a marvelous line reading. The only mild reservation I have is his desperate pleading with Davros to save Clara; I’m not sure Capaldi’s Doctor quite works with that kind of intense emotion. But even that’s salvaged by the way that he responds to Clara’s death - the immediate abandonment of all that desperation in favor of cold fury.

But in many ways it’s Missy’s world and we just live in it. Michelle Gomez is clearly absolutely reveling in getting to simply be the Master instead of having to be a mystery and, subsequently, having to introduce her take on the character. What’s perhaps most remarkable is the fact that, despite only really having two scenes where she’s doing Doctorish stuff - the airlock scene and the revelation of Skaro - she completely sells the character as someone who is more or less like the Doctor save for her pathological love of killing people for the sake of it. Like Capaldi, she supplies no shortage of fantastic small decisions - her sudden thickening of the accent for shouting “no, I’m not good” is properly unsettling, as is her sashaying into the stadium as the Doctor introduces her. She steals every scene she’s in, and moreover does it in a way that elevates everyone around her instead of diminishing them. I’m not sure the character has worked this well since Roger Delgado. (And her explanation of her friendship with the Doctor as older than human civilization and infinitely more complex is just a great bit of dialogue.)

So there’s a great premise to introduce and a cast that seems capable of selling just about anything. In many ways, a more nuanced script would just get in the way. This has no purpose other than to scream “holy shit Doctor Who is back” as loudly as it can possibly be screamed. And while it’s not my favorite episode by miles and it would frankly be a disaster of a season if this ended up at the top of my rankings (although I’m sure Doctor Who Magazine will adore it), my ears are ringing.

  • Julian Bleach is really, properly good as Davros. I thought his ranting lunatic in The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End was majestic, and when I first heard the rumors of his appearance in this story my thoughts immediately went to “ooh, I hope he and Missy get a crazy-off.” But instead we get a dying Davros, and Bleach gives an entirely different and equally compelling performance. (And the kid they got for young Davros was quite good too - I like the detail of him demanding that the Doctor has to help him because he promised. Not begging for his life, not saying he’s scared, demanding. This is indeed going to be Davros someday.)
  • There’s a part of me that wishes I were a more sophisticated sort of critic who wasn’t reduced to barely articulate squeeing at the sudden appearance of a 1960s-style Dalek. I’m not, though. I’m really, really not.
  • This is a strong contender for the least relationship that a title has ever had to the actual episode. When it was announced back at Christmas we all assumed it was about Clara’s relationship with the Doctor, and it may yet turn out to be, but if so it’s a relatively small part of this episode, and neither of the key words actually make an appearance in it.
  • One of the reliable pleasures of a Moffat script is seeing what basically good ideas he uses as throwaways. Hand mines are a delightful mixture of pun and creepy visual, while Colony Sarff are a generic henchman whose name ends up being the episode’s best joke.
  • May as well remark on the prologues. I thought the Karn one was quite good - Capaldi and Higgins had a fantastic chemistry, and I was glad to see her get a scene in the episode as well. She’s worth bringing back further; it’s satisfying to see someone besides Clara who can “pull rank” on Capaldi’s Doctor, as it were. (River should be good too in this regard.)
  • “The Doctor’s Meditation,” on the other hand, largely shared the problems of the “axe fight,” in that the central joke just doesn’t quite land, or lands over-obviously. At six minutes long it’s just sort of flabby and pointless. I suppose two minutes was too short for the cinema audience it was designed for, but it’s not hard to see why Karn was the proper prologue.
  • Oh, and bisexual Clara is apparently canon now. Excellent.
  • No point in rankings with only one episode, but I’m happy to introduce a new feature, inspired by a similar segment on Pex Lives

Funny Quote From Someone Posting in the #moffat hate Tag on Tumblr

Literally all Moffat is doing with the doctor is making him face his death again and again and again and again in more and more convoluted plots like I’m so tired of this.”

Comments

William Shaw 2 years, 1 month ago

Can we call this one 'Genesis of the Genesis of the Daleks'?
(I particularly love the detail of the soldier with the bow and arrow. Based on a throwaway gag in episode 1 of 'Genesis'. Now that's what I call fanwank).

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Wack'd 2 years, 1 month ago

Were you one of the people I was watching the episode with? (Not to say it's not an obvious joke but I have to ask anyway.)

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William Shaw 2 years, 1 month ago

No, unfortunately I wasn't. Unless you're the Silence and somehow sneaked into my living room without me noticing.

