Doctor Who episode 831: The Witch’s Familiar (26/9/2015)
‘Have I not suffered enough?’ On the plus side, this leans more heavily into the idea of the Doctor abandoning Young Davros on the battlefield only to regret the decision and seek to make amends, trying to ease Davros’ passing and show him one last sunrise. On the downside… pretty much the rest of it.
Hands up, I do not like this at all. Some of it’s bafflingly misjudged – like the decision to show the Doctor turfing a man out of his wheelchair and parading round in it with a surprise cup of tea declaring, ‘I’m the Doctor, just accept it.’ Or having the solution to the story revolve around the Daleks drowning in their own poo (ok, fair enough, corpses: what is it with this era and desecrating graveyards?). Or revealing, in a moment more camp than The Happiness Patrol, that Davros has just been resting his peepers for all these centuries. Jenna Coleman has been brought back just to sit inside a Dalek. And then there’s Davros revealing the hitherto-unmentioned Hybrid that apparently was what started the Doctor running from Gallifrey.
I think all of these things are flawed bordering on risible, and they’d stuck so clearly in my mind I’d forgotten about the good bits. These include a moody and effective flashback to the Doctor escaping a squad of android assassins (with neat glimpses of the first and fourth Doctors), the comedy double act of Missy and Clara (hence, I suppose, the title), and Davros picking at another strand of Genesis of the Daleks: ‘to hold in my hand a capsule that contains such power…’ Plus Missy poking Davros in the eye. In general, Capaldi’s performance has evolved for the better, from the brooding Hinchliffe Tom Baker riff of Series Eight to the unfettered, mad haired Williams Tom Baker: ‘Ask me what I want.’
Mostly this exists to put Peter Capaldi and Julian Bleach onscreen together. They are, it’s true, a compelling pair, and these are the points when Moffat shows his strengths. Davros’ (feigned) compassion for the Doctor’s rescuing Gallifrey is couched in chauvinistic terms (‘A man should have a race, a people, an allegiance’), and the ‘ancient magic of the Time Lords’ recalls The Curse of Fatal Death’s ‘miracle of the Time Lords.’ But ultimately, despite so many Genesis of the Daleks references, this ends up as the modern Destiny of the Daleks, with the Doctor and Davros enjoying a chat while a Time Lady wanders about on Skaro. Except, I like Destiny.
Next Time: Under the Lake
Capaldi and Gomez’s chemistry as the Doctor and Missy teamed up must have catalysed Moffat into wanting to make her a companion. There’s something thrilling about watching two old friends briefly set aside their differences and go to work together.
Yes they’re a great pairing – it’s a shame they get little time onscreen together until Series 10