On the surface, The Magician’s Apprentice feels like a rehash of the same old clichés that Steven Moffat’s been using for years – the world is in danger, weird stuff is happening all over the universe, we get a tour throughout the universe, and the Doctor is missing and facing his mortality.
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE MAGICIAN’S APPRENTICE BELOW
The Doctor is running and hiding from yet another mistake that he’s made – finding a helpless child in a war-torn planet. This child, however, is Davros, and if we’ve learned anything under Moffat’s run on Doctor Who, the Doctor’s hate for the Daleks seems to override most of his better instincts. He abandons poor Davros, instilling a lifelong hatred for the Doctor, and possibly becoming one of the motivators for the creation of the Daleks.
If you ask me, “being indirectly responsible for the creation of the race that will eventually drive your own species to an eons-long war that ends up in assured mutual destruction” is a bit higher on the list than “destroying both your race and the enemy race in a desperate bid to end that war you indirectly started.”
Oh Look, The Doctor Is Dying – Again
Yet another favorite theme of Moffat, the Doctor’s mortality, surfaces midway throughout the episode. The Doctor’s guilt at leaving a child to die leads him into hiding. We’ve never seen the Doctor this afraid, and even though the double genocide he believed he made at the end of the Time War should’ve had a bigger impact, he’s never cowered like this before. Knowing that Davros remembers what he’s done and that meeting his lifelong archenemy leads to certain death, the Doctor makes his last will and testament and sends it off to another one of his enemies – Missy, formerly known as the Master.
Michelle Gomez’ Missy is definitely a strong point for this episode, and I really enjoyed her trademark zaniness on full display here. She brushes off her death in the last episode like it was nothing, and masterfully shifts from “concerned friend” to “insane mastermind” and back effortlessly. Her plan – get UNIT and Clara’s attention by freezing all the planes into a moment in time is bonkers, and her murder of UNIT soldiers just shows how ruthless she can be.
It’s a good thing, then, that Clara can hold her own against Missy. She’s grown so much as a character since she started off as the “perfect companion” for Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, and I love how she can handle Missy in a way that Osgood couldn’t.
Two Archenemies, One Episode
I don’t believe the Master and Davros have been featured in the same story before (correct me in the comments if I’m wrong) but I am glad that they finally shared the same episode – and physical space, even. The difference between the two enemies is on full display here – Missy is an agent of chaos whom the Doctor actually enjoys sparring wits with throughout their different incarnations. Davros, on the other hand, is pure calculated hatred and evil. There’s a reason why the Doctor picked Davros as his archenemy.
The debate between the Doctor and Davros was brilliant – it’s been a while since Davros was portrayed as evil and dare I say scary. The almost comical portrayal of Davros towards the end of the 10th Doctor’s run made me wish to not see this particular villain for a long time. I appreciate how he was retooled into something menacing, finally.
The Magician’s Apprentice has been teased as a sequel of sorts to the classic Genesis of the Daleks, and the deliberate highlight of Davros and the Doctor’s past conversation drives home the point that they have been locked into these two different philosophies for centuries – and neither one of them is willing to yield, no matter what the collateral damage is.
- Come on, does anybody actually believe that Clara and Missy are dead? What about the TARDIS? The TARDIS has withstood more abuse in the past, so I’m not buying it.
- I do like a helpless 12th Doctor though. He’s been the darkest of the New Who Doctors so far, and I really want to see him unhinged.
- Obligatory praise for Peter Capaldi’s entrance. The tank and the guitar. Oh my god. There’s just really nothing you can add to a wonderful performance.
- Ah, Kate Stewart, you are always welcome. Please be a regular.
- I shall never unsee the image of Missy fondling a Dalek’s balls.
- The Doctor teaching some Renaissance peasants to say “Dude” feels something that Matt Smith would do, but Peter Capaldi plays the scene with such enthusiasm that I’m buying it.
- Peter Capaldi is the coolest New Who Doctor so far. I can’t believe it took more than 50 years for us to get the first punk rock Doctor.
I still have no idea who the magician and the apprentice are.Never mind.
I thought that The Magician’s Apprentice is a great opener to series 9. Seeing a more confident Peter Capaldi living up to the bombast of his predecessor while still retaining his signature darkness was a treat, and the return of Davros is always welcome. Not to mention the long-overdue return of the two-part episodes. I can’t wait for The Witch’s Familiar.
What do you think of The Magician’s Apprentice? Let’s talk about this fantastic episode in the comments!