This week Whovian Leap prods “The Witch’s Familiar” with a pointy stick.
Last night Doctor Who was worlds away from RTD’s audience-friendly kitchen-sink vision of the show. Heavy on both sci-fi and Who-lore, “The Witch’s Familiar” was seemingly targeting the fans.
I was thrilled to see swarms of Daleks soar over their “retro future” city and the Doctor play dodgems in the Davrosmobile, not to mention his old incarnations turning up in black and white. That said, I couldn’t help feel worry for the casual viewer. Or perhaps that should be mercy.
Does your average viewer really care about the Doctor’s relationship with Davros or go into a frenzy at the sight of quite a lot of different Daleks trundling around together in glorious Technicolor? I wasn’t going to allow these doubts to spoil my enjoyment of the episode.
Missy and Clara’s wacky relationship had me in stitches straight from the go. The “Make your own stick!” scene must be one of the funniest pre-credits sequences ever. It even beats the Eleventh gate-crashing Rory’s stag-do and the Ninth Doctor turning up in the Big Brother diary room and being instructed not to swear!
Missy surpasses herself in the comedy stakes and does so just by throwing Clara down a hole. Steven Moffat’s sense of humour keeps casual viewers entertained and shows them that sci-fi can be fun. Is he also paving the way and showing the potential for a female Doctor by showcasing Missy as a strong female lead, who is both authorative and at the same time eccentric. Missy looked most Doctorly as she led Clara across Skaro’s barren surface pointy stick in hand. Incidentally was the twig in question a cleverly disguised dig at the now seemingly defunct sonic?
Steven Moffat’s writing of the Doctor/Davros scenes was superb, matched only by Bleach and Capaldi’s almost Shakespearian performances. The age-old bond and depth of feeling between the two ancient enemies were both palpable and moving.
Other personal highlights from the episode include the hilarious vampire monkeys, Missy sniggering like a schoolgirl when the Doctor rudely called Davros a moron and Clara sitting inside a Dalek. The obvious homage to “The Dead Planet” felt satisfying until I remembered Clara has her own personal Dalek issues going back all the way to her first adventure. Could Clara’s departure from Doctor Who somehow be connected with the Daleks? My kooky theory is that she will regenerate. She absorbed some of the Doctor’s regeneration energy from inside her Dalek.
The Series 9 opening two-parter has been an overwhelming success, ticking all the right boxes, at least for fandom. Whether the casual viewer was won over by the wonderful writing, acting, direction and SFX remains to be seen. I can’t help but worry about the almost “Battlefield-low” overnight viewing figures, but do they really matter in a global market where Doctor Who is a massive money-spinner for the BBC? Just as long as the viewing public don’t associate the poor ratings with the impending hiatus next year. The tabloids are bound to spin the facts against the show.
We can’t possibly know what will happen in 2016. For the moment the best course of action is not to worry. Because, quite unlike Missy’s stick, there really is no point!