Previously on Doctor Who, ‘The Magician’s Apprentice‘
As Missy whittles a weapon while Clara hangs upside down from a rope, she tells a story of the Doctor: Once upon a time, the Doctor had no weapon, friends, or TARDIS, but managed to escape from invisible android assassins. How? Clara envisions him using weapons fire to recharge his teleporter, flashing out of there and into a nest of vampire monkeys—incidentally also how Missy saved them both, minus the vampire monkeys. The Doctor always assumes he’ll win, so he does. And if he assumes he’ll die… they’re backup.
Davros gloats over having the Doctor at odds, but the Doctor threatens him out of his life support with an old blaster, sending the Daleks into a tizzy, flying about wondering where Davros is. Well, he’s lying in halfsies on the floor right where he was, but the Doctor wheels into their midst with Davros’ tank. Doctor Dalek! They shoot, but naturally Davros has a personal force field, so the Doctor laughs over a spot of tea and his blaster.
“Admit it. You’ve all had this exact nightmare.”
Missy pushes Clara into the sewers where the walls are full of decaying Daleks, decomposed past usefulness but unable to die, crying, “Kill me!” As the Doctor demands Clara returned to him and is told she’s really dead, Missy recognizes he’s about to burn the whole planet down so she lures a Dalek into the sewers by using Clara as bait. She pokes holes in it with Dark Star alloy
(“the Doctor gave it to me when my daughter…”), which attracts the dying Dalek goo into the casing and liquify it.
Alas, Colony Sarff manages to re-capture the Doctor and return him to Davros, who tells him that he’s been leaching off the Dalek’s energy to keep living thanks to their innate weakness—compassion for their father. He tempts the Doctor with killing them all through his life-support cable, covering his hand with a metal one. “Are you ready to be a god?” But the Doctor won’t.
“There’s no such thing as the Doctor. I’m just a bloke in a box telling stories… I came because you’re sick and you asked, and because sometimes, on a good day… I’m the Doctor.”
His compassion will kill him one day.
Meanwhile Missy extracts the dead Dalek and orders Clara inside, connecting the neural controls. She gets the hang of it right away so Missy shuts the casing. AIEEE OSWIN OSWALD! *fangirl squealing* Clara attempts to communicate, but the Dalek only speaks Dalek and fires with emotion. Missy instructs her to say I love you. “Exterminate.” You’re different from me. “Exterminate.” The gun fires as Clara gets flustered and scared, Missy dancing through the chaotic fire. Going with the plan, ClaraDalek escorts Missy to another Dalek as prisoner.
“Is it still the same old Supreme Dalek these days? I fought him on the slopes of the Never Vault. Tell him the bitch is back.”
Davros has always wondered why the Doctor left Gallifrey, since it’s clearly not the usual lie, that he was bored. The Doctor only puts on his sunglasses and says they should be scared, rubbing the renewed existence of Gallifrey in his face. Surprisingly Davros congratulates him and cries, saying a man should have a race. He asks the Doctor to come closer so he can see with his own eyes, turning his blue light off.
“If you have redeemed the Time Lords from the fire, do not lose them again. Take the darkest path into the deepest hell, but protect your own as I have sought to protect mine.”
He places his metal hand on the Doctor’s and begs to know if he was right, if he’s a good man. The Doctor understands he’s actually dying now. They chuckle that he’s a crap doctor, and Davros cries to see the sun one last time.
Missy dances into the middle of the Daleks, telling Dalek Supreme, “You’re my secret favorite. Don’t tell the others.” Hee. She demands to see Davros, offering Clara in exchange.
The Doctor fusses with the support cables, trying to get Davros set up in front of the window for the sunrise. Davros pours it on thick, wishing they’d been on the same side. Sounding very 10-ish, the Doctor says they’re on the same side now. Davros plays at being too weak to open his eyes, so the Doctor shakes regeneration energy into his hand and grabs a cable which ensnares him while Davros Villain Laughs. Regeneration energy pours into Davros and all of the Daleks, spurring Missy to run in and cut the cable while Davros cites the prophecy of a monstrous hybrid, Time Lord and Dalek, as the reason he left Gallifrey. The Daleks hail their lord. Any last words, Doctor?
“3… 2… 1.” KABOOM. The Doctor laughs that he was just playing along, knowing his energy would wake up the Angry Zombie Daleks who bust up from the sewers as he and Missy waltz out… after Missy pokes Davros in the eye. The Daleks liquify into goo, except ClaraDalek who’s trapped and unable to express herself. Ever feeding on chaos, Missy incites the Doctor to kill “the Dalek that killed Clara,” but he stops when ClaraDalek cries for mercy. As it opens to reveal Clara, Missy spins it as an object lesson on how everyone’s a friend/foe hybrid. The Doctor ain’t having it—he tells her to RUN.
Back where the TARDIS disappeared, the Doctor explains to the flustered Daleks that the TARDIS isn’t really gone, but simply redistributed as a safety feature. Claiming he’s over screwdrivers (SAY WHAT?!) he taps his sunglasses and the TARDIS reassembles itself around him and Clara. Missy gets surrounded, but when the Daleks converge on her, she has a brilliant idea… What could it be?
As the Doctor and Clara watch the city implode, he ponders that “Mercy” shouldn’t have been something they could say—how did this concept get into their DNA? He runs back to the TARDIS and phases back to Boy Davros.
“I’m going to save my friend, the only way I can. Exterminate.”
He fires on the hand mines and offers his hand to escort Boy Davros home. Sides don’t matter, he says, only mercy.
This episode was chock full of fan-service moments: Davros wiggling on the ground as just a torso; the Doctor wheeling around in a Dalek; the Doctor and Davros calling back to “Genesis of the Daleks;” and the major Oswin Oswald visual reference. Soufflé girl! Even knowing Jenna Coleman’s filming schedule, I was a bit scared that Clara wouldn’t be able to unhook in some way.
Despite the location being fairly limited (two rooms and the desert), the effects, sets, and makeup were all well done. Julian Bleech and Michelle Gomez acted the hell out of Davros and Missy, and Capaldi is finally being allowed to flex his considerable acting skills rather than just being shouty and grumpy as some people complained. All three actors managed to incorporate mannerisms from their predecessors, yet still made their portrayals personal. If you think about it, very little happened in this stationary episode, yet it explored a full range of emotions, from happy tears to terror. This two-parter solidly established a deeper relationship between them all, reaching out strongly to its long-term fans, then totally reset lest we love Missy too much or sympathize with Davros, who now knows the Time Lords are alive. BUM BUM BUMMM!
This season continues to pull Clara out of last season’s spotlight, allowing the others to shine, which is fine and timely; not everything can or should be about her. Clara and the Master developed a parallel relationship as the one playing out between the Doctor and Davros, the mutual respect of players on opposite sides of the spectrum, miner and canary, although Clara isn’t quite as adept in extracting herself from predicaments. As a side note, is it just me or are her eyebrows stretching to Rose Tyler proportions? Distracting.
Petty downsides are few. I didn’t quite buy that the Doctor always knew Davros was faking it but still let slip that Gallifrey exists. The sunglasses are great, but this lack of screwdriver cannot stand. Finally, the snake cables were the least sensical and worst effects of the episode. Despite this silliness, what it did leave us with are some intriguing questions:
What’s up with those vampire monkeys?
Given the Doctor ultimately saved him, where did Davros go wrong?
What evil plot is Missy cooking up now?
After a dearth of truly terrifying episodes, next episode looks to be scary in all the best ways with some underwater Victorian ghosts. Join me for some sofa-hiding goodness with “Under the Lake.”