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Who Review: The Magician's Apprentice

A Reasonable Start

The Magician's Apprentice didn't bowl me over, but it made me nod my head in appreciation more times than it made me roll my eyes. I think that's a reasonable way to start the season. 

Some of the best scenes for me were, as others have mentioned, Clara and Missy. Clara more than held her own, simply by refusing to be frightened into a standstill by Missy's murderous ways. (From a Doylist perspective, both Coleman and Gomez appeared very assured and  comfortable in their roles, more so than the last two episodes of last season.) 

The Doctor and Clara ... far more than last season, I felt that they belonged in partnership. I loved Clara's attempt to guilt the Doctor into staying around. 

The Doctor himself: Capaldi felt more "Doctor" to me in this first episode than he felt for much of his first season. 

There were a couple of tragedies that stuck with me: the UNIT family man who Missy murdered was one, and reminded me - I really dislike the Master. I can appreciate her in all her iterations - I even really get a limited type of kick out of the Roberts Master - but ultimately, this is a creature whose many talents, whose embarrassments of riches, go to waste in a welter of selfish, undisciplined, childishly cruel, impulses. I can feel sorry for her; I can think about what broke and twisted her. I can even smile at her quick tongue and her style. But I don't like her. The Master kills intelligent beings for sport. She's a monster. I have a limited  capacity for being charmed by monsters.

The other tragedy: Bors. Was it the snake bite that started a very quick transformation, or was the poor sod dead and didn't know it for a long time?

There were bits of sloppy writing ... why would the Doctor be surprised by the return of his screwdriver - more importantly, why would he act as if he'd just had a major revelation about Davros when he saw the screwdriver, when he was already headed to Davros,, and he'd obviously made the decision to visit Davros based on something he knew? Sloppy.  

I liked that the snake theme carried through to the extremely snakey conduits draping Davros. I wasn't all that thrilled with the snake theme, though. 

I did appreciate - oh, how I appreciated it - the decision to have Davros played extremely low-key; a dying old man who was definitely not inclined to over the top screeching, a la the end of S04. I liked it back then, but it was a very acquired taste. And I thought this interpretation was much better. I loved the bit about the Daleks being children. That's very true, in terms of the darkest aspects of childhood. 

That's what I have right now. 

Yes, of course I loved Capaldi on ax! This entry was originally posted at http://kaffyr.dreamwidth.org/378926.html?mode=reply, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. You can comment there or here; I watch both.

Comments

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
a_phoenixdragon
Sep. 21st, 2015 10:06 pm (UTC)
Good review, bb!! Actually, I loved this episode (despite its sticky bits) far more than most of them last season. Truly, Time Heist was the only one that stood out for me last season - but this was a treat and a good way to start off the season!

*HUGS*
kaffyr
Sep. 21st, 2015 10:45 pm (UTC)
I loved Time Heist, and the Robots of Sherwood, but a lot of the rest were little more than blurs, and slightly unpleasant ones at that.

This one makes up for everything by having Twelve getting his freak on with the guitar. Heh.

a_phoenixdragon
Sep. 21st, 2015 11:07 pm (UTC)
The 'Pretty Woman' riff had me laughing...and I do like Missy (is that terrible of me? That I like bad guys?!?! *SOBS*). She is SO DOCTORY but so opposite. I do think she quite forgot for a minute that Clara was a human...a 'puppy' in her mind. And Skaro!! The sheer fear on her face! I felt awful for her. The Master died more than once at the hands of the Daleks. His own fault every time, but I cannot blame her for trying to fast talk her way out of it all. She was scared...and her fear showed through her sloppy 'negotiations'.

I dunno. I guess I should hate her more, but I love bad guys...and Missy is tops.

*Facepalm*
kaffyr
Sep. 23rd, 2015 04:08 pm (UTC)
I, too, love bad guys — right up to the point where I don't, where the reality (or as much as you can call a television show "reality") of the death and despair they cause really hits me.

And, like you, I really thought her sheer fear at realizing where she stood made her more fascinating, and rooted her even more in the reality of the Time War.
scarfman
Sep. 22nd, 2015 12:31 am (UTC)
If Bors' Dalek headpiece wasn't the payoff for the scene when he's choking in the arena for no apparent reason till the snake leaves him, then there is no payoff.
kaffyr
Sep. 23rd, 2015 04:14 pm (UTC)
Agreed. I'm pretty sure that the "snakes" are really carriers for nanobots that the Daleks have programmed to rewrite human (or anything non-Dalek) DNA at high speed, essentially hollowing out the human's mind and making it a receptacle for Dalek operations. I've always thought it was a sign of the Dalek's twisted senses of humor (and I think they do have humor. Haters can have a sense of wit about them, even amongst humans) that caused them to reorder victims' DNA to grow organic replicas of Dalek eyestalks, etc. It's a peculiarly horrific concept, that fits the Daleks to a "T"....
eve11
Sep. 22nd, 2015 12:41 am (UTC)
I am with you on the tragic loss of the UNIT guys and Bors. I want to like Missy or take her as a farce and then she does that stuff and I'm like, no, no, she's evil.
kaffyr
Sep. 23rd, 2015 04:15 pm (UTC)
Testify, sister! She's really amusing, right up until the point where she. kills. people.
clocketpatch
Sep. 22nd, 2015 03:54 am (UTC)
Good review as always, and a wise point on Missy. I think it's good that the Master is so charming and likable because it's a good reminder that Evil isn't always as obvious as a Dalek shouting exterminate and that doesn't make it any less evil. I also found it interesting that Missy is explicitly stated as being the Doctor's best friend in this. It's making me have thinky thoughts. I've got to rewatch a d do a proper review.