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Ian Sharman 2 years, 1 month ago

I spent some time musing on what relationship the title had with the actual episode itself and came to the conclusion that the Magician was, obviously, the Doctor, and that the Apprentice must be Davros. Although I'm still not sure if that really works.

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Wack'd 2 years, 1 month ago

The Apprentice is Axe Man. Obviously.

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Slow Learner 2 years, 1 month ago

The Doctor is the Magician, Missy is the Witch, and Clara moves from being Apprentice to being Familiar; so Clara is going to spend most of the next episode being "companion" to Missy as they work their way out of wherever they were trans-mat'ed to.
At least, that is my prediction.

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Nick Smale 2 years, 1 month ago

When it was announced that Paul Kaye had been cast in season 9, and that he was playing a character called Prentice, I naturally assumed that he was in this episode, and that the title was a terrible pun...

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phuzz 2 years, 1 month ago

My guess: this is all part of Missy's plan somehow, so she's the magician, and the apprentice is, um, Clara? Who will get to follow her around and see what Timelords/ladies other than The Doctor are like.
Ok, I've not really thought that through, but if Missy isn't playing some sort of game here I'll be surprised.
And of course, when the doctor needs to genocide the Daleks, it'll be handy having his bessie-mate the sociopath around eh?

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Wack'd 2 years, 1 month ago

Classic Daleks were fun, but you can't tell me that the return of "infinite rice pudding" wasn't the best continuity niggle of the episode. It totally was.

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Froborr 2 years, 1 month ago

It absolutely was.

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Matt M 2 years, 1 month ago

No, that was 'clam drones'

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liminal fruitbat 2 years, 1 month ago

It's oddly heartening that Davros has worked his way up to making vertebrates now.

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Timber-Munki 2 years, 1 month ago

Generally impressed, First thoughts: Nothing to be ashamed about the squee about the sixties Dalek. Nice that Missy has now got a theme tune. The BBC continuity announcer made a reference before the start to eyes in hands, so immediately had me thinking of the Sisterhood of Karn.

When the Daleks captured the TARDIS for a second I thought they were going to reverse engineer time travel and wondered if we were going to get a twelve episode stealth re-make of The Chase, which would have been interesting in a lets take a close look at the 'The BBC should only make programs that commercial channels can't' arguement that John Whitingdale (Current Culture Secretary) is foisting upon us can actually mean with the perfectly logical, well can you see any other channel producing this?

Only negative was for the first time noticed what people say about Murray Gold's music, was just too loud/intrusive at times.

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Nicholas Caluda 2 years, 1 month ago

Yeah, I thought it sapped most of the tension from the initial moments with Missy in the square. That shouldn't have been funny -- it should have been TERRIFYING. But, really, that's my only complaint of the episode; so all things considered I'm pretty happy.

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Jane Campbell 2 years, 1 month ago

It's weird -- when I watch the show on my computer, I have no problems with the sound or the music. But watching it on the telly proper, I really struggle to hear the dialogue over everything else.

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Jeff Heikkinen 2 years, 1 month ago

I find that with a lot of shows. I don't think it's specific to Gold or Doctor Who.

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KlausJoynson 2 years, 1 month ago

The 1138AD (yes, we spotted that) Dalek duplicate Barbarian called the Doctor 'The Magician'. No, I don't know what to do with that either. Unless they mean Davros, which would be... hmmm.

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Lewis 2 years, 1 month ago

"and neither of the key words actually make an appearance in it." ~ I may be wrong, but doesn't the Bearded Chap refer to the Doctor as "magician"?

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Chicanery 2 years, 1 month ago

One detail that I enjoyed was that Moffat placed the Doctor in an Arthurian court (the axeman is named Bors). It's a nice nod to Battlefield.

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Joseph 2 years, 1 month ago

Notice also that The Doctor resembles T.H. White's Merlin - and the better known Disney Merlin - in his use of anachronism.

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Evan Forman 2 years, 1 month ago

I like Canon Bisexual Clara here, but I liked Canon Bisexual Clara a lot more in the seconds between the "Actually she was called Nina" and "I had a phase" lines in Asylum of The Daleks. It feels like a band-aid to me, but fuck it, i'm desperate. Hooray for Canon Bisexual Clara.

I'm about 80% sure I heard the theme song in the Doctor's guitar solo entrance, and i'm convinced Capaldi just slipped that in for a laugh. Hooray for Second-Season Capaldi.

