The Magician’s Apprentice is the first episode in Series 9 (if you’re only counting new series since 2005) and apparently the preview reviews had said it was amazing. Well, all the mainstream reviewers of the world appeared to collaborate on stating Skyfall was amazing, when in fact, it was even worse than Quantum of Solace. The pre-credits scene was great, but then the moment Adele’s lungs burst forth, tedium set in and eardrums were covered up.
Tonight’s episode in the Doctor Who canon, being a two-parter, felt very much like The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1 – a whole lot of nothing, waiting for something to happen.
It began with a young man called Kanzo (Benjamin Cawley), and a child, running across a futuristic-looking battlefield. Problems began when they realised the former was stood on a handmine – looking like a hand with an eye in palm. Just like their namesake, they’re rather deadly, but as this is on pre-watershed TV, Kanzo wasn’t blown to bits, instead he was sucked into the ground as if it had given way and then reformed.
A sonic screwdriver flew through the air to land at the child’s feet, giving him the chance to escape, towards The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), in an “acoustic corridor”. Yep, me neither. When quizzed about the complexities of the situation, The Doctor replied: “I tried never to understand. It’s called an open mind.”
What’s the boy’s name he’s trying to save? Davros!!
Once he opening credits were done, Colony Sarff (Jami Reid-Quarrell) was out and about looking for The Doctor like JR Hartley was looking for a copy of his own Fly Fishing book in the 80s. He tried The Maldovarium (a hangout for many including the Oods), then to the The Shadow Proclamation, and finally, the planet of Karn, where he was told the Doctor is “right behind you, and one step ahead”. And he was there for sure, but Colony Sarff had no idea. He has other tricks up his sleeve, as we saw later, but telling when other aliens are fibbing was not one of his better qualities.
Sarff, or is it Colony – I’m not sure what we can abbreviate it to, says that Davros is dying and he has a message for the Doctor, and that The Doctor must face him one last time. Sarff has been told by Davros that “if you want to find the Doctor, first find his friends”.
Cut to modern-day London classroom and Clara (Jenna Coleman) spots that planes have frozen in the sky, not pointing this out to the children but instead telling them to use their mobiles and find out what’s going on there, instead. Suggesting the overlong hastag, #ThePlanesHaveStopped, she bunks off early and skips school to head off to save the world.
Kate Lethbridge-Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) tells her that 4165 planes stuck in the air and since there’s only one man who can sort this out…
- Kate: “We need the Doctor”
Clara: “Kate, we can’t just bleat and get the Doctor, he’ll go Scottish!”
Who’s behing this? Missy. Yes, she’s back. Michelle Gomez was great in this role last series, but it’s WAY too soon to bring her back.
Encouraging a meeting in what looked like the town square in the ill-fated 1990s soap Eldorado, the supposed standoff of Missy versus Clara wasn’t exactly Robert De Niro vs Al Pacino in Heat, especially since after Kate speculated earlier that the planes were “over 4000 bombs waiting to go off”, Missy released them on Clara’s whim and stating they were “a basic Time Stop, just a parlour trick” and that she couldn’t have done anything with them anyway – so another straggle of a sideplot going nowhere.
The whole business of this scene was that she had in her possession The Last Will and Testament to be delivered to the Doctor’s friend on the eve of his final day… but as Missy told a surprised Clara, it was herself that was his friend, and not the confused teacher.
But where was the Doctor? Yes, that’s what all the viewers were wondering, as well, as time was ticking on and the hero of the hour had been offscreen for a while. Fear not, he was entering a Gladitorial arena on a tank, playing an electric guitar in the style of Keith Richards, as you do, and about to face off Bors (Daniel Hoffmann-Gill) from The Doctor’s Meditation. After making no sense, this was also quickly batted aside with Clara joining her man, him feeling all mawkish and declaring “Hugging is a great way to hide your face”.
And then came Colony Sarff’s pièce de résistance – with some neat SFX he could turn into Kaa from The Jungle Book. And with Missy learning that she’s not the most evil individual around, she moaned, “DAVROS is your arch-enemy now?? I’ll scratch his eye out!”
No-one then expected Sarff to be in possession of the sonic screwdriver. And since The Doctor surprised those around him in revealing he no longer has need of it, we got a flashback to the young Davros, leaving the lad amongst the handmines.
Go to page 2 for more thoughts on the episode, plus conclusions.
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.