Doctor Who storms back in fine form with Season 9 opener The Magician's Apprentice
Davros, Daleks and Missy – a total treat for fans
She’s back. Balancing on a perfectly turned Victorian heel, twirling an index finger in the air, dropping ferocious slap downs. Ruthlessly offing innocents.
Missy – the Master – has returned in Season 9 of Doctor Who, and I can’t say how relieved I am. Only I’m actually not, I’m quite scared.
Yes, I’m supposed to be talking about the Doctor and Clara and their part in the first episode of the new series of the BBC sci-fi drama.
But I’ll come to that.
Missy’s apparent life-ending frying at the end of Season 8 – “death is for other people, dear” – was not the end for the Doctor’s devious, fishwife anti-hero.
Clearly Who’s writers see an enduring double-act in the making – one that brings a buzz absent from the cosy slippers and misty-eyed dynamic of Clara.
Missy is Who’s equivalent of Star Trek’s the Borg, Silence of the Lambs' Hannibal Lecter and Hans Landa of Inglorious Basterds: a villain who’s presence on screen actually makes you palpably concerned for what is about to go down. I’m almost tempted to hide behind the sofa. That’s what Who was and always should be.
All of which is not good for the Doctor. Missy is the closest thing to damaged goods I’ve experienced since Yodel delivered my order of fine bone china.
Now, she’s talking like a stalker in terms of her “connection” to the Doctor – it goes beyond sex – and is ready to get her bitch face on upon learning Davros is in fact the Doctor’s arch enemy.
But this isn’t all one-way, meaning this goes to the heart of the Doctor, too.
At the climax of Season 8, after everything that had happened, the Doctor remained hesitant to finally, actually kill Missy – it was the Cybered-up corpse of ex-UNIT pal, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, who pulled the trigger.
Now it turns out that Missy wasn’t dead and the Doctor knew it, as he’d slipped her his Confessional Dial in the run up to this episode.
The Doctor-Missy relationship is something to be explored.
But back to the main business, the programme as a whole. This being a season opener, the writers had to deliver a big story so we didn’t get one badass, we got two: Davros, last seen rejecting a saving hand of David Tennant’s Doctor in 2009.
Doctor Who, Season 9, Episode 1 – The Magician's Apprentice. Pic credit: BBC
Are we to believe that Davros is on the verge of death?
That has to be revealed in this onion of a plot line. Whatever the motive, Davros seems to have summoned the Doctor to complete his goal of not just defeating but breaking him: holding him to account for going back on his word and abandoning Young Davros in the 1,000-year war and breaking his ultimate belief in the creed of compassion.
Question: What would you do if a child you saved became a dictator responsible for the deaths of millions?, agonises a video of Tom Baker’s Doctor from decades back.
But riddle me this: what if the very act of leaving that child in the first place had produced the damage which engendered that dictator?
Did the Doctor create Davros, and thus the Daleks and thus the destruction they wrought?
It is this philosophical and existential dilemma the Doctor must resolve in the galactic and timeless chess championship he plays with the creator of the Daleks.
The rest of this opener delivered what we’ve now come to expect from the stable of Steven Moffatt, who wrote this episode: reflection on the Doctor, agonising over his humanity; his wobbly relationship with the apparently soon to be exited Clara; the standard, breathless big set pieces – global emergency splashed on the world’s TV networks; UNIT established as the Doctor’s resident headless chickens, only wearing Star-Trek red sweaters.
There are some unanswered questions, too: if the Doctor was performing his tank and axe standup gig to a court of Daleks dressed as medieval hayseeds, then why did they wait three weeks to spring their trap and – if so – what was the point of the Darth-Maul-like Colony Sarff? This is either questionable plotline editing or hinting at a bigger deception – the kind of deception that hides an entire planet.
Something else was established in this episode: Peter Capaldi’s verbally sharp shooter, clinically acidic Doctor.
Capaldi and Missy (played by Michelle Gomez) at least, are two things that I look forward to seeing more of in part two of this season's opener. ®