Really liked it though. A strong season openner!
kaffyr
Sep. 23rd, 2015 04:24 pm (UTC)
I also found it interesting that Missy is explicitly stated as being the Doctor's best friend in this.

And as part of that, Missy's comment — less her snarky, hurtful comments about Clara being a pupy — about friendship being a complicated thing, shines a light on what "best friend" means.

And we have two different kinds of non-shouty evil in this story. The suave, quirky, funny murderers like Missy and the quiet, thoughtful murderers like Davros.

I'm looking forward to seeing your review.
eaweek
Sep. 22nd, 2015 03:57 pm (UTC)
Great review! And lots of good points.

I was less than enthusiastic about it, but it's part one of a two-parter, and episode one of an entire season, and I suspect my initial reaction will alter over time--it usually does. With Moff, you have to see the whole before you can fully evaluate the pieces. : )
kaffyr
Sep. 23rd, 2015 04:25 pm (UTC)
I suspect my initial reaction will alter over time--it usually does.

Agreed; I tend to love Moff's stuff, but I'm very aware of his considerable shortcomings.
eaweek
Sep. 23rd, 2015 06:49 pm (UTC)
There's often stuff that makes no sense at the start of the season that makes more sense at the end. I might not always like those things or agree with them, but at least I know why they're there.

"Magician's Apprentice" felt like a hot mess to me--a lot of great character moments and visually engaging stuff, but they didn't add up. Moff loves to throw a pile of stuff out there and then pick up the pieces later, and not in chronological order, which makes the weekly viewing frustrating. It's fun, but too often chaotic. Honestly, I think the best way to watch Moff's Who is to get the DVD set and binge-watch the episodes in one weekend. : )
kaffyr
Sep. 23rd, 2015 09:46 pm (UTC)
I really need to go back to last season and rewatch at least two or three of the episodes, something I haven't done yet. And that, in and of itself, may say a lot about what I thought of last season, because during all of Eleven's stay, I wanted to watch things multiple times - not just for Matt, but for the entire Pond family; their energy and connection more than made up for shortcomings in the scripts, or even highlighted all the best bits of each script while overshadowing the bad bits. I wanted to watch them over and over again - but last season didn't generate that desire in me.
cynthia2015
Sep. 23rd, 2015 05:16 am (UTC)
Davros is such a hyprocrite. I wish the scenes between him and the Doctor could go more further than a guilt trip. In their last confrontation, Davros called the Doctor "The destroyer of all worlds". Maybe his way of thinking will be explained later on in how he become evil to begin with. The only downside with Missy is that she murders innocent people to get the upper hand, but thats expected from a villian. I'd rather the master than a Dalek or other evil entity chanting the same thing over and over again like some kind of slogan.



Edited at 2015-09-23 05:17 am (UTC)
kaffyr
Sep. 23rd, 2015 08:54 pm (UTC)
Davros is such a hypocrite.

He most definitely is; the type of villain that makes so many excuses for their own shortcomings that they feel as if they have the moral high ground from which to judge others.

As for Davros' way of thinking ... it all goes back to his determination to win a war at all costs; he created the Daleks as a way of winning a war, then became seduced by his own creations and their hatred of everything that wasn't Dalek.

I agree that Missy's ability to converse wittily is preferable to an enemy with limited conversational skills, but I'll never truly warm to her.
masakochan
Sep. 23rd, 2015 01:36 pm (UTC)
I agree with you about how Davros was in this- compared to the end of S04.
kaffyr
Sep. 23rd, 2015 09:20 pm (UTC)
Oh, aye; the interpretation of Davros in S04 seemed tailor made for Old Who, which isn't bad in and of itself; it was just ... well, we already had Doctor McShoutypants, and it was hard to deal with Villainous McShoutypants as well.
apostle_of_eris
Sep. 25th, 2015 09:35 pm (UTC)
Coming in with no backstory or scorecard, I was impressed at how much fodder for a good season of plot twists was established.
kaffyr
Sep. 27th, 2015 04:20 pm (UTC)
Definitely; and the follow-up episode was, a bit to my surprise, even stronger. Normally, second-parters, especially those that Moffat himself writes, tend toward being slightly weaker. That wasn't the case with "The Witch's Familiar." And I'm definitely looking forward to some of the twists that the season with throw at its viewers.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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