Despite the return of the Ood and the bloody Shadow Proclamation of all things, those fish guys from The Doctor's Daughter popping up background of the Sauce Nicely Cantina scene are almost certainly a case of pulling something out of the costume department cupboard rather than an intentional decision. Don't care. Loved the fish guys when I was, what, eleven? Hooray for the fish guys.

Moffat said something like some of the two-parters won't feel like two-parters. Perhaps i'm just not used to the format in its abscense, but this felt like a two-parter. I like that Moffat visibly gets to play around more, it's hard to imagine that entire axe battle scene being dropped into an episode of series six or seven, even if, for all the Doctor's hilarious song choices, it does feel a bit...bloated. Hooray for two-parters? We'll see.



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Wack'd 2 years, 1 month ago

Was the use of Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman" a shot at folks who thought the Doctor was insulting Clara's appearance (rather than just being oblivious) last season, or am I stretching? (Or, worse yet, mishearing the music?)

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Evan Forman 2 years, 1 month ago

I think it was directed at Missy, which is just wonderful. I'm not sure he even acknowledges Clara until welcoming her to the stage. "See that couple over there? You're the puppy." (I shudder to think how #moffat hate is handling the relationship between Clara and Missy in this episode.)

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Wack'd 2 years, 1 month ago

I see no reason to take Missy at her word that that's how much regard the Doctor has for Clara. Especially given how she reacts to the Doctor calling Davros his archnemesis. She's just jealous.

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Larry Franzon 2 years, 1 month ago

About that last point, I can't help bit notice that each of Moffat's two-parters follows the buildup - actual stoty -structure closer than the last. I don't mind it particularly much, mostly because I'm estatic about the show returning, but... well, I'm already mentally prepared to seeing somebody else take over the series. Let's not let the good times last too long, eh?

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David Brain 2 years, 1 month ago

So.... I've read four proper pieces on this episode so far (as opposed to social media reaction), and two of them basically tell me that Capaldi, Coleman and Gomez give great performances and their characters are fun and interesting, and the other two tell me that Capaldi, Coleman and Gomez are so-so or even terrible actors and their characters are fairly flat and dull (or, in the case of Clara, completely unbelievable.) And this is pretty much what I've come to expect. It does seem as though there is some sort of confirmation bias or something going on here - certainly there don't seem to be hordes of people who think that Clara is a great character but Coleman is a bad actor.

I'm clearly not understanding something, but I'm not sure what it is, except that I don't think it's necessarily got anything to do with Doctor Who...

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Bennett 2 years, 1 month ago

My take on it* is that our notions of what constitutes great acting (and indeed, great storytelling) masquerade as a metric of accomplishment, when they are actually an aesthetic preference.

As they are extraordinarily proficient at what they do, Capaldi, Coleman and Gomez deliver so forcefully on their chosen aesthetic that any dissonance will be strongly felt by the critic. That the reviews you've read seem to align the quality of the performance with the quality of their characters suggests their aesthetic choices are in harmony - one path to truly great television (which is never great to everyone).

I think the only thing it's got to do with Doctor Who is that the show was built by changing, twisting and defying its own aesthetics. And I'm so glad it's back.



*I say "my take". It's quite possible I read this on the Eruditorum long ago and forgot where it came from. The memory cheats - and mine often cheats on behalf of my ego.

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Jane Campbell 2 years, 1 month ago

Well, I'm sure I'll come up with some more interesting stuff on this episode this week. I mean, it's kind of difficult at this point, given that it's only half the story, and so for a lot of the show's signifiers we just don't know what they mean yet. Will be fleshing out some ideas with James and Kevin when we record the next episode of Pex Lives tomorrow. (Aren't y'all lucky!)

But I can say this: the episode was awfully concerned with the series' past, in a way that we haven't seen since Season Twenty. Yes, it's actually a ten-year anniversary episode, at least in terms of the Revival. (Yes, it's only Series Nine now, but at this point we should be used to dating controversies.)

And this concern with the past isn't just superficial -- it's embedded in the plot, what with messing about with the history of Davros, which blatantly mirrors Genesis of the Daleks. Another iteration of the Time War? I'm hesitant to speculate, as I really haven't the foggiest clue what the fuck this episode is actually trying to communicate.

Finally, the Hand Mines. Those are fucking brilliant. If there's any prediction I'd like to make, it's that an understanding of *those* may well be key to interpreting the story itself.

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Seeing_I 2 years, 1 month ago

Well, I did notice that the hand mines look just like upside-down Dalek mutants.

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Matt M 2 years, 1 month ago

Hand Mines may only have one eye, but Clam Drones would have many. Davros (a man with no real eyes and one fake eye) created the Daleks (who have one eye) but employs Colony Sarff, who has many eyes.

