Review: The Witch’s Familiar
I think the Dalek loop is complete for the moment thanks to Steven Moffat. The Doctor has killed them, refused to kill them, transformed them, saved them, run away from them, and helped in a way, to invent them. Davros and The Doctor are the same and different. Scientist geniuses, the products of wars with special abilities and drawbacks. It was chilling and a relief to see them laugh. Meanwhile, The Doctor uses the expectation of his compassion as a weapon, while Davros and the Daleks persist in their single-minded goal to survive, which is always their greatest weakness. Davros too, strangely never expects the Doctor to lie, which is odd for mortal enemies with a long history.
There are real problems in depicting ‘evil’ or bad guys as always ugly, or disabled, or both. That’s a trope that ends a thesis or two, and also to end. Yet, the contrast between young Davros and old Davros is interesting and something I’ll have to go back to old episodes to explore. The concept of his chair too, is intriguing. It’s a prison and a shell, a defence and a life support and seeing The Doctor in it was freaky in the extreme. The joke about a chair being rare on Skaro was quietly hilarious too.
This episode felt tighter, with more at stake than the previous one. While I didn’t like Missy and Clara being ‘killed’ last episode, the explanation of how they were not, was excellent. I appreciate the tension and weird camaraderie when Clara and Missy are together. Even though they kinda fail the Bechdel test, because when together they mostly discuss The Doctor. Or Danny. Still, the lil comments Missy leaves about her past lives are fascinating. Like the fact she had/has a daughter. Or did I miss-hear that, did she mean the Doctor’s daughter?
Leaving that aside, Missy and Clara compliment each other. Clara with her hatred of Missy, but inability to actually kill her, versus Missy’s knowledge that if she did ‘really’ directly harm Clara she wouldn’t last very long. Even though she’s not averse to threats and getting The Doctor to kill Clara. This incarnation of the Master feels more dangerous than John Simm’s (for instance), but just as unstable. If Missy is the witch, Clara is fast becoming her student, as well as The Doctor’s.
Clara on the inside
So, the obvious links to episodes include The Dalek Asylum, and Missy’s stunt with Clara felt dangerous because from that episode we know what’s at stake. Clara, one of a million faceless crazed machine-animals, could easily have been lost or killed or transformed. It was claustrophobic and eerie, seeing (yet again) Clara squeezed into an armoured death chair that rewires her brain and emotions.
And I wonder what the implications of regeneration energy are for her, since she too may have had a dose while inside the suit?
The other episodes was Inside the Dalek (of course), Dalek featuring Rose’s mercy towards one, and then The Big Bang, where a Dalek asks River Song (foolishly) for mercy. Now we know how that Dalek and Clara, trapped inside the metal box, could ask. Because, always, Doctor.
With Mr Moffat, no thread goes unexplained, eventually. It could be a link picked up from decades ago (Genesis of the Daleks) or a couple of episodes ago. It all gets worked out, never quite in the way you expect (defeat by sewer anyone?) but always with a mind to how every time the Doctor arrives somewhere he is changing his own story.
Unlike previous Dalek/Time War episodes, The Witch’s Familiar didn’t see Mr Moffat unwrite anything that went before, but just made it clearer. Once involved in a timeline (like that of Davros), there is no way of escaping it. The Doctor knows this and chooses neither to attempt to kill Davros, or leave him (again), but teach him the word exterminate, while demonstrating mercy. It’s the circle of the Time War.
Mostly though, I say no to the really big change of the episode. Remembering that The Doctor lies, and knowing that wearable tech is so early 21st century human, all I want is the sonic screwdriver back.
I’m guessing at least one screwdriver will return, when River does.