Devious Davros, tricksy Missy and Dalek Clara delight in The Witch's Familiar
But please ditch the sonic sunglasses, Doc!
Of course it was a trap and, of course, the Doctor would triumph, the manner of trap was its springing and its purpose.
The Doctor and Davros dance around each other in Witch’s Familiar, the second instalment of last week’s season opener, with the Doctor seemingly succumbing to a completely new side of an an adversary we thought we knew all too well.
In intense scenes reminiscent of vintage Who from the 1970s – short on action and employing a minimalist set – the Doctor and Davros go head-to-head.
'How did a tiny bit of mercy get into the DNA of the Daleks?'
Davros is brilliant, beguiling both Doctor and viewer as the tear-jerking old man, faced by death, seems desperate for meaning and to see just one more sunset.
We are played like violins: is this yet another reconciling of the Doctor to an old enemy?
No, it isn’t. But to what depths will the wily Davros stoop to ensnare Who. And what is he really after?
How about opening his useless biological eyes. Cracking a funny with both Davros and the Doctor rolling about in guffaws – a moment of light relief from the enfolding pressure.
It's clever stuff: all the while there's that voice in your head screaming at Who to be careful of being smothered by the evidence of a dying warrior scene.
I'm relieved when Davros’ trademark throat cackle creeps out as he snares the Doctor in his trap.
This, after all, isn’t a reborn – er, dying – Davros. And it isn’t about an abstract ethical victory. No, this is business as usual. It's about power.
But this is Who, so of course the Doctor's not duped – rather, he's been playing possum to tease out Davros’ latest despicable plot. What's brilliant about this latest twist in the duo’s timeless battle is the chess pieces for their confrontation, which is played out away from the massed ranks of Dalek power.
It's a cerebral battle with Davros hitting the buttons of compassion, regret, mercy and longing – all of which he despises – to reel in the Time Lord.
All of which is a refreshing difference to Who episodes of years gone by that were built on quick scenes and breathless action cobbled together by pseudo-science explainers. I’m looking at you, David Tennant years.
Away from this slowly closing trap, and following their own constricting relationship through the bowels of Dalek City, are Missy and Clara sneaking their way around – there's never been any question in my mind that they were dead; nor the TARDIS gone.
The Doctor’s assistant plays relatively wide-eyed innocent to the others in the canon of characters not to be taken at face value when doing good deeds.
Again, Missy steals some of the best lines and moments, from sharpening her stick to poking Davros in his eye.
But Who’s riding in on Davros' armoured seat is also a moment of valedictory Whovian postmodern TV: “Admit it you’ve all had this exact nightmare,” he goads. As is Davros' referential rejoinder: “Hope you are grateful – it wasn’t easy to procure. The only other chair on Skaro.”
Missy, meanwhile, plays the black widow, toying with Cara who – again, against all our best instincts – allows herself to be nearly entombed in the case of a Dalek.
The Doctor, some Daleks and a bare-footed Clara recreate classic Beatles' Abbey Road shot. Pic credit: BBC
Would Clara really have been so naive? But then, she has little choice as Missy playfully skips around as a Pied Piper knowing what comes next and what to do.
It’s right that a villain of Missy’s class is given a second lease of life, closing this episode surrounded by the enemy in a collapsing city.
Also, there is an appealing prospect that the Doctor’s actions could actually create a new class of enemy: a zombie Dalek he’ll need to face in the future.
A top-class episode, one that capitalised on what established Who: tight drama that doesn’t try to “do” science but focuses on plot, people and lines.