This week Whovian Leap is left spellbound by “The Magician’s Apprentice”.
Like many other incredulous fans I had heard the never-ending rumours, but the possibility of something so huge and of such monumental importance ever actually happening in the Whoniverse just seemed too good to be true. Earlier this year the press leaked – presumably to the BBC’s great displeasure – that craggy-faced creator of the Daleks, Davros, would be returning to the series but this time around we would encounter him as a somewhat fresher-faced young boy.
In recent months the media has commendably exercised greater self-restraint, perhaps for fear of a proper Moff-bashing, and until last night – not totally dissimilarly to Harry Potter’s arch enemy – the name of the Dark Lord of Skaro had not been mentioned again.
The Doctor Who publicity machine has wheezed and groaned into action and every Series 9 photo or trailer has seemed to hint at the imminent arrival of he who must not be named, though without ever saying so explicitly. The Doctor and Tardis on a very Skaroesque landscape. Fighters under attack. A Dalek city. The signs were all there.
The clincher came with the image of a “young boy”. It just had to be him. Indeed fans didn’t have to wait long for the grand reveal in the pre-credits, when a terrified boy resembling a World War II evacuee reveals his name. Davros.
Heavy on the Who-lore, this was no RTD fun-packed romp to open the season. Moffat sprinkled Series 9’s opening episode with fan favourites from the show’s rich heritage. Davros and the Daleks. Kate Stewart, the Sisterhood of Karn and even the Ood. Not to mention some old Doctors. All very appropriate for an anniversary year!
The Shadow Proclamation, unfortunately, have always been a letdown. Back in 2005’s “Rose” they had been built up as something mystical and powerful. Their very name promised so much. It was such a disappointment when we first saw them in the form of a odd-looking lady with a silly hairstyle. The character was weak and not at all awe-inspiring. The actress was probably miscast. The Shadow Proclamation’s good name was further tainted by the presence of those cumbersome comedy walking rhinos from the days of old when RTD turned any animal he could think of into Doctor Who monsters.
Missy’s character seems more rounded. Alongside her habitual evil lunacy, last night we were treated to a Time Lady with some depth. Like Delgado’s Master we were presented with a villain who we could love to hate, but this time with a little more emphasis on the ‘love’. Missy is so much more likeable and charming than before. (Aside – if there ever is a Doctor Who novelty record, say for “Children in Need”, Missy should do a cover of “Hey Mickey!” with the Doctor on guitar and Clara providing backing vocals!)
At long last, the Twelfth Doctor has become fun. The slick-haired and smartly dressed party pooper of Series 8 has toddled off. This Doctor has undergone a very sudden and very welcome personality change. Boasting wild hair and rock guitar he has become everyone’s favourite funny uncle. Incredibly he has managed to make ‘old’ cool.
This was the charm offensive that was so badly needed in Series 8. The gloom should have ended straight after “Deep Breath”. Imagine how much more we would have enjoyed last year’s scripts, if we had actually liked the Doctor.
Davros didn’t disappoint. I loved this aged, cynical and quietly spoken version of the Dalek creator. None of the embarassing, spit-laden, incomprensible gurgly rants we put up with in the past. His terrifying snake-riddled henchman, Colony Sarff, almost had me back behind the sofa.
It is a fanboy’s dream come true to see the different versions of the Daleks all together on Skaro. My undoubted favourite has always been the Special Weapons Dalek. I badly need to see him blow something up next week!
We feel the Doctor’s anger and grief at losing Clara. Capaldi turns in a dazzling and moving performance. When the Doctor appears in front of the terrified young Davros and threatens to exterminate him, it is a truly epic moment which will surely go down in Doctor Who history.
“The Magician’s Apprentice” is a sum greater than its parts. It features fan-pleasing elements from Doctor Who’s rich history with various locations throughout all of time and space. It represents also both the ultimate tribute and sequel to “Genesis of the Daleks”.
This tale, more importantly, shows a new side to our hero. He smiles, hugs and even plays rock music. “The Magician’s Apprentice” is the story when the Doctor becomes loveable again.