The Doctor is Peter Capald-EYE

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Iain Coleman 2 years, 1 month ago

Well I thought it was splendid.

It was exuberant, indulgent, ostentatiously clever and essentially a showcase for the artists' virtuosity, but fuck off, I'm a prog rock fan and I love that shit.

(Speaking of rock, this episode did much as The Lodger did for Matt Smith in enabling the lead actor to display his other talents. No doubt the electric guitar was overdubbed in post, but Capaldi was clearly playing all the right chords.)

As an actors' showcase, though, this episode absolutely sings. Gomez makes the most of her opportunity to play all the aspects of her character in a way she never quite had the space to do before, Coleman is on fine,commanding form, especially in her face-to-face with Gomez, and Capaldi delivers an absolute masterclass in playing Doctor Who, from his devil-may-care rocking to his utter devastation in his final encounter with Davros. And besides the regulars, Joey Price is magnificent as the young Davros, a role he plays with intensity and subtlety that would be impressive in any actor, but especially so in one so young. I should think that his appearance on Doctor Who will be a popular trivia question in ten years' time.

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gaffa 2 years, 1 month ago

Agreed on the guitar - I can't decide what made me happier, hearing a Roy Orbison song on Doctor Who, or seeing that Capaldi was ACTUALLY PLAYING that guitar (although the lick down the fretboard at the end was a bit handwavy). Still think having him play a Parker instead of a Gibson Explorer was a missed opportunity though.

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Daibhid C 2 years ago

In his youth, Peter Capaldi was the lead singer and guitarist of a punk band. Which had Craig Fergusson on drums. It's things like this that make people believe everyone in Glasgow knows each other.

I loved the scene, especially when we got the explanation that he was "being" his past incarnations, at which point everything slotted into place as "This is Twelfth's interpretation of Tenth going to a party in 18th century Paris and inventing the banananana dakry,"

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Sean Dillon 2 years, 1 month ago

Honestly, I'm just going to wait till next week until I have proper opinions. The episode didn't really hi anything that made me shout "this is the best thing ever". I agree with Phil in that it felt like a trailer for the next episode and honestly felt a bit flat to me. (Also that dude speech had me groaning and face palming).

As an aside, show of hands: who else thought the science lady at UNIT was going to be revealed to be Missy in the disguise of a pair of glasses and letting her hair down?

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David Brain 2 years, 1 month ago

Well actually, with the science woman at UNIT, I was going "I know that voice. Why do I know that voice?"
And then I remembered one of my favourite genre shows from the mid 90s, BUGS*. Now I know what Ros Henderson has been doing for the past couple of decades...

*I don't care what you think. I liked it.

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Richard Pugree 2 years, 1 month ago

Yep, Rosgood was one of the highlights for me!

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Dadalama 2 years, 1 month ago

Yay for Cannon Bisexual Clara, and I guess Yay for Canon Bisexual Jane Austen too.

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Nick Caldwell 2 years, 1 month ago

Jane Austen never married, so who's saying she's bisexual?

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Dadalama 2 years, 1 month ago

That IS a good point.

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Jesse 2 years, 1 month ago

As is the guitar/axe battle, although I think you’d be hard-pressed to say that scene worked.

Well, I thought it was the only scene that did work, so there. I was certainly far better than the endless sequence of Davros' henchman showing up around the universe bellowing "Where is the Doctor?" at fragments of the program's past.

I did like some elements of other scenes: the hand mines, the two women dancing in (the illusion of) outer space, pretty much everything Missy did. But this was ultimately a mess enlivened by one great scene with a guitar and a tank.

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Jesse 2 years, 1 month ago

And by "I was certainly" I mean "It was certainly."

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Matthew Marcus 2 years, 1 month ago

Tastes differ. The guitar/tank scene was the absolute nadir of the episode for me. But then of the four NuWho Doctors so far who have each been called upon to pull off zany!Doc, I only ever thought Matt Smith was successful at it.

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Scott 2 years, 1 month ago

To give the #MoffatHate person some credit, it's not like this is the first time the modern series has done the whole "portentous prophecy of doom regarding the Doctor's final-ultimate-for realsies death" bit. The argument that it might be starting to get a wee bit played out isn't entirely unreasonable.

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Dan 2 years, 1 month ago

I'm not sure we are even supposed to believe it in a suspend-your-disbelief-for-the-moment-way at this point.

Pretty gutting for the young kids to see Missy and Clara get definitively obliterated though. I thought The Pirate Planet episode 3 was a tough cliffhanger. The Doctor almost definitely dead.

