The Witch’s Familiar

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The Doctor is trapped in the Dalek city on Skaro with no means of escape, while Missy and Clara must try to infiltrate this deadly stronghold.

Picking up where last week’s The Magician’s Apprentice left off, the theme of this story, survival, is deftly reintroduced in the pre-titles scene. Missy explains how she survived maximum extermination (and her apparent death at the end of Death in Heaven), with a great little vignette showing how the Doctor survives his dangerous lifestyle. This echoes his speech to the young Davros at the beginning of the previous episode, about choosing to survive. This will to survive at all costs is then instilled into every single Dalek.

“Genetically hard-wired to on keep living whatever happens.”

Ultimately, this leads to their defeat. The Dalek mutants’ insane survival instinct keeps them alive even when they are too old and decayed to still use a travel machine. All they are left with is hatred and the will to survive, which is turned on the Daleks in the city. We see the older mutants’ antipathy for their descendants when Missy punctures the one she and Clara meet in the sewers.

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The scenes between the Doctor and Davros are gripping, both actors really selling that these two are ancient enemies. Although not the screaming tyrant he has been in some appearances, Davros is still not one for subtlety. He tells the Doctor that compassion is a weakness that will kill him, then tries to elicit sympathy to trap and exploit him. It is savvy of him to draw the Doctor in with humour though, and by repeating the Doctor’s own ‘Am I a good man?’ question from last year. Davros hasn’t been this witty since Revelation of the Daleks‘ talk of ‘consumer resistance.’

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Missy and her ‘familiar’ Clara make a good double act as they explore the Dalek sewer/cemetery and pay homage to the very first Dalek story in trying to gain access to the city (known in some media as Kaalann). Clara taking the place of a mutant inside the casing homages both Ian Chesterton doing this, and Jenna Coleman’s first appearance in Asylum of the Dalek. Missy remains an unhinged delight, and I like her cheeky Italian Job final scene. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we see her again.

The Doctor is genius inventor again in this story. He’s upgraded the Hostile Action Displacement System (last seen in Cold War, where it inconveniently relocated the TARDIS to the other side of the planet) has become the Hostile Action Dispersement System. He has replaced his sonic screwdriver with sonic sunglasses, although I’m not convinced this is permanent, the The Wand Company Twelfth Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver Universal Remote Control has just been released.

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There seems to be a few hints for the future, but which ones are relevant?

  • The Daleks are now more powerful than ever, having been infused with Time Lord energy. They presumably know who the Doctor is again; although it seems that Davros never forgot (maybe that’s why they put him in a home; all his crazy paranoid talk of one Time Lord who keeps defeating the Daleks). Certainly not all of them have been destroyed by their vengeful forebears, as we saw a lot of them were airborne when the shit hits Kaalann. Also, they now know that Gallifrey still exists.
  • Missy’s daughter. Is this a throwaway line, or foreshadowing?
  • The Hybrid – a Gallifreyan prophecy of some unholy progeny between two races. Davros and Missy both mention this, so it’s probably relevant and what the Confession Dial pertains to. The immediate thought would be that the Doctor himself could be the Hybrid. The Eighth Doctor controversially says that he is half-human, on his mother’s side.

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Order Doctor Who series 9 on DVD:

Doctor Who – Series 9 Part 1 [DVD]

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