Doctor Who Recap Series 9, Episode 2 – “The Witch’s Familiar”
Episode two of Doctor Who continues where the season premiere left off. Missy and Clara are not dead, obviously. They are safe on the outskirts of Skaro where Missy has Clara hanging upside down and is imploring her to figure out how The Doctor always survives the moments of certain death he always finds himself in. They march off, determined to save The Doctor as the most dysfunctional partners we’ve seen in quite some time. "The Witch’s Familiar" plays out with two distinct storylines: The Doctor and Davros talking to each other -- which feels more like a game of chess than a conversation -- and Missy and Clara, begrudgingly working together though Clara is rightfully skeptical of following Missy’s lead. It becomes clear that she has every right to be as she ends up in Dalek armor with her vocabulary supremely hindered. Per usual, The Doctor outsmarts Davros but still thinks that Clara has died, which isn't helped when Missy tells him that the Dalek carrying Clara and impeding their escape is responsible for killing her. Clara is in the Dalek armor pleading with The Doctor to recognize her, unfortunately “Doctor, it’s me Clara” translates to “I am a Dalek” and her emotions come out as “Exterminate”. Clara figures out how to open the armor and the Doctor tells Missy to run. The theme of the thin line between friend and enemy is shown that it will be a central component of this season.
I really liked this episode, both as a stand-alone and as the continuation of “The Magician’s Apprentice”. The dynamic between Clara and Missy is great to me -- they both hate each other but are willing to come together in order to save the Doctor. Missy is forever my favorite character, but also the most interesting in that while it is clear that she is not good, it’s still unclear exactly what her allegiances are and how they fit with the Doctor’s. The beginning of this season makes it clear that season 9 will explore the blurring of the lines between friend and enemy -- a theme I like way more than “The Doctor need to admit that he’s a soldier” one from last season. While I do wish the writers didn’t spell out their theme so blatantly, it is still an interesting one to explore. Love and hate, while technically opposites, require the same amount of energy to put into and so it’s interesting that they explore this, first with Missy and the Doctor, but with the Doctor and Davros as well. Though I was confused by the Doctor and Davros during most of this episode (especially with them palling around after Davros ordered the Daleks to kill Clara and Missy), it made much more sense when it became clear that (SPOILERS) Davros was only playing the Doctor. He was taking advantage of the Doctor’s compassion and used that in order to attempt to make the Daleks even more perfect by giving them Time Lord energy. I also loved that this episode saw Clara right back in the Dalek suit, like in her (sort of) introduction episode as Oswin. It felt a lot like coming full circle and also revealed more of the nature of the Daleks. Other than that, I loved that Missy followed through on her promise to scratch Davros’ eye out, as well as the sonic sunglasses (though I hope that the screwdriver comes back).
I was confused by the plot for the majority of this episode, especially the dynamic between Davros and the Doctor. I realize that Missy and Clara were working as an unlikely duo to save the Doctor and that dynamic and side plot was not only interesting but entertaining as well. Michelle Gomez has so much fun playing Missy and it just leaps off the screen. However, the confrontation between the Doctor and Davros did not play out nearly as well, in my opinion. I found myself rewinding their conversations and putting on the subtitles but at a certain point I figured that they were talking a lot without saying much. It was conversational gymnastics and while the Doctor and Davros are both with their own agendas and attempting to outsmart each other, the writers may have been so enamored with this they didn’t realize they were leaving the audience behind. I agree with Bayana that the theme, while good and exciting, was pretty heavy handed. I would have liked to have that theme revealed in a more natural way instead of Missy basically spelling out what we can expect this season. I’m not a fan of the sonic sunglasses, it seems like a blatant marketing ploy to get us to buy another toy which, if I’m completely honest, I’m going to buy. This isn’t the first time the Doctor has been without a sonic screwdriver but it is the first time since the start of New Who. I enjoyed the call back to Clara as a Delek and with the announcement of her departure I keep looking for clues of how she will go. Overall, this episode was enjoyable but upon further rewatches I was disappointed. As much as I want to, I can’t give this story arc huge kudos. MIssy was definitely the best part of this episode and it seems that she will continue to be the best part of this season. I love that she followed through on her promise to scratch Davros's eye. I feel like Doctor Who is getting to the point where they know the formula well and can make the audience really excitedut when you take a step back there isn’t a lot of substance behind the tricks and fireworks.