Review: Doctor Who, The Witch’s familiar

Written by Emily Davis

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t yet watched the second episode of series nine, do not read on.

The second installment to the opening of series nine of Doctor Who didn’t quite match up to the first, but still packed a powerful punch.  

The plot was slower, and Peter Capaldi and Michelle Gomez carried the whole show, but the abundance of classic Who references, and the emotional conclusion, meant that this episode struck a chord with many viewers.

I didn’t think that the Doctor’s entrance on a tank playing an electric guitar from last week could be topped. That was before he stole Davros’ chair and wheeled in to a room full of Daleks, smugly saying “admit it. You’ve all had this exact nightmare”!

There were also some great one-liners from Michelle Gomez, not least the ‘sorry, am I boring you?’ when the Daleks suddenly deactivated.

Another good moment was the segment with Clara inside a Dalek’s casing, providing some creepy ‘Asylum of the Daleks’ parallels. That was definitely an interesting insight to how much of a Dalek is the casing, and how much is the living creature inside.

What is Missy’s game?

Missy revealed her true colours in this episode, when she tried to convince the Doctor that Clara was really dead, and the Dalek in which she was in fact encased was responsible for her death. The sarcastic, half-jokey way in which Gomez played this scene raised some worry for me. Is Missy a proper character? The Master as portrayed by John Simm in New Who was most definitely a villain. A hilarious, terrifying, captivating villain.

Will Missy become just a skipping sort-of villain who only appears in the show to crack jokes and not provide any meaningful dialogue? It’s a concern, but I guess we’ll find out as the series goes on.

Contradiction and confusion

Okay, so as much as I liked the concept of ancient disintegrated Daleks remaining sentient in the sewers, the Who writers just threw out the fact that Daleks are immortal unless they are completely incinerated! We do remember these things. And brown sludge coming out of the walls is not remotely frightening. Although, the robotic screaming was.

The plot was pretty loose at certain points – the Doctor and Davros were just chatting for a good 20 minutes – and I couldn’t help wondering why the Doctor hadn’t been disintegrated yet. But, some great dialogue came from those scenes. The dying Davros opening his own eyes and congratulating the Doctor for the saving of Gallifrey was genuinely heartwarming. 

The question posed by Davros ‘Am I a good man?’ not only echoed the Doctor’s question from series seven, but makes it relevant again. Was Davros right to save his species from war by making them the ruthless killing machines that we know?

Of course not. Davros is not a good man, as we saw from the trap laid to take the Doctor’s regeneration energy to strengthen the Daleks. The Doctor is a good man, because he was willing to give his energy in the first place. All is right with the world again.

As such, The Witch’s Familiar ended on a clever, emotional note. Daleks now understand the concept of mercy, because the Doctor showed mercy to Davros as a child trapped on the battlefield. Lesson of this episode? Compassion is never wrong.

Doctor Who airs on BBC One, Saturdays at 8:25pm.