Sunday, September 27, 2015

Doctor Who Is NEW!: The Witch's Familiar

Hey, hey, hey, Whovians one and all! Time to take a look at week #2 of Doctor Who Series 9 as we plunge into Part 2 of the adventure that ended last week with: 

  • Missy executed by the Daleks!
  • Clara Oswald also executed by the Daleks!
  • The TARDIS, the indestructible time machine of the Doctor, destroyed by the Daleks!
  • The Doctor captured by the Daleks!
  • A nefarious plan is underway courtesy of Davros, creator of the Daleks!
  • All of this is happening on Skaro, planet of the Daleks!
  • Can I stop ending sentences with the Daleks!? 
  • Yes, I can.
  • the Daleks!
  • Now cut that out! 

All right, enough of this silliness. Let's look back over Episode Two, The Witch's Familiar after we get past the spoiler caution.  

And now here we go in 5...





The Witch's Familiar 
by Steven Moffat 

So Clara and Missy are supposed to be dead. They're not dead. Big surprise. Move on. And Clara and Missy are moving on into the planet. Into the sewers. Wait! Daleks have sewers? Yes they do and wait until you find out what they flush down there. 

Meanwhile, the Doctor is really torn up thinking that Clara's dead. (And maybe a bit bothered that Missy is too? Who knows? Hard to tell with those two.) So the Doctor goes nuts and commandeers a ride right into the heart of the Daleks. The Doctor seems to have the upper hand but Davros, even without a leg to stand on (giggle) takes it back with a little help from Colonel Sanders Colony Saarf. Back once more with Davros, the Doctor is informed that Davros just wants a little quality tine with the Doctor. Before Davros dies. 

Back in the sewers, li'l ol' Missy takes over a Dalek with the assistance of Clara Oswald in a trap and the ugly stuff buried in the sewers of Skaro. Voila! One hollowed out Dalek with just enough room for a certain petite brunette school teacher from Earth to sit in and drive the thing. And if anyone is having flashbacks to Asylum of the Daleks, well, remember, Moffat is evil! Anyway, we find out some interesting things about Dalek communication. If, for example, the life form inside a Dalek shell says "I love you", it comes out as "exterminate"

While Missy and her trojan Dalek return to the surface and bluff their way back among all the other Daleks, the Doctor and Davros are bonding. Really, it's kind of sweet. Davros makes a joke and they both laugh. Then the Doctor works really hard to help Davros to stay alive just long enough so Davros can see the sun. Just one last time. 


Psych! It's a trap! The Doctor's regeneration energy is being siphoned off to kick start the Daleks and Davros too with a new lease on life and access to greater power than ever! Yep, all that is Dalek is getting this upgrade! 

Including the ugly stuff in the Dalek sewers. The ugly and very, very, very angry stuff in the Dalek sewers. 

Uh oh. 

So the Daleks are up to their eyestalks in s**t (I try to keep the Doctor Who posts family friendly but it is a fairly accurate comparison) and Davros sees his schemes upended by the Doctor's secret plan. The Doctor runs into Missy and her Dalek which Missy tries to get the Doctor to kill before the Doctor realizes there's something a little bit different about this Dalek. Oh look, Clara's inside! Yay! 

The Doctor and Clara recover the TARDIS (oh yeah, not really destroyed, big surprise, moving on) but something Clara said while she was in the Dalek causes the Doctor to realize something. 

So we are back at the beginning. The boy in the battlefield amid the hand mines. Davros, future creator of the Daleks. And holding a weapon on him is the Doctor. And the Doctor uses that weapon. 

Oh come on! He's the Doctor! He saves people! Suffice to say, the Doctor's compassion that Davros tried to use agains the Doctor saves the day and sows the seeds of the Doctor's future victory.  

OK, so what do we have here? With The Witch's Familiar, we see something that happens less than we like, the 2nd part of a two parter than improves on the 1st part.  As much as I enjoyed The Magician's Apprentice, there was a sense of pieces being assembled and put into place. With this episode, those pieces are put into motion and bring the story together.  

The Doctor is ashamed of abandoning the boy on the battlefield but that's not why he goes to see Davros. No, Davros is sick and dying and the Doctor is, well, the Doctor, he wants to see if he can help. It is a very much Doctor type of thing to do.  

Missy still can't be trusted. When she needs to test how deep a pit is, she chucks something into it. That something is Clara and Clara's pissed about that. But while Missy is quite evil and untrustworthy, she is still extremely clever, almost Doctor level clever but with a willingness to be even more callous with a companion. Such as Missy handcuffing Clara to a pipe to trap a Dalek. The Doctor wouldn't do that. (Usually.)  

The revelation of what Daleks flush into a sewer is quite the horrible revelation. Daleks don't produce waste but those organic critters inside those salt shaker battle wagons don't stay fresh forever. And the Dalek word for "sewer" is also the Dalek word for "graveyard". But the dead in this graveyard are not dead, just abandoned. And that makes them angry! 

Skree! Skree! Skree! Skree! Skree!  

