Doctor Who: Initial Reactions to The Witch’s Familiar

September 29, 2015 in Dr Who, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782

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Last week I was more positive about Doctor Who than I had been in a while, I thought that The Magician’s Apprentice was an incredible episode and I still think it is. It’s not flawless by any means but it was a solid start and I was looking forward to seeing how they’d continue with what they’d set up here. Fast forward to now and I am, unfortunately, disappointed with how The Witch’s Familiar turned out. While it’s not a bad episode by any means I just feel that it fails to live up to my expectations which were understandably high after The Magician’s Apprentice. Let’s start off with the elephant in the room, the Doctor usurping Davros from his chair. While a story this dark does require comic relief I feel that it could’ve been done in a better way than this. It undermines Davros as a villain, it doesn’t move the plot forward whatsoever and it takes time away that could’ve been used to flesh out that conclusion. Admittedly the dodgems line was funny but the scene was so jarring tonally that it just left a bitter taste in my mouth. Also, the Doctor just took away a dying mans life support so that he could go for a joy ride, that is not in character for him at all. Admittedly we did have a similar scene last week with the Doctor playing a guitar but I felt that worked better as it didn’t undermine the villain and didn’t seem too out of character for the Doctor.

Anyway, let’s be a bit more positive now and talk about what did work such as Missy. Still not the biggest fan of hers but it felt like this episode knew what to do with her. She was downright evil but you couldn’t help but love her for it. She wasn’t trying to take over the universe or anything like that, she was just messing with the Doctor but in a far better way than in Death in Heaven. Trapping Clara in a Dalek and then trying to get the Doctor to kill her was genius and was the most tense scene I’d experienced in Doctor Who for a long time. My heart was racing and the Doctor had a look in his eye that showed he could’ve done anything. It was also a nice call back to Asylum of the Daleks and it was wonderfully played by Jenna Coleman. Clara and Missy also had quite a nice double act going on earlier but the comedy didn’t jar with the tone unlike a certain other scene which I won’t go on about again.

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The Dalek sewers were an interesting idea and the sequences in them were quite well done. The design as great too and the way that Missy defeated the Dalek down there was quite cool too. Not so sure about her accent there though. I also think it was nice that they weren’t just a background detail and that they actually came into play in a big way at the end there, being a key part of the resolution itself. Plus, the revolting sewers line was great. The only problem with their involvement in the resolution is that it makes Davros seem rather foolish to have overlooked them. That and the fact that the Daleks can fly so most of them could have easily escape the destruction of the city. Another minor problem is Colony Sarff really intriguing last week but this week there was no explanation as to what exactly he was and he’s ultimately a repeat of the Whispermen, a very good idea but nothing really beyond that.

Another thing that annoyed me is that the episode never tackled the moral dilemma that should’ve been at the heart of it all: is it right to kill a child who will grow up to be a mass murderer? The last episode set that up so nicely but this episode threw that idea away. The older Davros scenes seem to have slipped too. Last episode Steven Moffat understood Davros perfectly and his speech about the Daleks at the end proved that. This episode, he doesn’t completely ruin him by any means but he misses the potential that was there from last time and makes this feel like just another Davros episode as there are no real consequences. Davros makes a full recovery and what was that whole thing about the Daleks getting regeneration energy? The threat there was never really explored because too much time was being wasted and because of this I just ended up not really caring. The Daleks honestly posed no threat at all here and their plan only really came in to play right at the end of the episode, quite shocking given that it’s the second part of a two part story. We never got an explanation as to why there were classic Daleks there either which is annoying. Then there was a prophecy randomly thrown in there which I totally missed the first time around. I mean what in the world was that all about? Hopefully it’ll be explained at some point as part of an ongoing arc or something.

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Overall, The Witch’s Familiar has a lot wrong with it and while it pains me to do this I can give it no higher than a six-out-of-ten. It was too disconnected from the previous half and failed to live up to it as well. The two parter as a whole felt like Steven Moffat was just throwing too many ideas at a wall and seeing what would stick and so what we end up with is a rather poorly constructed but somewhat enjoyable story. Hopefully Toby Whithouse can do better next week with the first of another two part story, Under the Lake. With ghosts and time travel it certainly seems promising but until we see it next week be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.