Doctor Who The Magician’s Apprentice Review

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The good bit at the start

Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I was going to bother reviewing this episode of Doctor Who. Mainly because I couldn’t actually work out how I felt about it. Was it good? Was it bad? Was it mediocre? I still don’t know.

Bits of it were good. Some bits were actually very good. But there were other bits. Entertaining bits, to be sure. But the episode felt like someone had taken lots of bits, lots of scenes and stuck them together and said “here’s an episode”.

The problem is that this is part one of a two-part story and I suspect part two might be the part that has the actual, you know, story. Part one therefore is just a teaser. A teaser expanded to 45 minutes.

Spoilers follow.

The episode gets off to a terrific start. There is a war going on somewhere. It might be World War 1 except the biplanes are firing laser beams. A young boy runs into a minefield, except these mines are hand mines, i.e. hands that reach out and grab you by the leg and pull you into the ground. The Doctor appears and promises to help the boy escape. He asks the boy’s name…

“Davros,” says the boy.

Now, that’s just a brilliant opening!

And then it sort of goes downhill a bit.

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Guff

There’s some guff about the Doctor going missing and no one can find him and there’s this snake dude looking for him. Apparently it’s the Doctor’s last day alive. (Hang on, didn’t they do that in season six with the Eleventh Doctor getting shot in Utah?)

Clara is back to being badly-written smug-Clara and she is helping UNIT investigate why all the aircraft in Earth’s skies are frozen in place. As it turns out it’s actually for no reason, it’s just an excuse for Missy to turn up and be “zany” and “cool”.

Ah Missy. Apparently everyone just loves Missy! Oh look she’s just disintegrated some UNIT security men for a laugh! Yes audience, laugh along with that crazy, zany Missy, isn’t she hilarious!

Well I just sit and imagine the gravitas of Roger Delgado’s Master. And I shrug. It’s just not the same character at all.

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The brilliant Roger Delgado as the Master. Who isn’t appearing in this episode.

Then there’s some stuff with the Doctor in 1138 (AD or BC, I can’t remember) having a party on a tank and playing an electric guitar. Just because. Nothing to do with the plot. Just because.

Eventually the plot returns from its long walk and the snake guy takes the Doctor, Clara and Missy to meet Davros who apparently is dying. And the Doctor is ashamed.

And this is interesting because I wonder, is the Doctor ashamed that he didn’t try to save kid Davros and therefore created the evil megalomaniac somehow? Or is he ashamed that he did save Davros? So I am getting all engaged in the central moral dilemma of the episode.

We are never shown explicitly what happened in the minefield other than the strong suggestion that the Doctor abandoned kid Davros after learning his name. So this is interesting stuff. Plus they use a clip of Tom Baker from Genesis of the Daleks where he gives the famous speech about having the right to change history. (This is either a nice nod to the classic show dealing with the same moral dilemma or it’s hammering it home for a lazy modern audience. I can’t decide which.)

It turns out they have been taken to the Dalek world of Skaro. And we get to see lots of Daleks in a big room with some classic series Daleks mixed in. So that’s nice. And then the Daleks kill Missy, Clara and destroy the Tardis. Apparently.

Oh dear. So that’s Clara dead then?

Except you can be sure part two will hit the BIG GIANT RESET BUTTON (see any episode of Star Trek Voyager for details). So there is no sense of jeopardy. You know Clara and Missy and the Tardis will be back.

And hang on, wasn’t Davros destroyed in that David Tennant story from 2008 or whenever it was? How is he back? And where’s he been since?

I hope part two is brilliant and it makes me reassess part one. I do feel like I’m reviewing only half of the story. I mean I wouldn’t want to watch half of a movie and then review it saying “that was rubbish because there was no ending.”

But at the same time this is episodic television so each episode does need to stand on its own. And this episode was a bit of a mess. An entertaining mess, but still a mess. I do suspect that a one-part story has been stretched out to make two parts.

So as I said at the start I don’t know how I feel about this episode. Other than it had good bits and other bits and they were stuck together to last 45 minutes.