Welcome back, Doctor. We’ve missed you.
Warning: Spoilers be ahead
Seriously. Last Christmas was one hell of an awesome note to round off 2014, a rather shaky year for Doctor Who as series 8, which while good, was also a bit of a mess. Granted it was better than the two seasons before it, but the rushedness that came from Matt leaving definitely showed, and thus the season came off as a tad messy. However the feeling you get from the opening moments of The Magician’s Apprentice is that series 9 looks to be a more confident and focused Doctor Who. In fact the opening of The Magician’s Apprentice has a suspenseful tone and energy that thankfully is kept for the whole episode. A young boy is shown in the aftermath of a war in a foggy field, all alone as a bunch of scary hands, with eyes in the palms (not a reference to Pan’s Labyrinth by any stretch), pop out of the ground. Suddenly a familiar sight emerges from the fog: The Doctor’s screwdriver is tossed to the young boy, and The Doctor’s gravelly Scottish accent sounds out of the speakers telling the young boy that he has a rare chance of survival. He tells the boy, “Tell me the name of the boy who is going to survive today!“, to which the boy responds, “Davros“. Oh, Davros. We thought we saw the last of you about 7 years ago, you never can just keep away, can you?
From this scene to the cliffhanger that rounds off the episode, The Magician’s Apprentice shows a sense of urgency and suspense that just doesn’t let up. Granted the episode’s first half is definitely a tad slow, but by the time Missy and Clara get paired together things get chaotic, and explosive real quick. We get Daleks, Davros, UNIT, planes frozen in the sky, a visit to Skaro and our dear Doctor making an entrance to a medieval Essex castle on a tank with an electric guitar, and extermination everywhere- what’s not to love? In addition, Jenna Coleman, Michelle Gomez and as per usual, Peter Capaldi all act their asses off, and the direction by Hettie McDonald is tight as ever, with some of the most stunning shots in Doctor Who history. Occasionally, the episode does get a tad tangled up in itself (as it would, it’s a Moffat script after all), but Moffat has shown signs of improvement here- writing a solid and effective start-to-finish episode with an increasingly suspenseful story.
So with what I mentioned above in mind it’s pretty clear that, in typical Moffat fashion, there’s quite a bit going on. In fact throughout the episode Davros appears in both a younger form as a man made entirely of venomous snakes, and in his traditional form. He looks for The Doctor, going across almost all the planets of the cosmos to do so, and he is part of the big climactic cliffhanger. But before this it all starts with Clara teaching an English class, about to tutor the entire classroom on the works of Jane Austen, when suddenly, she looks out the window and notices that an airplane has been stuck in the sky. Suddenly more planes get stuck in the sky, and with The Doctor nowhere to be found, she goes to the only source she knows that will help: UNIT. Upon going to UNIT they get a psychic projection message from none other than Missy, who calls for Clara to come visit her in an unnamed country.
Upon Clara’s arrival, Missy gives her a confession dial that was sent to her from The Doctor. Missy tells Clara that a confession dial is a means of last will and testament given to a fellow time lord before they die, and they soon find out The Doctor is in danger. This leads them to a medieval castle in Essex, where The Doctor has spent a number of weeks partying it up. The Doctor finds out that Missy and Clara came to rescue him, but it’s too late- Davros has arrived and transports them to what at first appears to be a spaceship… but then all three of them find out the horrible truth- he’s taken them to Skaro, and there they face Daleks a-plenty, including the Dalek supreme. And then, because Moffat hasn’t already stirred up enough chaos- Missy and Clara are given the extermination treatment, and in the episode’s final scene, we go back to where we began- except this time, The Doctor swears to save them the only way he can: “Exterminate!”
And with that cliffhanger, it’s safe to say that Doctor Who is back with a bang. It’s hard to name a season premiere which has had as much of a “go go go” attitude with regards to getting things running as this has. For the first of a two-parter, and as a stand-alone episode, it works. There’s constant suspense throughout the episode, and a sense of immediacy. It’s hard to say whether or not the next episode will follow the suspense that this episode has given, but it’s a promising start for series 9.
-Welcome to the first ever Mana Pop Doctor Who recap! Brent Dahl will be taking next week’s episode, and a few others may join in on the fun, but the next 12 weeks sure do look to be an interesting time for the site, with much discussion going on.
-I’d love to know where that beautiful “hot country” Missy lures Clara out to was filmed. I do love sitting out in the sun-drenched open in a European locale, with an Espresso, just like Missy. Hopefully I hit up that country when I am on my European travels next year.
-PETER. FUCKING. CAPALDI. ON. A. TANK. WITH. AN. ELECTRIC. GUITAR. LEGATOING. THE. FUCK. OUT. OF. IT.
-You don’t often hear teachers telling their kids to use Twitter in class, do you?
-“It’s still today!” (plays Wah-wah-wah-whaaaaaahhhh on the guitar). GENIUS TOUCH!
-Also, I do hope the guitar Doctor doesn’t just happen in this episode. Guitar Doctor is one of the best things to be brought to the character in ages.
-I’ll admit, the notion of the Doctor telling medieval folks to use the word “Dude” is a bit baffling.