Sunday, September 27, 2015

Doctor Who - The Witch's Familiar Review - (Spoilers)

By Ken Parker

So one of the most annoying things about Doctor Who is it's ability to suck one moment and be brilliant the next.  In the first episode "The Magician's Apprentice" we had excellent, followed by horrible followed by excellent script writing and so what better reason to watch the next episode than to see what percentage will suck and could it get any worse?  Well, Moffat surprises me again with a fairly good outing for Doctor Who with some excellence sprinkled with just a touch of bad.

We will start with the lowlights and there were a few.  Missy does have a few annoying moments.  She is trying to be funny and I guess it works because a lot of people like that.  It is interesting that this is probably her best episode to date but a few silly moments are thrown in there to keep people from remembering that she is not only evil, but also bananas which always makes every Doctor Who episode less appealing.

Clara falls for Missy's tricks three times in the episode and you would think that at least after the second one she would learn her lesson.

The resolution of the entire story is based on several twist traps which are always clever unless they are used in every single episode.  Davros tricks the Doctor into using his regeneration power to help Davros see the sun rise with his own eyes for the last time. The Doctor falls for it easily but "Ha Ha" the Doctor knew Davros was going to do that and knew that the contrived fact that the dead Daleks would be able to squish their way out of the sewer and kill all Daleks. I think that the Davros trap would have been better if there was no hint to it at all.  Don't show that snake guy talking with Davros and certainly don't show the cables with eyes to remind us that something is not right.  We didn't need that Moffat - we are smarter than that and could use a good complete surprise once in a while and not plots that are telegraphed with predictions and soothsaying or the like.

The Doctor in the Davros chair was just a visual stunt that served no purpose except to fill time and get the audience thinking - ooohhh, cool!

Speaking of cool - the Sonic sunglasses are dumb and so the Doctor's super powers continue to develop.

In one of the best situations in the episode (see below) we learn that the Dalek voice is obviously mechanically generated by the Dalek casing and machinery - Clara learns this the hard way.  So why then were the goopy Daleks in the sewers talking like Daleks?

The season's mystery will be "why did the Doctor leave Gallifrey" and has something to do with a Hybrid race.  Yet again, everyone knows about it except the viewer.  Missy knows, Davros knows but we don't.  Oh, I feel left out.  Now I must watch the season to find out how potentially Steven Moffat can ruin another element of the series (He already ruined regenerations).

Now for the good stuff.  Despite Clara being too trusting of Missy, this team up worked very well and for the first time since Derek Jacobi played the Master for a short while did I feel the Master was indeed, evil.  Sure, Missy is still silly and her sense of humor with Clara resulting in probably the funniest moment in Doctor Who ever.  The "how deep is that hole" was certainly telegraphed but was perfect.

Missy continued treatment of the too trusting Clara leads to a truly chilling moment when Clara takes control of the Dalek.  Thinking that perhaps this might be an origin story for Souffle Girl, the tone of the story darkens a bit and when Missy attempts to convince the Doctor in destroying the Dalek that Clara is in, unknown to him, it really shows us how this character of Missy can be.  Is it because she can't be that evil to frighten children so they make her dance around all the time, perhaps.  Clara shines in this episode, especially when in distress.  Her comedic moments are also good.

The Doctor and Davros have some great moments and it is a shame that so many of these great character moments are often shams.  Davros is just putting on an act the entire time and none of his expressed feelings were real, at least not ultimately.  This cheapens the ending but it does keep Davros a bad guy and doesn't fall into the politically correct category that all bad guys are good underneath.

Overall I think this episode was pretty good.  No really dumb moments - at least none that lasted very long.   I cringe at the idea of Missy and the Daleks are coming back with a changing of Doctor Who mythology potentially throwing out the superb idea that the Doctor just left Gallifrey because he wanted to and giving us some sinister conspiracy that there was more to it.

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