TV Review: Doctor Who Season 9 Episode 1 “The Magician’s Apprentice” (UK, 2015)

It seems that the Doctor Who Gods read my article on the things I really want to happen this season, gifting me with more Missy, a two-parter, a dark tone, and the mother of all nods to past seasons – bringing into question something that the Fourth Doctor said many moons ago – who created Davros?

The episode opens up with a magnificently shot desolate wasteland with The Doctor attempting to help a young boy that found himself in some trouble with some creatures that look remarkably similar to those Pan’s Labyrinth hands (I’m onto you, Moffat). But after learning that the boy is actually his arch nemesis Davros as a youth, he hopped into the TARDIS and bolted – because who wants to help someone that essentially wiped out your entire species?

The return of the Daleks is usually quite cyclical – he thinks he’s killed them, they come back with another plan to destroy humanity, the Doctor stops them and thinks he’s killed them. And so the cycle continues. But The Magician’s Apprentice breaks this cycle, forcing him to answer a hypothetical question posed years ago.

If you cast your mind back to Genesis of the Daleks, the Fourth Doctor asks Sarah Jane, “If someone who knew the future pointed out a child to you and told you that that child would grow up totally evil to be a ruthless dictator who would destroy millions of lives… could you then kill that child?” Sarah Jane is then all like “but Doctor, they’re real evil and stuff so it would be totally warranted”^, to which the Doctor replies with a super Doctor-y reason – if he is to wipe out an entire species, then he would be no better than the Daleks. Who needs philosophy when you’ve got Doctor Who?

Because of the two-part format (thank you, writers), we don’t know whether the Doctor will be following through on his threat to kill young Davros, but given the Fourth Doctor’s infinite wisdom, I can guess the outcome. As for the fate of Clara and Missy? We already know Clara’s going to leave us, but I think all of us know that this isn’t the right moment. As for Missy? I just started to get to know my new gal pal, and I’m sure she’s not leaving us this soon.

This predictability is the episodes real downfall though. We already know that they’re not dead, so unless a good explanation is presented in the next episode, you’ve got fifteen minutes of redundant airtime just there.

And while I’m nitpicking this episode, was anyone else super confused by the AC/DC medieval music battle? I understand that The Doctor was trying to distract himself from the reality that he just essentially sentenced Davros (and himself by association) to die, but I thought the sequence was drawn out, lacked purpose, and was just a way to satisfy some fans dream of seeing Capaldi play the guitar like a boss.

I also found the combination of Missy, Clara, the Doctor, Daleks, AND Davros to be a bit overwhelming. If we are to explore Missy and the Doctor being best friends 2.0, then maybe a simpler adventure could have been optimal. At times, it felt like there were two different stories unfolding before my eyes, making for a confused and cluttered episode that was vomited out.

That being said, the concept itself is one of the best we’ve seen in a while. I loved the infusion of Who history, the way in which the Daleks seemed threatening, and overall, the chemistry between the characters. Fingers crossed for a satisfying ending with next week’s episode The Witch’s Familiar. 

^Some loose* paraphrasing of this sequence.

* A lot of paraphrasing of this sequence.

Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Doctor Who is available every Sunday on ABC iView coinciding with the UK premiere, with an extra screening at 7.40pm on ABC TV. 

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