Doctor Who Series 9 Episode 1 – The Magician’s Apprentice.

This episode starts in Karn with ‘The Prologue’ – as a short burst of science fiction goes, it’s extremely good. 

It’s well acted and intriguing. 

We see our Series 9 Twelfth Doctor for the first time. It obviously isn’t the first time Ohila and The Doctor have met and there seems a little familiarity. 

The conversation was layered, possibly meaning much more than first sight. Possibly meaning more as the series progresses. It started with Davros, it ended with Missy/The Master

The Doctor seemed to have been back at Karn after his Eighth/War regeneration, maybe it’s a Time Lord thing, maybe he trades information with the Sisterhood. He was certainly on Karn when Colony Sarff came knocking. 

But, that’s getting ahead of ourselves. The second prologue or prequel had slightly less weightiness, it conveyed a funny tale, a side of The Doctor not seen much in Series Eight. But the dialogue with Bors also had an edge. It progressed the story from Karn via Earth and onto a battlefield.

Our episode followed starting with that battlefield. A boy literally stuck in a ‘hand’ mine field. The Doctor helps him by reassuring him and throwing his Sonic Screwdriver. But when The Doctor asks the lads name and realises who he is helping and where he is, he then runs off in the Tardis.

We fill by having Missy attract the attention of UNIT and Clara by stopping planes. Missy’s clear that she hasn’t turned good by callously killing the UNIT agents. Her possession of the Confession Dial takes us forward from the Prologue somewhat in that she has the last will of The Doctor.

We fill by having Sarff visit the Bar, the Shadow Proclamation and The Sisterhood. The menace, presence and intensity from Sarff, made him interesting, although inevitably, The Shadow Architect knew who he served and who he was looking for, as did the Sisterhood. The presence of The Doctor places Sarff’s visit to Karn as being three weeks before they meet again in 1138 England and three weeks before Clara and Missy appear before the drama of Sarff unraveling and threatening after choking Bors.

Somewhere in between Missy was on Karn to collect the Confession Dial or for the Sisterhood to get it to her, so there’s that. I’d speculate that Missy was helped by the Sisterhood in becoming her current form and it’s entirely possible they have a relationship too. The Doctor did say Ohila wasn’t her friend but that he trusted her. Maybe it’s similar for Missy and Ohila is an honest broker warning each about the other.

So far, so non-linear. The minefield and giving away the sonic screwdriver happened long before the other events, but the realisation of The Doctor that he made a mistake is over a shorter period.

Clara has been subject to critical comments in forums and reviews. ‘Why would UNIT send for her?’ ‘Does she think she’s the Doctor’ – that sort of thing, but Clara has shown her abilities without The Doctor, she faced off Cybermen to stay alive, she was the ‘Impossible Girl’, she’s been on her own with Sonic Screwdriver and minimal help from The Doctor. 

It’s fairly credible after the events of ‘Day of the Doctor’ that she’s known to UNIT, it’s possible they’ve tracked her as they track The Doctor. Maybe she’s consulted when The Doctor isn’t there. It’s plausible if we take UNIT to be an Agency of Government that knows and looks for Alien threats. I guess it’s not a big stretch that UNIT take an interest in the Doctor’s companions. Possibly it’s an interesting thread to return to, within the show. Possibly it’s building a backing cast to Kate Stewart.

Some have made pointed comments that Kate and UNIT were underused. I’d say that’s true possibly within the episode, but possibly they’ll have more appearances in the series. The ‘Doctor Tracker’ is an innovation that I have a hunch about. 

Next, Missy and Clara. The conversation on the Confession Dial, Missy’s explaination of ‘our sort of texting’, the throwing in of ‘Dear’ was funny too. Missy might be a fellow Time Lord and the closest thing to a ‘best friend’ that The Doctor has, but for all the length of time and shared experiences, it’s her perception of the relationship that we’re given. 

We know the duality of her, switching from crazy to dead serious in a second, we know her abilities, we know as a Time Lord that she has experienced the Time War and as a survivor, chose to hide out at the end of time. The Master knew exactly the danger of the Daleks.

Clara might well be jealous that she didn’t receive the Confession Dial and angry that The Doctor chose Missy. The controlling side, the Clara that can annoy us possibly, but she developed as a character, changed with the Doctor changing and if anything ‘grew’ through Series Eight. 

She has every right to be attached to The Doctor, every reason to know and trust him, but they did end Series Eight lying to each other. Maybe not intentionally, maybe for the right reasons. The hug at the end of Death in Heaven was repeated in this episode, Slightly different dialogue and I wondered if The Doctor placed something in her pocket. 

I’m no expert on Davros. I presume his return is due to the Dalek’s temporal technologies, but the classic show certainly had the arch-enemies of The Doctor reappear as and when needed for the purposes of the story. I think Davros was last seen in Journey’s End where The Tenth Doctor, his copy and Doctor-Donna foiled his plans together with Sarah Jane Smith and nearly every companion of the Tennant era.

We have the Supreme Dalek and a fantastic range of Daleks shown on Skaro. Previous returns of the Daleks threw up escapes from the Time War, emergency temporal shifts, the Cult of Skaro who were prepared to dilute their purity and a Dalek Caan who had very clearly lost the plot. The Twelfth Doctor and Clara were inside ‘Rusty’ in the last series.

So that’s the main players.

It seemed we had a classic bit of extermination with Missy and Clara zapped, then the horror of the TARDIS getting it too.

Seemed is the word. Didn’t Clara and Missy have Vortex Manipulators on their arms?  In their arrival at the castle to find The Doctor, the visual effect was yellow or gold coloured. In their extermination, it was a blue flash, more similar to Missy escaping the aircraft in Death in Heaven. Without going too far into the how’s, it’s likely the paired armbands were used by Missy in some way to escape possibly triggered by the Dalek energy from their blasters.

Next, the TARDIS. Was Clara talking rubbish about it being indestructible and Missy right to correct her? 

Or.. did Missy maybe know as a Time Lord that the Blue Box acquired by Bors as the Dalek agent wasn’t quite the genuine article? The Doctor lies after all.

Which takes us to ‘Gravity’ – one word from the Doctor to the Master. They both clicked that the space station might not be right and Missy walked out the airlock to prove the hunch. Quite possibly they might have been safer in Davros’s building, but doors do open and despite Davros saying he can’t control his children, he knew what the Daleks would do once they were caught.

So we have Davros ahead of The Doctor, destroying his TARDIS, companion and fellow Time Lord, even mocking the compassion that The Doctor shows.

But to see where it’s going is to go back to Karn and Ohila telling Colony Sarff that The Doctor is ahead of him and behind him. The Doctor heard the exchange, knew Sarff was Davros’s man. If it were me, I’d follow his time ship…

Let’s see what The Witch’s Familar throws at us.

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