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Kapitano 2 years, 1 month ago

It was a big slab of continuity porn, joyfully meaningless spectacle, and great hammy acting.

Part two will doubtless press the reset button and handwave away all the interesting questions, but I highly enjoyed part one.

The trouble is, when I ask myself "Would I want to watch it again in a few months" the answer is..."not really".

Everything that worked, worked as a surprise, and you can't repeat surprises.

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Steven 2 years, 1 month ago

I enjoyed it because the leads are great and I'd watch them do anything but my biggest concern, which I've not seen mentioned elsewhere, is that the show looked appalling and was just badly put together.

Mean that in terms of some bizarre, forced shots (there's one of them getting out of a car), bad special effects `nd just awkward staging. It doesn't compare to how Deep Breath looked, and season 8, like 5, was pretty much uniformly nice to look at.

The opening scene looked like a scene from one of the later old Who series, and it was kept up throughout, like a return to the reach-extends-your-grasp stuff of the worst of the RTD years. A lot of references to the old series throughout, but it looked uncomfortably retro too. I'm hoping it's not maintained.

Bad FX here and there over the last few years but genuinely I don't think an episode of the show has looked this poor since McCoy (I'm not saying all McCoy episodes look poor, they don't)

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Ombund 2 years, 1 month ago

What bits of FX did you think were particularly bad? Some of the later Skaro shots weren't amazing, but good considering the budget. I didn't notice anything else particularly egregious. I thought the battle at the beginning was superb actually. A lovely muted palette that worked really well - film quality stuff. The rise in visual standards post-The Eleventh Hour has been so breath-taking at times that any slight lapse does tend to jar, but I really didn't see anything like that in this episode.

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Steven 2 years, 1 month ago

Actually turned to the person I was watching with in the initial couple minutes saying that I assumed they'd gone for a deliberately retro vibe, making it look like an episode of old Who.

Genuinely though everything looked poor, especially plane shadows, the way scenes were put together (in terms of the shots used), and the space stuff.

Genuinely start to finish I thought it looked bad, compared a beautiful past few seasons. I don't know if it's because of personnel changes or the return of an RTD-era director.

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EvilBug 2 years, 1 month ago

This episode made me want to demand that BBC invested in time machine so they could refund me an hour I wasted watching this nonsense.

Jumping around with flashy scenes with no substance, plots that seemed better (Planes frozen, partying with medieval folks) got abandoned in favour of plot that works toward predicable conclusion. Moffat can't just leave lore alone.

Still, I have 8 episodes to look forward to, hoping they would redeem the series.

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Matt M 2 years, 1 month ago

I thought it was enjoyable, but it was very much 'here is some stuff that is happening to set up next week's story. I think it's impossible to judge without that, as it's not actually a cohesive entity in itself.

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Camestros Felapton 2 years, 1 month ago

Interesting choice to throw all the finale elements into the first episode but...the second parts of Who finales tend to be a bit not good.

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Lambda 2 years, 1 month ago

"Its job is to bring back the state of being where one thinks of every day of the week primarily in terms of its proximity to Saturday."

Why? If it were to think its job was just to tell a good Doctor Who story with plenty of substance, and do so, (which would certainly be the best way to get me to think like that, and has the obvious upside of meaning one more good Doctor Who story gets created,) what problems would be caused, or opportunities missed?

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Richard Pugree 2 years, 1 month ago

Having managed to avoid any Davros spoilers, that was a genuine and brilliant surprise for me, and his performance superb.

But it also brought home how gloriously enjoyable those kinds of surprise can be - so I *really* just wish they hadn't shown the hand mines and Skaro in the trailer, because the reveal of the eyes (a nod to the Sybylline sisterhood, and Capaldi and Karan Gillan in Pompeii?), and of the rest of the city/planet could have been really exciting if they had similalry taken me by surprise.

Likewise, the announcement yesterday that Coleman is leaving the programme was brilliantly timed to have me for a second thinking that that really could be it for her - what a shocking and brilliant way it would have been to end her time on the show like that, much as I like her and want t see her go on. It's just a shame it's undercut by all the other publicity in which they've shown she appears later in the series.

Loved, loved, loved Missy's friendship speeches - I hope (with no expectation that it will be so) that Moffat will use this to cut through the hetero-reproductive imperative that he's saturated everything with over the last few years.


