Ah, autumn. Season of mists, mellow fruitfulness and Doctor Who – as Keats didn’t say. The evenings are drawing in, the spiders are preparing to make their break from under the sofa and our favourite Time Lord returns. (Not to mention our favourite Time Lady…)
Regular readers will, perhaps, recall my growing discontment with the last series, and I have to confess to approaching series nine with some trepidation. The good news is that The Magician’s Assistant is a much stronger start than I was expecting…
[Spoilers below the line. You know the drill by now…]
Over the last few years, we’ve spent a lot of time (sometimes too much) contemplating the fallout of the Doctor’s decisions. Now we’re digging into his dirty laundry again, courtesy of Davros (though you have to wonder why he’s only just remembering his first encounter with the Doctor now…). Another equally good question, which I’m hoping will be answered next week is why the Twelfth Doctor decided to (try to) prevent the creation of the Daleks when the Fourth Doctor couldn’t bring himself to (knowing that good alliances were forged in the face of the Dalek threat). Either way, there’s something to be said for getting the Daleks out of the way early in the series. We all know the malevolent pepper pots will trundle across our scenes at some point every year, so I’m all for dealing with them as soon as possible.
Before we get to them though, let’s ensure the pre-credit scenes get all the credit they deserve. I loved the men fleeing through the smoke, the caked-on mud, the mix of utterly low-tech and hi-tech and the mental scrabbling caused by the word ‘handmine’ (I was imagining some sort of grenade, kudos to Steven Moffat for making something just as nightmarish – the sinister hands rising through the mud, swaying gently and turning to reveal a single eye may be one of the most chilling sequences in modern Who…).
The sway of Colony Sarff into the
Cantina alien bar was also nicely chilling (though the snake nest in a dress reveal was a little disappointing – I was hoping the face was going to be like one of those children’s flip and mix books and turn into someone else) and Karn is definitely my favourite quarry-masquerading-as-an-alien-planet.
Considering how little story there is in this half of the story, it mostly zipped along at a decent pace thanks to the fabulous Michelle Gomez and Peter Capaldi (the writers seem to have found his tone, thank god). I can’t help hoping against hope that Missy will be the next companion when Clara leaves the Tardis sometime in the next couple of months (assuming we’re not being played by the Who spin machine – Moffat lies etc, etc). But if we can’t have her multi-faceted character, scathing glances and withering put-downs every week, we must savour them whenever we get the chance.
Things got a bit bogged down in 12th century Essex (insert your own joke here) and I have to ask: if Colony Sarff was following Missy and Clara in order to find the Doctor, how come there was already a Dalek puppet on hand before it arrived? (Sorry, but even Michelle Gomez can’t distract me from the traditional Moffat plot holes.)
I’m going to skip over the classic (but not necessarily good) Who cliffhanger on the grounds that it’s there for the younger viewers. The rest of us will wait with varying degrees of patience to see how Moffat digs himself out of it in the second half (and in the hope that being exterminated doesn’t keep Missy off our screens for too long…)
See you same time next week…
Jo the Hat