Review: Doctor Who, The Magician’s Apprentice

SPOILER ALERT – If you haven’t yet watched the opening episode of the new series of Doctor Who, stop reading now.

My love for Doctor Who has raged pure and strong over the years, and as such, when the writing got bad, I always remained hopeful.

Last night, my loyalty was rewarded with the premiere of the new series. The Magician’s Apprentice was funny, imaginative, moving and morally perplexing.

Just enough weird to work

First of all, we had the amazingly creepy, if awfully punned, ‘hand mines’, earth-covered hands with a single eye set into the palm, reaching out of the ground to pull victims to their deaths. I genuinely thought those things were going to be the subject of an entire episode, they were that scary.

Then, it was revealed that the desolate wasteland was Skaro, and the very creator of the Daleks, Davros, was an innocent, frightened little boy. I appreciated the glimpse into the past of the war criminal before poison and war radiation turned him and his creations into the mutants that we know.

The Doctor’s dilemma

So, the Doctor has a dilemma. As that gorgeously incorporated footage displayed. Well done, Who producers. The voice of Tom Baker, the fourth Doctor, spoke to us.

“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?”

Will he or won’t he? The whole episode centered on the Doctor’s first and final confrontations with his archenemy, a title that Missy didn’t seem too happy to see bestowed on someone else.

Yeah, Missy’s back

One thing I was grateful for was Michelle Gomez’ performance as Time Lady, Missy. She had some great lines throughout the episode, but the best thing that she gives to the show is a new, equal dynamic between the Doctor and his companions. That, or she takes screen time away from Clara, who I’ve always found quite grating.

A particular highlight of hers was the innuendo involving a dalek’s metal balls and ‘the dog’s unmentionables’.

Gomez is only bested by the incomporable Peter Capaldi, who made his entrance on a tank, playing the electric guitar. In 1136AD. Yeah. Capaldi’s Doctor isn’t just the magician’s apprentice in this show; he is the ringmaster of the whole insane, amazing circus that is Doctor Who.

Eagerly waiting for more

Tonight’s episode did seem slow, but it would have been criminal to condense a story of this magnitude into a stand alone episode. I’m on tenterhooks waiting for next week.

It has also been announced that this series is to be the last in which Jenna Coleman will star, having been swept up by ITV to play the title character in their new drama Victoria.

But if last night’s episode is anything to go by, she’ll definitely leave with a bang! (Of course she’s not dead.) 

Doctor Who airs on BBC One, Saturdays at 8:40pm.