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David Anderson 2 years, 1 month ago

Phil's ethical intuitions about this episode are I think at odds with I think the default among UK Doctor Who viewers and producers. That is, I would suppose that Phil thinks that shooting child Davros is absolutely the right thing to do, and Moffat thinks it isn't.
(I suspect this is a pond difference. At least, I'd guess a large majority of UK people with Phil's ethical, political and aesthetic preferences would think pacifism is a serious practical option. I should think Jeremy Corbyn would rescue Davros like a shot.)
Even though Phil's aesthetics prefer the Doctor waits until he can take advantage of a fortuitous coincidence in the last five minutes to the Doctor spends half the episode messing about with wires, he thinks that in Parting of the Ways the Doctor is wrong not to go through with the messing about with wires solution.

Since I'd guess the next episode is going to be how does the Doctor get out of the narrative collapse of murdering a child I think Phil might find it a bit pointless.

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Phil Sandifer 2 years, 1 month ago

I'm unlikely to find it pointless; just espousing an ethical view I find unsatisfying.

And I don't think it's a pond difference; US leftists are, I think, just as prone to the sentimental option here. My problem is that I don't think the action/inaction aspect of the trolly problem is where its moral weight comes in. How many children on planets murdered by the Daleks are you potentially saving?

The problem is that such straightforward moral choices simply don't arise very often outside of fiction.

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Seeing_I 2 years, 1 month ago

Anyway, why shoot him? Why not take him somewhere for a new life, like Margaret Slitheen?

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Dan 2 years, 1 month ago

*Potentially* saving. While definitely killing.

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Phil Sandifer 2 years, 1 month ago

Well, even "certainly saving," in that it would be enough to fundamentally alter the nature of the Daleks. It's too big a change not to change everything. The "potentially" is more that one doesn't know what will happen instead.

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Citizen_Alan 2 years, 1 month ago

In this particular scenario, why on Earth (er, on Skaro) would the Doctor even /need/ to kill child-Davros when he can achieve the same ultimate objective by rescuing the child, taking him away from Skaro in the TARDIS and then dropping him off to be raised by a kindly married couple living in 1930's Kansas.

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Nick Smale 2 years, 1 month ago

Ah! The true origin of Donald Trump is finally revealed...

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Dadalama 2 years, 1 month ago

I thought he was going to take Davros with him to be honest. It's what I would do. If I was the Doctor, as long as Davros was with me, he won't be growing up on Skaro. The only thing that may stop me is the grandfather paradox.

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John G Wood 2 years, 1 month ago

Oh my golly gosh! Dadalama is Davros' grandchild! :o

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Matthew Marcus 2 years, 1 month ago

Who knows, leaving him "to die" and/or shooting him in the face might be what turns him into Davros. Rescuing him might mean that Genesis never even happens! Frankly I'd quite happily see every Davros episode bar Remembrance wiped from continuity...

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Chris C 2 years, 1 month ago

I think Capaldi going desperate and overemotional works precisely because of how bewildering and perverse it is to see. It's like the broadcast has glitched.

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Cespinarve 2 years, 1 month ago

Colony Staff? Is there a pun in there I'm not getting, some Rod of Æschelus, only member of the joint thing I'm not picking up on?

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gaffa 2 years, 1 month ago

I was feeling clueless as well (not a new feeling) but googling found this on wiktionary:

Welsh
From Latin serp?ns.
Noun
sarff f (plural seirff)
(literary) serpent

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Phil Sandifer 2 years, 1 month ago

"Colony" isn't a name; it's a description/title. I find that very funny.

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Citizen_Alan 2 years, 1 month ago

It would have been funnier (and more comprehensible) if they'd actually used a collective noun for snakes. Generation Serff?

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Bob Dillon 2 years, 1 month ago

Why was Davros in the hand mine field? Was he observing the testing of his new weapon?

Bob

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Marionette 2 years, 1 month ago

As someone who is generally in the "I wish Moffat would just go already" camp, I have to say this was the most I've enjoyed Who in ages. Sure, it had a lot of stuff from the same old flash-but-no-substance bag of tricks, but they generally served the story, rather than just being pointless flash (like the dinosaur in the last season opener). And Missy really blossomed as a character this episode.

Favourite line of the episode "Since he was a little girl". It may be purely cynical trolling on Moffat's part, but it amused me.

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Jane Campbell 2 years, 1 month ago

I wouldn't say the dinosaur in Deep Breath was pointless at all -- it actually served as an effective metaphor for the Doctor, provided a catalyst for the Doctor's involvement in the story, added to the show's larger thematic resonance (not only was its optical nerve was harvested by a robot seemingly obsessed with eyes, and how it "looks," but vision itself has thematic resonance throughout the Moffat era), and provided a clue for Clara to realize just how long the Half-Faced Man had been around.

