This week was the longest I’ve ever gone after the release of a new Doctor Who episode before watching it. What I knew, however, was that this episode would be incredible, and I didn’t want to review it with a foggy sick-brain. Having now seen the episode, and subsequently retrieved my jaw from the floor, I stand by that decision.
The one thing I kept hearing about this episode is that it didn’t feel like a season opener. And it doesn’t. This episode has the kick, the excitement, and the depth of a finale episode. If this is a taste of what Season 9/35 is going to be bringing for all 13 episodes (including Christmas in that count), I’ll be genuinely concerned for the show’s ability to live up to the awesome in future seasons.
If you read further than this, I’m going to assume you’ve seen the episode. There is absolutely no way to discuss this episode without giving away something that could be considered a spoiler. Even mentioning the cast beyond Capaldi and Coleman would do the trick. So, if you haven’t seen it, go watch it. The entire episode is available on YouTube for free from BBCAmerica.
Now that the disclaimers are all taken care of, we can get down to business. This episode, for a classic Doctor Who fan like me, felt like the perfect evolution of 51 years of the show. Not only do we see Davros and the Master in the same episode (although not yet interacting, I’m hoping we see that in episode 2), but everything surrounding these two antagonists is couched in the perfect level of canonical reference. There’s enough that classic fans like me feel as if Moffat did his due diligence, something that always felt missing in the past with Simms’ Master, while remaining accessible to fans who haven’t watched the old series.
In Davros and Missy, we get the picture of the show’s evolution. In Missy we have the full depth of the Master’s character, the original frenemy who could never bring himself/herself to fully destroy the Doctor because “a cosmos without the Doctor scarcely bears thinking about.” His perfect mirror, she has his same curiosity and deviousness but without the overwhelming drive do good. When on the same side, as it appears they are here (but you never really know, with the Master), they’re the most formidable team in the galaxy.
Davros, on the other hand, is the living embodiment of everything classic Who was and is. Thoroughly evil, but in a way that can explain itself away with a perverse charm, he is the God of the series’ oldest villains. While, in the past, he served merely as the Daleks’ guiding force, in recent years he has come to be the conscience for what the Doctor did, and couldn’t bring himself to do, in “Genesis of the Daleks.”
In this episode we see a Doctor who has given up, who is afraid but resigned to a fate he’s certain is death. But it’s not until he learns that he’s on Skaro and sees what the universe stands to lose that he’s really afraid. With the Time Lords gone and the Dalek home world resurrected, the worst possible outcome of the Time War seems like the only viable opportunity.
That said, this episode has me excited for this episode and this season. How they’ll explain away the apparent deaths of Missy and Clara and how they’ll resolve the Doctor’s potential extermination of Davros are non-concerns of mine. As a fan of the classic series, you just learn to discount any dramatic things that happen right at the end of part 1 of any multi-part serial.
What has me interested, however, is what this episode has to offer for the show itself. If Skaro is back and the Daleks are strong again, it only further points towards the eventual finding of Gallifrey and return of the Time Lords. And that, along with the possibility of another Time War, could change the new series as we know it.
Barring another illness, I’ll be back this coming weekend with my semi-coherent ramblings on part 2, “The Witch’s Familiar.”