The Witch’s Familiar concludes the second part of the Season 9 opener for Doctor Who in style and sets the tone strongly for the rest of the series. Where we left off, The Doctor was at the mercy of Davros – with the TARDIS seemingly destroyed and both Missy and Clara apparently dead (although of course, they weren’t). This episode picked up shortly after, with Missy and Clara having made it to safety but the Doctor still trapped inside the Dalek city, as Davros prepared to bring about his master plan to save his life and at the same time, The Daleks, by relying on The Doctor’s compassion. It was a pretty powerful if inconsistent episode, that didn’t quite match the heights of the premiere, but was still a very solid entry in the series and makes sure that Doctor Who hits the ground running in Capaldi’s second season as The Doctor.
The best part about this storyline was Missy, played by the fantastic Michelle Gomez as the delightfully insane female incarnation of The Master. Her Good Cop/Bad Cop partnership with Clara was loads of fun, and her sly wit kept the episode fresh. We saw Missy managing to get Clara inside a Dalek, and control a Dalek in the attempt to bust The Doctor out of Davros’ own heavily guarded defences. It was amusing learning just how many words translated to “Exterminate” in the Dalek language, as Clara struggled to master the interior of the Dalek casing. This also led Missy to manipulate the Doctor into almost killing Clara at the end of the episode as well, in one of her colder moments. However, because The Doctor went back in time to save Davros, the words “Mercy” were implanted into the Daleks vocabulary, which shouldn’t have previously been there according to the Doctor (despite the fact that Moffat himself wrote a Dalek saying “Mercy” way back in the Season 5 finale, The Big Bang), and that was enough to save the day. It did of course present an interesting “What if?” question that would have taken the show down a very dark path if Jenna Coleman’s exit happened sooner than expected at the hands of the series’ protagonist.
The scenes between Davros and The Doctor were another strong highlight of this episode, even before the betrayal by Davros, which let’s face it, was always going to happen, and it was something that even The Doctor had known about from the start and had planned for in advance as a way to stop The Daleks, turning their own plan against them. In the end the writers just assume that because it’s The Doctor he’s likely to know these things, even if Deus Ex Machina can get frustrating after a while especially when it’s something that Moffat likes to use a lot in his stories. However, this did allow for some moving scenes between The Doctor and Davros, that worked well and in the end we weren’t sure how much the creator of the Daleks was telling the truth. Was he really happy for The Doctor to have his people from Gallifrey back? Did he really wish that he could have worked alongside The Doctor at least one time, much like Missy was doing now? He also posed the question whether Davros himself was a Good Man, the very same one that Capaldi’s Doctor asked Clara way back in another Dalek-centric episode last season, Into The Dalek. It was an interesting question for sure that The Doctor never quite got to answer.
On the whole then, despite a few inconsistencies throughout and the use of Deus Ex Machina, The Witch’s Familiar was something that worked pretty well as a follow-up to The Magician’s Apprentice, and serves as another reminder that Doctor Who is well and truly back, and it’s great to have it with us once again, as this should be one interesting ride.
Check out the next episode of Doctor Who on BBC America this Saturday.