Everyone I was watching this episode with (Hey y'all, Geeksboro!) tensed up seeing Clara inside a Dalek. Clara's panicked reactions as she coped with learning to maneuver the Dalek echoed the reactions of Oswin in Asylum of the Daleks when she realizes the truth about herself. Steven Moffat rarely misses a chance at symbolism but usually its in service to a future plot point. Was this call back to an alternate Clara a hint at what's to come for Clara Oswald herself as we near the end of Jenna Coleman's time on the show? 

The Doctor spends some time as part of a Dalek, whizzing around Daleks untouchable in Davros' force field protected chair because Davros doesn't trust his own children. But Davros' trick snakes up a dress sleeve, the creepy Colony Saarf, take down the Doctor and brings him back to Davros. It is here that Davros tempts the Doctor, showing him the cables that connect Davors and the Daleks, forever linked. All the Doctor has to do is cut the cables and the Daleks are all dead. Davros uses the word "genocide" and it echoes in the Doctor's memory. The 4th Doctor recognized the elimination of all Daleks as genocide as did the 10th. The 12th Doctor, even with hope lost, still believing Clara dead, is not far gone enough to go down that path. 

Then the Doctor and Davros start to bond.  Well, Davros opens up about how all he wanted to do was the insure the survival of his people in the only way he knew how. And now the question of whether he was a good man for doing so weighs heavily on him as he enters his dying moments. The Doctor says he doesn't believe Davros is dying which leads Davros to say this: "That shows you're not a very good Doctor." Did Davros make a funny? Is the Doctor laughing? Is Davros smiling? What the what? 

Then laughter turns to tears as Davros between gasps of his dying breaths tells the Doctor he had hoped to see the sun rise one last time. Are people around me sniffling? Oh come on! This is Davros we're talking about! Don't be a sucker! 

The Doctor is a sucker. He actually channels up some regeneration energy to give Davros just enough juice to live to see that sunrise. Except oh no it is a trap to get the Doctor to offer up regeneration energy so Davros can siphon off that energy to restore himself and kickstart the Daleks to a new and glorious future with Dalek AND Time Lord power. 

Yes I saw that coming. 

So did the Doctor. That regeneration energy is giving a boost to ALL the Daleks. Including the leftover gloop Daleks gurgling in Skaro's graveyard sewers. The very, very, very angry gloop Daleks who come bursting out of the ground and blasting the Daleks to smithereens. 

The Doctor meets up with the Dalek with the surprise inside, Clara Oswald. Except Missy who just doesn't seem to have an off switch on her evil machine tells the Doctor this is the Dalek that killed Clara Oswald. Clara tries to tell the Doctor the truth but everything just turns into "I am a Dalek" and "Exterminate". But then the Dalek who has the Doctor at point blank range and is not killing him pleads for mercy. And the Doctor knows there is something different about this Dalek. The casing opens and Clara Oswald is revealed. This is one deception from Missy too many as the Doctor tells her to run. As he gently touches Clara's face, is he thinking of another person with this same face who was trapped in a Dalek, someone the Doctor could not save? 

The Doctor and Clara recover the TARDIS which used a different version of HADS (the "D" this time stands for "dispersal", not "displacement) to avoid destruction. The Doctor reassembles the blue box and we're back to "the same old same old, the Doctor and Clara Oswald in the TARDIS". 

But the Doctor is puzzled about how a Dalek would have any concept of mercy. Clara shouldn't have been able to make the Dalek say mercy unless there was some bit of information on the concept buried somewhere deep inside the Daleks. 

The Doctor goes back in time and stands before the young boy Davros with a Dalek gun and exterminates... the hand mines around him. The Doctor saves Davros and introduces Davros to the concept of mercy, a concept that will live on, buried deep within the Daleks' code. 

(You know that time when River Song made a Dalek beg for mercy in The Big Bang? Thank you, Clara Oswald and the 12th Doctor.)  

Some other points to touch on: 

Missy's tale about the Doctor's battle against invisible androids and his subsequent encounter with vampire monkeys? I want to see those stories, Steven! 

Missy's American southern accent when confronting the Dalek in the sewers of Skaro? Michelle Gomez is off the hook good in this scene and every other thing she does in this episode.  

Colony Saarf was a bit of an off point for the episode. A creepily realized concept in episode one, here he's less impressive. Maybe its because he spends a lot of time hanging around disguised as cables in Davros' lab. Still, I would like to see Colony Saarf again, perhaps in a situation where he takes on an army and we can truly see how effective a being that is a collection of snakes can be.  

Peter Capaldi can rock a pair of shades and I like that we might see more of that in future episodes. But the shades are actually a replacement for the sonic screwdriver? Say it isn't so! Still, Capaldi owns the screen once more, especially in the bit where he confronts the Daleks from Davros' own chair. 

And the confessional dial? Is that going to be a thing moving forward? It seems like a fairly significant plot point not to come up again in the future. 

All in all, The Witch's Familiar is a wrap up that improves upon the already pretty good opening episode.  Can Doctor Who keep that momentum going as we move forward with Series 9? We'll find out next Saturday and I'll be back here with a post about it in this space next Sunday. 

Until then, be good to one another. 

I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You

Carl Kasell

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