Doctor Who returns for yet another season, or series rather, and it kicks off with "The Magician's Apprentice."
As always with episode reviews, the following will contain spoilers. So, if you have not seen the episode, go watch it and come back! And if you have also reviewed the episode, please let me know in the comments.
Opening on a battlefield on an unknown planet or time, a child is fleeing the conflict until he finds himself in the middle of a "Hand-Mine" field, which sounds as creepy and absurd as it looks. The Doctor attempts to save the boy with throwing him his screwdriver. However, the boy's name is... Davros, creator of the Daleks.
We return to present day earth and all the planes in the sky have stopped. The cause: Missy, yes, as in the regeneration of the Master. Firstly, why!? While we all know that the Master cannot be killed so easily and that the FX for her "disintegration" looked more a like a teleportation, bringing the character back during the first episode is a bit much. Usually, when villains die in Doctor Who, there is often at least a season before their inevitable return. Thankfully, while Michelle Gomez is a bit on the annoying side again, she is better than before. Clara is called in to help with the plane situation, which leads her to team up with Missy to find the Doctor.
After Missy and Clara time-warp to the Doctor's location, they find him in the middle of an "Axe-fight" in Medieval Essex as he prepares for his "Death." After cheating death by receiving a new batch of regenerations, why exactly is the going to "die" again? We just went over his "death" not that long ago. The episode does little to explain why he believes that he will die soon, which is one of the weaker aspects of the episode. A little more is explained during the "The Doctor's Meditation" prequel episode, which aired on BBC America the day prior, although it seems that those in the UK could only see it in the theater.
Otherwise, Peter Capaldi seems to have figured out what his take on the Doctor should be. He expresses a great degree of range as he plays the character with equal parts grim denial of his impending "death," but also with a "devil-may-care" recklessness. He looks and acts a little off-the-hinges, yet not frantic, which seems to be what he does best. The scene where he starts playing "Pretty Woman" and other epic guitar riffs is a particular highlight.
As the episode reaches its end, the Doctor, Missy, and Clara are brought to see Davros. If you have been watching Doctor Who since it started airing, like myself, it has been nearly seven years since we last saw Davros back in "The Stolen Earth" and "Journey's End" during season 4. So, unless you have seen either the "Classic Who" episodes recently or kept up with the fandom, some viewers might not even remember Davro. However, the series did a fine job at jogging the viewer's' memory by displaying clips from the old series, particularly a quote from Tom Baker's fourth Doctor, which is the basis for conflict at the end of the episode. Whether Classic Who fans will be excited or outraged by Davros' return is uncertain since they are such a fickle bunch.
The episode ends on a high note with the Doctor preparing to "Exterminate" Davros as a child. Now that Davros has killed Clara and Missy, what will the Doctor do now? How will the Doctor work his way out of this moral dilemma? My worry is that he will find a loophole that is unnecessarily contrived. However, the episode does a good job at setting up what is to come.
Aside from those story flaws, the episode did feel like very little actually happened. Not necessarily in a bad way, but it was like the 1st Act of a film. Another issue is that the CGI was subpar, especially for a series premiere. The snake guy FXs were weak and the other FXs seemed off, yet not terrible. Lastly, is it just me or is Davros nearly incomprehensible? There is so much background noise, loud music, and voice modifying effects that understanding him is a struggle at times. Is it just me? Or is it easier for UK viewers to distinguish his words through the accent? Let me know in the comments.
Overall: 7.0/10- Serving as the setup for a larger conflict, "The Magician's Apprentice" presents a fascinating moral dilemma that takes the character back to his early days. However, the amount of setup necessary left me feeling like little to nothing happened until the final minutes of the episode. Overall, a solid start, albeit one that hinges on next week's payoff.
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