Doctor Who is back! I can’t say I was that excited after a really lackluster eighth season, but there’s always a bit of excitement when the show returns. I know that there’s always a bit of a transition when a new Doctor is introduced, but in the past it’s always been used to kick off a major storyline for the new Doctor. I mean with the Tenth Doctor we had his entire endgame started in the first episode of his appearance. It was as if it was created at the same time so that there would be an exit strategy for when Tennant left the show… clearly that wasn’t done for Matt Smith whose storyline ended up being a lame duck ending and a lot of pieces that were being built up ended up being swept under the rug instead. I’ll admit that I wasn’t a fan of Peter Capaldi’s Doctor at first, but he grew on me as all new actors to the role often do. What became painful clear was that Jenna Coleman’s character of Clara had in fact worn out her welcome. Her storyline last season was boring and I was glad when her boyfriend died. I hated him instantly and I will never be able to enjoy that actor in anything he goes on to do. The eighth season came across as a trial and error season. Showrunner Steven Moffat came across as not really having a plan for the new Doctor because too much of what he was building was ruined by Matt Smith’s early exit. The first episode of the ninth season, The Magician’s Apprentice, felt a lot like the start of the Eleventh Doctor’s last season.
The episode begins on a planet in the midst of war. We see old school style bi-planes flying and shooting lasers at men with bows and arrows… that shoot lasers. One of the soldiers sees a boy running off on his own and wants to help him. The boy freezes in place and the two talk before the man helping him has his leg grabbed by a clay covered hand coming up from the ground. Creepy awesome Doctor Who is back I thought. The visuals are incredible on this scene and the man is sucked under. The boy screams for help after this and in typical Doctor fashion he arrives to help the boy. Things get interesting though when he asks the boy for his name and we learn that it’s… Davros. You either understand what that means or not, but to explain it would ruin it so I’ll move on.
Then we move to another scene in which a dude that is clearly a big ass snake named Colony Sarff is looking for the Doctor and turning up at all kinds of places that he’s not welcomed. Eventually he winds up at Karn looking for the Doctor and there’s a great line just before Sarff reveals why he’s looking for the Doctor and it involves Davros.
The story then kicks over to Jenna who feels super cool and important when the government calls her when all the planes are frozen in time in the sky. Eventually Missy reveals herself and it’s all great with her. Missy is amazing and actress Michelle Gomez is phenomenal in the role. Together Missy and Clara track down the Doctor who seems to think he’s going to die tomorrow which is a very loose term for Time Lords.
The episode is pretty damn good until the Doctor returns. Actually I should say up until the point that the Doctor is discovered by Clara and Missy. The Doctor is apparently just fucking with time at this one given point and while it’s supposed to be fun and not worth too much thought… well we’re dealing with a series that thinks a lot about time travel and so that’s just injected into us as well. Basically it’s hard to ignore the rules when the show has engrained them into us.
The ending of the episode was B.S. and I can’t wait to see them pull their punches on the second episode. Oh and Missy and Clara are supposedly dead even though we know they have junk time travel devices on and that’s an escape route that’s been used too many times before… that and I kind of hope Clara is dead as I for one am really happy to see Jenna Coleman finally leaving the show for something boring which I’m sure will suit her better.
I liked the episode for the most part, but the well-worn devices that Moffat loves to use just weren’t working this time. How many times have we seen someone die while he’s the showrunner only to see them come back some way somehow? Frankly, comic book deaths hold more weight because the only time people die in Who is when they’re a supporting character or leaving the show.
I liked the reveals, but it was just the moving parts to get to them that still feel really weak. I’m beginning to think that Moffat isn’t the best showrunner and should pass the torch and go back to writing. He has some great episodes and you can always spot one of his lines like, “Right behind you and one step ahead”, but even that is becoming old hat. This could have been a great episode, but instead it was better than average and just barely. Even still it was better than anything the last season had to offer and hopefully this season will just erase that all from my memory.
Doctor Who is definitely back, but I’m missing that exciting feeling that’s usually attached to it. Hopefully Moffat and company can turn it around.
Doctor Who S9.E1 “The Magician’s Apprentice” Writer: Steven Moffat Director: Hettie MacDonald