After a less than impressive premiere, Doctor Who appears to turn things in the right direction with "The Witch's Familiar."
With Clara and Missy believed to be "dead," the episode opens with Clara hanging upside down by a rope and Missy sharpening a stick. Missy tells Clara of a story from the Doctor's early days and how he escaped invisible robots by turning their energy beams into energy for a teleporter, which is how Missy saved the duo. Briefly showing both Tom Barker and William Hartnell before Missy explains that the Doctor's face is not important is a rather inspired idea. The addition of the black-and-white grayscale effect added to the clip's classic feel as well, but that part did seem a bit like filler, albeit fun filler.
As soon as the episode starts, one thing stands out: Michelle Gomez as Missy. She finally manages to channel elements of the Master. For the first time, I saw her as the Master and not just "Missy," so that is a big improvement. The character's mix of playful villainy and actually helping the Doctor worked far better than before this time around. She genuinely helped the Doctor in a logical way, and yet she still pursues her own villainy things when the timing is right. With that said, Gomez is still not exceptional but rather just "good."
One of my favorite parts of the episode is when Clara drives the Dalek. The conversation with Missy about how the Dalek's emotions fire the weapon and the lack of certain words in their vocabulary turned out to be an excellent scene. That one scene provided the audience with a deeper understanding of a Dalek's mindset than the entirety of the last few seasons. I actually understand so much more about them now than ever before.
Yet another great moment is the use of the Doctor's "Wearable technology," aka the "Sonic Sunglasses" as I like to call them. Surely this is not the true end of the Sonic Screwdriver, because it is just as important to the character as a Lightsaber is to a Jedi. Plus, it certainly can't help merchandising sells when fans can go buy a ten dollar pair of sunglasses at a glass station instead of a $60 Sonic Screwdriver replica.
The scene between the Doctor and Davros is most certainly interesting. On one hand, Julian Bleach's performance sells the emotion to a surprising degree. It actually invokes Luke's scene with Vader in Return of the Jedi, although such a "touching" scene between the Doctor and the creator of the most heartless monsters in the galaxy made something feel off. Thankfully, Davros was just playing the sympathy card to execute his nefarious plan. Then again, the Doctor did fall for it too easy. Davros literally said a few minutes prior that "compassion" would be his downfall. On the other hand, saying that also provokes the Doctor's sense of compassion, so while the motivation for his actions are shaky at best, it barely managed to work.
While Bleach and Gomez are the standouts in the episode, Capaldi is given less material to work with this episode. He does fine with what he has, but he is lacks the opportunity to impress. However, his scene with the Dalek-Clara is quite good, and Gomez's playful villainy really worked thanks to Capaldi's convincing performance.
The reason for the Doctor running and the briefly mentioned prophecy does give me a bad feeling that there will be yet another "monumental" finale. However, Missy potentially controlling the Dalek does open some interesting doors for future episodes, assuming the prophecy is, indeed, the setup for the season as a whole. Yet another mystery is the Doctor's confession, which probably ties into the reason he ran away. With all that said, I still have a feeling that some questions are better left unanswered.
Despite opening with two solid episodes, Capaldi's run as the Doctor is still missing that special indescribable element that makes Doctor Who so amazing and enchanting. Maybe, it is lacking a sense of wonderment, although last season tried and failed. Hopefully the middle section of the season can deliver the high energy adventures and creepy thrills that Doctor Who does best.
Overall: 7.5/10- While not exactly exceptional, "The Witch's Familiar" provided a strong second half to the lackluster opening act. It might have been inconsistent at times, but overall, it managed to wrap up the arc, expanding upon the Dalek's mindset, and all the while adding a bit of humor.
Note: Last week's rating should be changed to a 7.0/10, and if you missed that review, click here to read it.
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