We left off last time with a cliffhanger giving the impression that Missy and Clara were dead, but this is resolved in short order and nicely provides a psychology lesson on the Doctor: he escapes because he always assumes he will. Synonymous with the rest of the episode, this is more of a intimate acting showcase than an action packed extravaganza despite the visuals and scope.
Having escaped (teleporter, natch), Clara and Missy devise a Trojan Horse scenario using a Dalek shell to infiltrate Davros’ inner sanctum and reunite with the Doctor. Our esteemed Time Lord on the other hand, reeling in disbelief at the apparent loss of his companion, starts to plot the downfall of this rebuilt Skaro while entertaining the idea that Davros may be seeking some form of redemption. Of course he isn’t, but there wouldn’t be much story otherwise, would there? Instead he’s looking to steal some of the Doctor’s Regeneration energy to give himself and his creations a new lease on life.
At its core, The Witch’s Familiar its a look at the Doctor’s endless compassion and how it’s his weakness but also his strength. Davros plays on the Doctor’s compassion to set in motion one final scheme, but as ever the Doctor is one step ahead. Rather than being a genuine threat, the whole tale is a way to look at the Doctor’s psyche, his guilt stemming from both his guilt concerning Davros as a child and the ensuring Dalek race that came from his actions/inactions. As ever the Doctor takes his usual high road of not actually pulling a trigger, but upsetting up his enemies to cause their own demise.
More than ever Capaldi seems to be channeling Tom Baker, the Fourth Doctor and first to encounter Davros. For the first time in the show’s run we get a prolonged conversation between the pair, and it was worth waiting for. It’s hard to recap due to the nature of the episode, one largely spent with the Doctor and Davros verbally sparring with each other. Its remarkably refreshing, actually; no filler, no need to over dramatize, just good interplay that draws on the history between these two characters.
As a counterpoint to the more emotionally heavy material we get the witty and sometimes life-threatening adventures of Clara and Missy. Gomez continues to be a revelation as Missy, a whirling dervish of wicked insanity and wit. You can’t help but love her, pointy stick and all.
What did I not like? “I’m over screwdrivers. They spoil the line of your jacket. These days I’m all about wearable technology.” As a person who has a visceral reaction to those who wear sunglasses indoors or in the dark, I suspect this change will not be looked upon favorably by me this season.
Considering the story and scale of The Magician’s Apprentice/Witch’s Familiar opener, the end product has been surprisingly personal, giving new insights into the makeup of both the Doctor and his long standing enemies, the Daleks. His ‘Confession’ seems to be the basis for the season long arc, and I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of either Davros or Missy. Solid foundations for the season ahead.