Doctor Who – “The Witch’s Familiar” – review

Well as I reviewed the first part of Steven Moffat’s two-part opener to the new series of Doctor Who, it’s only fair that I review the second and concluding part – and there was a lot here to admire, I thought.

Despite the fact that some viewers may be disappointed by the news, Clara Oswald and Missy have managed to survive the Daleks’ attempt to exterminate them using a plot contrivance too convoluted to explain, and return to the city to rescue the Doctor.

The Doctor himself is holed up with Davros, and is able to steal the old lunatic’s chair and have a bit of fun threatening his captors before Colony Sarff intervenes, and he finds himself face to face with his “archenemy” once more. There were some nice lines here – the Doctor teasing the Daleks when he appears in Davros’s chair that this was their “worst nightmare”, and, later, Davros outlining his difficulty in procuring “the only other chair on Skaro” for the Doctor to sit on.

Meanwhile, Missy and Clara are making their way through the Dalek City’s sewers, which, as Missy explains, are also a graveyard for dying Daleks (not a pretty sight – they seem to end up as some kind of primordial gunk). They manage to kill a Dalek soldier who comes to arrest them, and Missy persuades Clara to climb inside. This is where things got interesting. I make no secret of the fact that, as a character, Clara annoys me (it’s no reflection on Jenna Coleman, who I’ve seen in other stuff and who is a perfectly good actress – I just don’t like the character). However, I thought it was genuinely affecting when Missy mocks Clara by telling her to say, “I love you” – only for it to come out, in Dalek-speak, as “Exterminate!”. Clara’s growing horror at this inability to express herself – and what this said about the mutilated morality of the Daleks themselves – was really powerful.

Upstairs, Davros appeared to genuinely repent of his past crimes, and there was a line straight out of Return of the Jedi – “Let me look at you with my own eyes” – as he wept, and expressed his desire to see one last sunrise. A little hammy, perhaps, but nice work from Julian Bleach here. Only when the Doctor uses his powers of regeneration to try and stave off Davros’s death does the wicked old tyrant reveal his true colours, and his intention to use the Doctor to inject new life into the Daleks, and destroy the Time Lords (again – how many times have those guys been destroyed?).

But Missy arrives to free the Doctor, who reminds Davros that in reinvigorating the Daleks, he has also reawakened their dying companions down in the sewers – and now they’re “coming through the pipes”! A bit stupid of Davros to overlook this, but then, that’s why he’s a villain I guess. The Dalek City is destroyed, and, after realising what Missy has done to Clara, the Doctor manages to free her (though we weren’t told how he got those electrodes out of her head – she’ll need to put a plaster on that) and escape in the TARDIS, which wasn’t destroyed, but magically disassembled itself when the Daleks tried to blow it up (I know it’s a fantasy show, but this kind of why-fancy-that explanation always strikes me as a little contrived – it lowers the stakes somehow, by making it seem that the Doctor and the TARDIS are basically indestructible. But anyway.).

Missy is cornered by the Daleks, but – surprise, surprise – already seems to have thought of a way out, and the episode ended with the Doctor returning to Davros’s past, as the young boy surrounded by hand mines on a battlefield. The Doctor had managed to find Clara when, trapped inside the Dalek armour, she cried for “mercy” – and he says that this is a word “that shouldn’t be in the Dalek vocabulary”. He realises he has to show mercy to Davros’s younger self, and so rescues him and takes him home.

Some clever ideas here, and nods also to Genesis of the Daleks, the classic Terry Nation storyline. Like his earlier incarnation, the Twelfth Doctor refuses the opportunity to commit genocide, because he knows this would make him no better than Davros. Peter Capaldi is, I think, shaping up to be the best Doctor since Tom Baker – he even sounds a little the same – and I hope the quality of the scripts can be maintained to do justice to his performance.


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