Doctor Who Season 9 Episode 1 Review: “The Magicians Apprentice”

Doctor Who

Man, it always feels like an eternity between Doctor Who seasons. Although I’m not exactly sure why that is, I just feel like I end up waiting and waiting….and waiting; yet, the first episode of the 9th season has officially kicked off. The show returns amidst some the official confirmation that this will be Clara’s last run as the Doctor’s companion, which definitely sets the season up with some expectation now that they will deliver us a great story that sends the character off in a fantastic way. I’m alright with them moving on from Clara, what happened to the good ol’ days back during 10’s reign? The days where it was okay for a companion to serve a single season purpose and move on? Regardless, Clara’s adventure is finally coming to an end, so I am probably most focused on the arc they give to her character this season and how it will impact the Doctor to lose her.

“The Magician’s Apprentice” opens up with a very interesting scene that places us on a foggy planet where The Doctor is trying to save a child who turns out to be Davros, the creator of the Daleks, the Doctor’s archenemy. It was definitely an interesting twist to open up the season, but really gets down into the roots of the relationship between the Doctor and Davros to give us some additional information about the alien race we truly know so little about. When the Doctor hears the boy state his name, he has a borderline visible panic attack from not knowing what to do. The Doctor eventually makes the decision to leave, which is heartbreaking because he believes he is making the right decision to create a better future without Daleks; however, the Doctor’s decision turns out to be a fueling factor in the creation story of his archenemy.

I really liked this base for the story because the show is immediately jumping into a major crisis between The Doctor and the Dalek’s. Whether this will be a reoccurring season long plot that starts where it finishes, or is a smaller story tackled in the first two episodes will both be a great opener. It’s totally unlike our hero to abandon someone, let alone a helpless child; but having the child be Davros creates what might be the biggest moral dilemma the Doctor has ever faced. I like the complication with the story they are attempting to create here, because we see the Doctor actually leave this child behind, until the episode’s end when he returns to save him.

One of my favorite elements the show has is the ability to play with its own timeline, which was shown really well in this episode. Having the option to play with time keeps things extremely fun and interesting for us viewers. Whether fans have been watching since the beginning or picked it up later and watched the past episodes; nobody would or could have known that after the numerous encounters with Davros, it was the Doctor who aided in pushing him towards being his evil self. Davros even makes a statement about how he is finally seeing “his” Doctor again after all this time. It’s a fun way to keep the show engaging and make the viewers think a little more than usual in order to navigate the timeline.

The B-plot of “The Magician’s Apprentice” was somewhat interesting, but definitely dull when strung in with everything else that was happening. Michelle Gomez is great as Missy and I found her more interesting to watch than Clara, who just sort of palled around with the two Time Lords. The big sequence in the beginning with the planes around the world seemed a little overdone and unnecessary; I understand that Missy likes to have big entrances and pull all of the attention onto herself, but it just felt overdone. The amount of time and process it took for Clara to finally be face to face with Missy only to have her say, “where is the Doctor,” felt like a waste of time for something that wasn’t super important.

I really hope that there is a solid plot and eventual sendoff for Clara this season. I love the charm and energy that Jenna Coleman brings to her character but I just sit here feeling like she always ends up taking a backseat and other companions in the past have really done things to save the world or season. Maybe my expectations are too high? I’m not exactly sure, but I just feel like she has been really underwhelming compared to past companions.

Overall, this was a solid return for Doctor Who and I think they are really establishing an interesting story for the season. Right out of the gate we have the Doctor stuck on Skaro in front of his archenemy, Davros, along with all of his Daleks. Clara and Missy are, to our knowledge, dead (for now), and the Doctor is screwdriver and TARDIS-less.  It’s enjoyable to see the character be thrown into a situation like this so quickly, because it wastes no time in returning the character to his witty, always quick thinking self in order to save those he cares about. What I loved about this episode more than anything, is the amount of depth that was already laid out for us viewers. The abandonment of Davros not only shows the Doctor do something completely uncharacteristic for his moral code, but also reveals that the two characters have a much deeper past than we had previously known about. Was our hero truly the reason Davros was pushed into losing all hope for the world and the tipping point for his creation of the Daleks? It’s a weird idea to wrestle with in my mind, so I hope they have a phenomenal conclusion to this solid set up episode. While I wasn’t overly blown away with “The Magician’s Apprentice,” it was a solid opening to the fresh season, especially for being the set-up in a two-part episode.

Top Moments:

  • The Doctor entering the ancient battlefield on a tank while slaying the guitar was fantastic. “You said you wanted an axe fight.”
  • Clara and Missy are a fun pair because Clara is always on edge around her. It allows for Missy to do some fun things like threaten to open the airlock and kill them both when she already knows it’s just an illusion and nothing will happen.
  • I didn’t mention how cool it is to finally see Skaro on the show since its return. I’m hoping all of the characters are running around the actual planet in next week’s episode.

[Photo via BBC America]

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