“The Magician’s Apprentice” Review

“Listen, if someone who knew the future pointed out a child to you and told you that that child would grow up totally evil, to be a ruthless dictator who would destroy millions of lives, could you then kill that child?”

All the drama in the Doctor’s speech from Genesis of the Daleks is in the power and simplicity of this rhetorical question. Is there any need to add to it, or explain further?

There’s certainly been plenty of exploration of Davros’ origins (both in the exceptionally good Doctor Who audio Davros, and the spin-off series I, Davros). But the “Let’s Kill Hitler” thing? Is there really another hour and a half to be wrung out of it?

Perhaps that’s why there’s everything and the kitchen sink in this episode too. Some old (Missy, UNIT, The Shadow Proclamation – relocated from the School of Optometry to City Hall; then there’s another outing for the Dalek museum collection and – ugh – Dalek puppets) and some new (Colony Sarff – a great concept, but why would Davros associate with anything not of pure-blooded Dal/Kaled origin?) I love two parters, both for the cliff-hangers and because there’s more space for a slower paced story – but with so much going on here, the episode doesn’t get much room to breath.

I also wonder if cliff-hangers depend on a more linear story to have impact… Or maybe we just need a signal as to what version of time-travel is applying this week: are Davros’ memories changing (Christmas Carol style) as a result of the Doctor’s appearance in Davros’ past? (Is this why the two events are so close in the Doctor’s lives – why immediately after abandoning child Davros he expects the summons from dying Davros?) Or was Davros always abandoned in a mine-field by a stranger who promised hope but then betrayed him – was that a character shaping moment for the boy?

Also, as a cliff-hanger, all it has done is take us back to the “do I have the right?” question… which was answered 40 years ago! (And if time, and the Time War, might have changed anything – and yes, perhaps John Hurt might have given different answer – surely The Day of the Doctor and last year’s series has returned to the Good Man who the Time Lords sent to Skaro all those years ago…)

Despite all that, I loved this episode – and especially for two scenes: the showdown between between Clara and the Time Lord who killed the man she loved (in “one of your hot countries”) and the debut of the Doctor’s fabulous guitar as he rides into a medieval castle on a tank. Coolest. Entrance. Ever.

I can forgive a lot of stuff (“hashtag the planes have stopped”, the idiot-proof over-explanation of obvious love between the Master and the Doctor) for the fabulous performances in those scenes.

Question: Dalek energy weapons don’t vaporise their victims – what happened to the bodies of Missy and Clara?

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

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