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Marionette 2 years, 1 month ago

Well I didn't enjoy the episode enough to sit through it a second time so I may have missed some of the subtleties. Did they also explain why it was much too large?

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encyclops 2 years, 1 month ago

I'm surprised at how in sync we are on the virtues and limitations of this RTD-finale-esque episode. I'm not sure how I feel about the "hand mines," which are either a pun taken too far or a poignant metaphor (the war dead reaching up to drag down the living etc.) but either way a bit too literal for my taste. And the "dude" speech was on par with "who da man?" from "The Eleventh Hour." But on the whole I was entertained, with almost all the credit for that going to Missy and Moffat's dialogue for her.

I was almost convinced the kid was going to say "Adolf Hitler," and of course he basically did. Have we talked about the probability that the Doctor might not have to kill the kid to resolve the dilemma, but to save him? On the theory that perhaps a big reason why Davros hates the universe (perhaps, in this continuity, even the reason for his injuries) is that the Doctor abandoned him to the hand mines? Such that by saving him he might actually prevent or alter the nature of the Daleks themselves? I'd be astonished if it ended any other way, actually.

P.S. I'm digging the new blog design, and thrilled that I actually seem able to comment again.

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crankystorming 2 years, 1 month ago

I'm not sure that Clara holding back was the right choice. She's gone from wanting Missy dead to begrudgingly acceptance of her alive again without really enough evidence of anything behind the eyes.

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Anton B 2 years, 1 month ago

I hope Moffat sneaking in Missy's reference to the Doctor as a 'little girl' will shut down once and for all any remaining deniers of the Doctor's trans-gender potential by calmly stating that it's already happened. The relationship that Missy suggested she and the Doctor enjoyed was remarkable too. For the first time we got a glimpse of how beings who 'walk in eternity' (© the Fourth Doctor) might relate to each other. It reminded me of Burrough's Nova Mob and Moorcock's 'Dancers at the End of Time' novels. Very New Wave SF.

I'm also of the opinion that the Doctor is there to save Davros and that big gun is to deal with the hand mines.

Apart from the Sybelline sisterhood in Pompeii (could this be when 12 remembers where he's seen his face before?) where else have we seen the eye in the hand imagery and what could its significance be?
(Jane, any theories on the symbolism?)

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encyclops 2 years, 1 month ago

It's obviously a reference to the bridge of the closing credits song from the South Park movie, "Eyes of a Child":

Got an eye on my hand!
I've got an eye on my hand!
I've got an eye on my hand!
But still I cant find you!
An eye on my hand!
Where have you gone girl?
An eye on my hand!
I'm coming up behind you.
Eye on my hand!
Don't turn around now,
Cause I'm right there,
I'm coming up behind you!


Also, Vampire Hunter D has an entire face: www.darkfiber.com/eyeinhand/vhd21.jpg

Case closed, really. ;)

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ianmcin 2 years, 1 month ago

Sorry, but I doubt the "little girl" comment will put anything to rest, followed as it is with "one of those things was a lie". Any fan wishing to deny the possibility of trans-gender potential for the Doctor would simply say, "Well, we obviously know which one was the lie."

Even absent that line, there's still the question of "how much do you trust Missy at the best of times?" She hasn't been demonstrated to have a Lucifer(as appearing in the Vertigo comic)-style aversion to lying.

(Not making these arguments myself, by the way, just predicting their existence.)

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Anton B 2 years, 1 month ago

Yes of course Moffat left it open to interpretation. The "One of those things was a lie" statement was a delicious piece of self-trolling but...we all know it's true really don't we? Moffat's just muddying the waters around the issue much like he did with the 13 regeneration limit by making up the War Doctor. If both sides of the female Doctor argument can now cite this scene as ammunition it's perfect.

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Aylwin 2 years, 1 month ago

Great teaser, not so sure about the rest.

And I found the scene in the square pretty distasteful. The whole premise of the shenanigans with the snipers was that they were there to kill Missy if anything bad happened to Clara. But when she started off-handedly offing men in dark suits, everyone was forbidden to retaliate and just had to hang around waiting to get shot if Missy felt like shooting them, because, well, who are they anyway? Just little people. Cannon fodder. So much for all last season's song-and-dance about the common soldier.

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David Anderson 2 years, 1 month ago

The snipers were Missy's idea. It's not obvious that Lethbridge-Stewart would have used them even if she had killed Clara.

