|I should have done this years ago. Guess I was too busy|
wearing a vegetable to consider it.
Well, anything but that, it seems. Moffat, trickster that he is, has hoodwinked us all again. The Witch's Familiar does all sorts of things in its opening minutes, but absolutely none of them are resolving that cliffhanger. This creates the odd effect of having it hang in your mind for the whole episode, wondering just when and how the Doctor is going to go back and hold up a Dalek ray gun. The cliffhanger resolution is actually the very end of the episode, which might be a first. What we get instead is Clara Oswald all tied up while Missy tells a story about the Doctor escaping from a bunch of androids by using technology. Pointedly, this is not framed as him just "being clever"; the Doctor gets out of his scrapes because he always assumes he will win. So says Missy, anyway. I like that idea, and I like Clara's echoing of it.(Mirror! Mirror!) This scene also serves to explain how Missy and Clara are, you know, alive. Something to do with using the energy of the lethal blasts to recharge teleporters at the exact moment of impact. It's also how she got out of Death In Heaven alive, and I must admit; I didn't expect them to actually explain that one, but that should make a lot of people very happy so good on them. Missy and Clara in the blighted wasteland of Skaro, outside a Dalek citadel, armed with only a stick. The Doctor, stuck in a room with Davros, having seen both of his friends die. What's going to happen now, I wonder? This is The Witch's Familiar.
This is another tough one for me to get down. We're out of the temporal grace that is "between part 1 and part 2" of the Magician's Apprentice/Witch's Familiar double header, but it's still a little too soon for me to be thinking of them as a complete 90 minute story. A series rewatch will solidify that, but right now I'm still in the mode of taking Witch's Familiar on its own. On its own, it has a lot of fantastic beats and amusing lines, but then just one or two things that I didn't care for all that much. The core of this episode, and what does end up making it, is the Doctor and Davros stuck in a room, just talking to each other as Davros is on his last day of life. There are a lot of great beats here; the Doctor flatly proclaiming that he's just an idiot in a blue box and he really has to properly try to be the man named "The Doctor" who fights the monsters and saves the day and whatnot. His reason for coming to see Davros wasn't out of shame, he claims; he came because the man was sick, and he asked. Later on, the two share a good laugh together. It feels like an honest laugh, two people genuinely amused at the situation... but let us not forget, both are excellent liars. The Doctor riding around in Davros's chair for a bit is a great visual image as well, and it leads to another moment of Steven Moffat being cheeky. We cut back, and the Doctor has a cup of tea suddenly. I audibly wondered aloud where the hell he got that, to which the Doctor then replied "Where'd I get the cup of tea? I'm the Doctor, just accept it.". So you can easily take that at Moffat snarking at all those people who yell at how there's a plot hole in my Doctor Who Steven Moffat how dare you. As you can no doubt tell, I keep being snarky at those kinds of people too so I was terribly amused by it.
Less amusing, in a sense, was the B plot of Missy and Clara making their way back into the Dalek city. I say in a sense because Michelle Gomez is still an absolute treasure and Missy is delightfully mad, but there is a price to be paid for watching an unhinged Mary Poppins running around a spooky Dalek sewer, and it comes in the form of Clara. There are few wrongs Moffat can pull with me at this point. I tolerate a lot of things that plenty of people have written off Moffat-era Doctor Who for. What I don't like, then, is the companion getting sidelined. Clara exists in this episode as the titular Witch's Familiar, I guess, but she's hardly a companion of Missy. About the closest thing I can think of to a companion to Missy would have been Sally Armstrong, from the 8th Doctor Dark Eyes audios. That or Lucy Saxon. Anyway, Missy does a fine job of being competent here, explaining what the Dalek sewers are, coming up with a plan to trap a Dalek to gain access back to the Dalek city. This comes at the cost of giving Clara... well, much of anything to do. She spends 45 minutes being tied up, handcuffed, pushed off of cliffs, shoved into mucky Dalek shells and hooked up to them... and then the climax has Missy trying to trick the Doctor into blasting the Dalek shell that she's in! I mean, what in the fuck? She did more in Time Heist and that's notable because she hardly did much of anything in Time Heist! This is the kind of shit someone like Peri would get saddled with. To see the wonderfully proactive and capable Clara resorted to Missy's punching bag for 45 minutes? Blegh. But hey, Michelle Gomez was really good in it. That southern accent, mang. Plus that line about having a daughter. Her fucking around, or Moffat playing with the lore? Who knows?
