Doctor Who 'The Magician's Apprentice' [TV-EPISODE REVIEW]

Finally, 'Doctor Who' has returned to our screens and if this episode is anything to go by - it has returned in style. 'The Magician's Apprentice' has been highly anticipated by the fans and for me personally I have been really looking forward to it after we started hearing some information about what we might be seeing. Now that I have finally watched it though, did it live up to the extremely high expectation that I unfairly created for myself, or does it severely falter in quality? Time to find out.

What the hell did I just witness!? That was literally my very first reaction when the episode ended and my second reaction was to rewind and watch it again. While I managed to keep myself from doing that this soon (I would like to let the episode sink into my mind first before revisiting it again). This has the possibility of becoming one of my favorite Dalek stories the shows has ever had - all that is required is for 'The Witch's Familiar' to cap it off in a satisfying manner (although with THAT cliffhanger, where in the hell is this going?). Everything from the directing to the writing to the acting is in its A game here. Every single scene had me on the edge of my seat and my hand ready to catch my jaw as it constantly drops. A lot of people were quick to note that this did not feel like a season premiere and... yeah, they are totally right. This is something we would normally see in a finale or something but what is so utterly brilliant is that it still COMPLETELY works as a premiere.

Right from the start I was reminded of the classic Tom Baker story 'Genesis of the Daleks' (which seriously must have been the seed for how Steven Moffat conjured up this story), the battlefield is extremely well shot and it once again shows just how far the show has come. The eventual cue to the opening credits was the very first jaw-dropping moment of the episode (and also the season) and I would be lying if I did not say I was completely on board at that point when we found out about who the returning character was.

This is a VERY rich episode, with so many different ideas that could easily have their own story based around them. The planes frozen in the sky is a wonderful idea and while it would have been interesting to see it developed further - I do not really know how it would have worked for an entire story. I really liked the idea of Missy using them to get U.N.I.T. to listen to her because honestly... they would have NO reason to do so unless she threatened them with something like that (so do not tell me that freezing the planes was a useless addition to the episode). For everything that Steven Moffat recycles with his plots - we get at least five completely fresh and wonderfully imaginative ideas mixed into it. The "hand mines" at the beginning of the episode are creepy and quite a stunning creation that I hope is at least expanded upon somewhat in 'The Witch's Familiar' (although really, I would not be disappointed if they are not). Then there is a new character called Colony Sarff who at first kind of came across rather comical with the way the actor delivered his lines (over-acting is the word I would use) and the way he moved was quite chilling - but then you find out what kind of creature he is and suddenly... it all makes perfect sense. Everything from the name, to the way he delivered the lines, to the way he looks.

It is really difficult to talk about this episode without spoiling the whole thing so while I definitely have been revealing some bits of the episode already - consider THIS a spoiler warning as I will now delve into the meat of the story (well, everything I CAN talk about before 'The Witch's Familiar' arrives). Really though if you were to walk into this story not knowing anything about it - this would cause severe heart-attacks several times and I do kind of wish I had not read up on things (no, not the spoiler stuff) and continuously rewinding all the trailers.

This episode naturally did see the return of Davros, which is not exactly the most shocking thing ever seeing as it was widely speculated that, that would be the case. I must say though, this blows his appearance in 'The Stolen Earth' and 'Journey's End' out of the water. Every scene he is in here is just stunning to watch and surprisingly creepy. Davros works best as a quieter villain, he should not be the type of bad guy who yells his lines like he does in 'Journey's End'. If part 2 delivers more scenes like this... then 'Genesis of the Daleks' will have a worthy contender of best Davros appearance the show has ever seen. While Steven Moffat has not been the best writer for the Daleks, he completely nailed Davros and if the end of the episode is anything to go by - he may actually have learnt how to write the Daleks too. These scenes are incredibly dramatic but what I love about them is that they still remain very 'Doctor Who'. This could easily have become a completely different show that is targeted so much more to adults who are expecting 'Game of Thrones' style drama but the episode grounds it just enough in the universe of 'Doctor Who' that nothing feels out of place.

Naturally there are still elements I am not quite sure I approve of. The return of Skaro is not one of them - but the Doctor's reaction to it is. This is not the first time in the new series we have seen Skaro, in fact we were there in the opening episode to series 7 with 'Asylum of the Daleks'. Although, I will kind of give it a pass seeing as it could very easily just be him fearing for Clara's life seeing she is now surrounded by literally a whole planet filled with Daleks and as far as he knew at that moment - there is no TARDIS nearby to get them out of this one.

The performances all around were just incredible with Peter Capaldi and Julian Bleach (who also played Davros in 'The Stolen Earth' and 'Journey's End') taking the cake as their interaction is breathtaking stuff. We also of course have Michelle Gomez returning who I actually thought topped her performance in 'Dark Water' and 'Death In Heaven'. She is so much fun to watch and once we found out both the Master and Davros were going to be in the story... man was I excited for what was to come, having both of the Doctor's arch enemies in one story like this. Especially because, none of them are really trying to pull of a master plan here. This is not another "The Master or the Daleks take over world" plot which is rather refreshing to see (that was LITERALLY the premise of every single finale in Series 1-4).

Hettie MacDonald finally returns to the director's chair after a rather noticeable absent after her stunning work with 'Blink' in Series 3 and honestly, this is one of the best directed episodes I have seen. I know I say "this is the best looking episode the show has ever had" quite a lot but honestly, how could I not? The production values are so extremely high now and this episode is firing on all cylinders. The CGI snake looked surprisingly good (and they did not try to hide the effect in any way). I seriously hope she returns again in Series 10 because it just seems like everything she touches that is 'Doctor Who' related is just gold.

Really, if 'The Witch's Familiar' somehow delivers a satisfying conclusion to this wonderful episode (and does not pull another 'Death In Heaven'), we might have the best opening story 'Doctor Who' has ever had (which is a title currently being held by 'The Eleventh Hour' and 'Remembrance of the Daleks'). Really though I do not see how part 2 can possibly match this. So many theories are popping up in my head but none of them really sound feasible and I just do not see a solution that can make it worth it. Overall though, 'The Magician's Apprentice' is a masterfully written, directed and acted episode that kept my attention firmly on the screen for every single second of its running time. To sum up my thoughts in three simple words; I loved it.


- Lucas

1 comment: Leave Your Comments

  1. This is a great review. I liked the episode personally. It just felt a bit too trailer-esque for me to fully love it. It didn't quite build the glorious upwards momentum through its teasing as did Pandorica or Good Man. Loved the eye symbolism, the aesthetics, and the new twists on old ideas here though. A good start to a great season.