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Aylwin 2 years, 1 month ago

Can you really imagine them just watching her vaporise Clara and then saunter off with a smirk? And why bother going along with the whole idea if they didn't accept that it was a sensible precaution and undertake it with serious intent? It can hardly be a bluff when the target suggested it herself. If they weren't going to shoot in any case, then at best all they're doing is giving Missy the satisfaction of having them jump through her hoops, putting more people in the line of fire and making Clara look chicken (which she has the vanity to find irksome); at worst, they're cooperating with some devious set-up or other.

And surely the whole point is that suggesting the snipers is Missy being ahead of the game, showing off by successfully predicting what they would have done anyway, before they have a chance to think it through that far.

I've only watched it once and maybe I missed a nuance, but I couldn't really read it as anything except "Sorry, but the people getting killed aren't important enough". As decided by someone sitting safe and cosy back at HQ. With no hint of writerly disapproval.

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Ombund 2 years, 1 month ago

I'm not sure what could be a bigger hint of writerly disapproval than Missy shouting in her most Scottish voice: "NO, I'm not good!" I found her sudden switch properly horrifying. As someone else said, we're getting a true sense here of what it's like to walk in eternity: none of us matter, not even remotely. "A friendship older than your civilisation and infinitely more complex" indeed.

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Aylwin 2 years, 1 month ago

I mean disapproval of UNIT.

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Riggio 2 years, 1 month ago

I hope Phil doesn't mind my piggybacking again this season on his reviews with my own posts analyzing the show. He's told me I'm cool.

As for the episode, I loved it quite a lot myself, but I know that I loved it precisely for its ridiculous spectacle. Mind you, Michelle Gomez having some space to play with the character of the Master beyond the strictures of a plot is a wonderful opportunity. I agree with Phil that she's worked out an iconic take on the character. I'd wager that the Capaldi era will be remembered best in the history of Doctor Who for what it's done with the Master, crafting her most iconic style and performance, and also solidifying the essentially transgender nature of Time Lords.

The symbol of the staring eyes in palms throughout the episode (and Western culture more generally) is the Hamza, which I explore in more detail in my own post. It probably anticipates what Jane will say, but that's been okay before.

http://adamwriteseverything.blogspot.ca/2015/09/see-evil-doctor-who-magicians.html

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arcbeatle 2 years, 1 month ago

I suppose if you are I won't feel bad about just dropping this in here to :P:

http://www.jameswylder.com/home/doctor-who-the-magicians-apprentice-or-a-democracy-of-pleasures

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Justin Cawthorne 2 years, 1 month ago

A few comments here have made me consider the 'missed' (I presume, having not seen the resolution) opportunity to have young Davros travel with the Doctor. The assumption being that travelling with the Doctor would 'save' Davros from the future that we all know awaits him. Of course, since we're all bitterly cynical these days about the effect demanding a cause, it would be the travels with the Doctor that actually shape Davros and he becomes this mythical 'failed' companion. We are left with a future/past in which the Doctor is responsible for the creation of the Daleks and has to travel throughout eternity trying to atone for this.

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encyclops 2 years, 1 month ago

What you describe is basically "Christmas Carol" (the Doctor Who version) but the version where that trick doesn't work.

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AuntyJack 2 years, 1 month ago

I'd like to see where it is going, but I feel that Moffat typed the script one handed due to the amount of fanwank that's in it.
At this rate, the Doctor is going to end up causing everything in the universe (again) throughout all space and time a la Sladek's 'The Steam Driven Boy'.

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Prandeamus 2 years, 1 month ago

Sladek. Why, that's an anagram of. .....

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phil mills 2 years, 1 month ago

over and beyond some 'fixed moment in time ' gubbins ( the boy davros is saved but the the davros/ dalek shaped hole in the universe is filled by something worse) tere is also the rest of the ' do I have the right' speech to consider - that the daleks could act as a force for good'

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MikeB 2 years ago

I was a little sad that the take-charge and quick-witted Clara of the first half hour was dumbed-down in the second half-hour to be dumbbell Watson to Missy's Holmes. "What is that?" "What are you talking about?" "Meaning what?"

I know the questions are there to help the kids watching to keep up with things, but it must have been dead-dull for Coleman to play.

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Daru 2 years ago

I had meant to mention it before, but one of my utterly favourite things in this episode is that we get to hear a snatch of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds music when Colony enters the Moldavarium.

Cannot place the song, but more than anything this made me scream out loud with happiness - and Nick Cave existing in this universe!

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