Thank goodness for that A plot, though! The Doctor and Davros, chatting it up about life and their old races and whatnot! And the only other chair on Skaro! Yeah, so Skaro. It's a new Skaro that the Daleks created to replace the old one which blew up (either by 7's intervention or the Time War, you decide). That's acceptable. There's a lot to like here. The talk about just why the Doctor ran from Gallifrey in the first place. Davros's belief that "a man should have a people". Davros is almost his own dark mirror of the Doctor; he is last of the Kaleds. Here's a guy who's lived for way too goddamned long, the last of his race, desperately clinging onto the last grasps of his life... and all he wants is to be on the same side as the Doctor. Well, not quite that. What he actually wants is to suck out the Doctor's regeneration energy and revitalize himself and his Daleks, and create some sort of gonzo Time Lord/Dalek hybrids. We'll get into that in just a second, but what's clever is how he does it. See, he's got Colony Sarff disguised as the cables to his life support, and all he needs is for the Doctor to touch the cables to fall into the trap. So at first he tempts the Doctor in the same way that he himself would tempt... himself. With genocide. He's bullshitting about how the cables have the power of life and death over the Daleks, and how if the Doctor just gives them a little tug he can kill all the Daleks go on Doctor do it do it do it. That doesn't work at all, of course, because the Doctor is a coward any day blah blah blah... so Davros switches tactics. He tempts the Doctor as he would... tempt the Doctor; with compassion. Is Davros just bullshitting when he congratulates the Doctor on finding Gallifrey? Is all this talk just fakery to get the Doctor to touch those cables... or is Davros going full in with the compassion and being sincere? Again, who knows? Hey, ambiguity! I like that, remember!
Regardless, the Doctor does touch those cables and then we get the grand scheme. Some shit about Time Lord legends and hybrid races. Now, this might be the series arc. It might not be. If it is, it's been introduced in a far better way than previous arcs. No cryptic arc word, no mysterious figure showing up in the last minute to cackle about how the plan has been set in motion and the Doctor is doomed. There's none of that for once! It's just a thing Davros heard about that may or may not become important later on! God, how refreshing! Mind, people are still theorizing over what the hybrid thing could be. My guess is, it involves Clara since that's the easiest guess and Moffat usually makes our first guess the correct one. At least one guy I saw theorized it had something to do with, of all people, Susan Foreman. Yeah, I doubt that. Alternatively, there's still the Doctor's confession dial. Now, pardon my French, but that thing never showed up in Time Of The Doctor when the Doctor actually was going to die. So, whatever's on there probably has something to do with something that the 12th did. Or it doesn't and Steven Moffat doesn't care about the fact that he didn't think that up for Time Of The Doctor, and neither should I. (But other people will care immensely that he didn't do that.) Okay then! Maybe it won't even amount to anything, like the Doctor's name. Well, here we have a McCoy-era sort of resolution. The Doctor fell into Davros's trap, but his own goddamn scheme is what ruins everything here. One could argue that Missy probably saved the Doctor from getting totally drained by those cables, sure... but Davros undoes his own scheme by forgetting about the Dalek sewers and then all the Daleks start bleeding slime and die. Then you've got that lovely scene where Missy addresses Davros and flicks his eye. Then you have the new sonic sunglasses. It took me a while to decide if I thought they were ridiculously awesome or fuckin' foolish. I have decided they're a little of both. Just before that though, you have the resolution of Clara in a Dalek which is saved because the Daleks know the word "mercy". Hilariously, I saw a Tumblr post arguing that a Dalek already did say "mercy" in The Pandorica Opens, and therefore the Doctor shouldn't be surprised and therefore there's a plot hole in Doctor Who, Steven Moffat is an imbecile. Except the Doctor wasn't there to hear the Dalek say that, it was River. That's not even me filling in the plot hole, the replies to the Tumblr post did that! Well, then the Doctor resolves that cliffhanger, and surprise! He does not shoot child Davros after all! Really, did anyone think he would? He might have, and then created a Wedding Of River Song-style fucked up timeline that he had to fix... but my money was on him not doing it.
And that is the Witch's Familiar! Its good points shored up its bad points for me. I really like Clara now, see. Not giving her a cool proactive role sours me on these shows now. Still, the Doctor and Davros stuff was great and it helped things considerably. Not a bad little two-parter. So, what do we have next?
Ghosts in a water base or something. Next week we go Under The Lake.