‘Doctor Who’ Recap: Season 9 Episode 1

‘Doctor Who’ Season 9 opener, “The Magician’s Apprentice” hits the ground running.  The season starts off as if there were no hiatus at all!  Join us as we recap.

Saturday night, some wine and a new episode of Doctor Who. Feels like fall TV has arrived and I could not be more thrilled.

“The Magician’s Apprentice” hits the ground running. Opening with a desolate war zone in some uknown time and place we see a child run from the melee. One of the ‘soldiers’ of the planet goes to assist him. A short conversation is interrupted when the ground shakes, opens, and swallows the man. Hands emerge from the ground.  As they reach around, the palms are revealed to have eyes. The little boy asks for help, and as if summoned by the sounds of the suffering the sonic screwdriver is tossed into the scene.

Doctor Who Photo: BBCA

In a gesture of compassion, the Doctor tries to help the child, he tells him he can be saved and asks for his name. “Nevrold” repeats the boy twice. As the camera pans closer and closer to the Doctor his facial expression goes from recognition to fear to distress as the sounds of fear and suffering echo in the distance. This takes us right into the opening credits.

The episode returns with a mysterious man searching far and wide for the Doctor. The prologue for season nine sets up that the Doctor is hiding. Tonight we learn from who.

Cutting right to the meat of the episode we are treated to a scene of Davros and his mysterious servant. We learn that Davros is dying and that he has the Doctor’s screwdriver that was obviously thrown in the pre-credits scene.

In a subplot that brings Missy and Clara together, planes become frozen in time in the sky. Clara takes a nice little ride on her motorcycle to the location the UNIT location. While they attempt to figure who, why, and how, the line left open for the Doctor gets a call. Missy sends a message reminiscent of the Sherlock finale (another Moffat creation). Right down to the “Did you miss you?” moment when she explains she’s not dead.

While no explanation is necessary because this is Doctor Who it would be nice to understand what may have actually happened last season for continuity’s sake and not just because this type of show makes it convenient to bring people back whenever they like.

The meeting between Clara and Missy explains where we might be headed. Missy tells Clara about the will of the Time Lords, though all we learn about it is that it’s for Missy and to be delivered on the eve of the final day. This may be a potential plot line to keep track of throughout the rest of the season. The scene continues with some exceptional quips between Clara and Missy about who is truly the Doctor’s friend. Then Missy starts killing UNIT people. She implores that Clara, “Say something nice,” which has become a catch phrase of sorts, but then acknowledges that she came for Clara’s help because the Doctor is in danger.

When trying to figure out where the Doctor might go UNIT uses the keywords: blue box and Doctor. Missy helps by pointing out that the Doctor likes to make a lot of noise and loves to make an entrance. When Clara figures out when and where the Doctor might be, Missy grabs her wrist.  They end up on the walls of a medieval castle during some kind of duel.

The Doctor enters the scene in sunglasses on top of a tank, playing a guitar. He solos for a cheering crowd and the moment has the potential to become iconic in the Doctor’s long history of epic entrances. He grandstands for the crowd, spotting Clara and Missy. After explaining how much he has taught these people he hugs Clara, a moment that is uncharacteristically affectionate and shocking to both the audience and Clara. He reiterates his reasons for hugs but it seriously concerns Clara and then the servant working for Davros shows up.

He tells the Doctor that Davros is dying and he wishes to speak with him. The Doctor demands that not one person dies here. The servant tosses the sonic screwdriver at the Doctor. This confuses both Clara and Missy and he confesses to no longer having his screwdriver and is ashamed because he knows why. For the second time this episode someone asks, “Doctor what have you done?” And then we jump back to the earlier scene with young Davros.

“The Doctor enters the scene in sunglasses on top of a tank, playing a guitar. He solos for a cheering crowd and the moment has the potential to become iconic in the Doctor’s long history of epic entrances.”

The Doctor abandons him in the TARDIS. The next scene has Missy, Clara and the Doctor heading to Davros. We learn that the TARDIS is also being procured for some Daleks somewhere.

As they travel the Doctor explains that Davros made Daleks, “but who made Davros?” From there the Doctor and Davros meet again. There is a nice throwback to Daleks throughout Who history, including a very specific clip from Tom Baker’s Fourth iteration of the Doctor.

On the other side of the door Clara and Missy are discovering that they are not in fact on a space station but some sort of invisible planet. As the planet itself is thrown into light Missy realizes where there are just as the Doctor exclaims that it is as we feared, Skaro. Missy cryptically and knowingly says, “where it all began.”

The episodes begins to hit its final beats.  It’s hard to feel any real urgency for our TARDIS Team (which I suppose now includes Missy). First, Missy declares herself the perfect person to take the TARDIS and use it for the Daleks. She taunts them with exterminating her instead and they do just that. After going through who knows what to come back it’s clear this isn’t the end of her story and I would have expected the episode to end there but then the Daleks come after Clara.

The Doctor pleads for Clara’s safety with Davros and he tells the Doctor that his greatest weakness has always been compassion. And then Clara is exterminated. As the Daleks turn on the TARDIS, I couldn’t help but feel a little exasperated. There wasn’t any real threat here because while Doctor Who has had numerous episodes without official companions there cannot be a Doctor without his blue box.

And then in the last moments of the episode the Doctor is shown back by Nevrold’s side. Except he faces him and says, “Exterminate.”

The episode ends there, catapulting this season right into the conflict. How will Twelve’s decision affect the past? Does this mean the Time War never happens? The effects of killing a child, even a child that turns into Davros on the Doctor can only have catastrophic effects. Of course there’s also the possibility that none of this happens in a time-wimey sort of way. But It’s a solid start for season nine and I truly hope it can continue with the ever forward momentum.

Best Lines

“See the couple over there–You’re the puppy.”

“I bought it for my fish…”

“It’s my party and all of me is invited!”

“It’s the wicked stepmother, hiss!”

“Did the Doctor tell you that? Because you should never believe a man about a vehicle”

Doctor Who airs Saturdays on BBCA

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Peter Capaldi in Doctor Who. Photo: BBCA