“The Witch’s Familiar” Flips the Script on ‘Doctor Who’

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This week’s episode of Doctor Who, the second part of the season’s opener, was really two intertwined stories that both did something Doctor Who had never really done before. On one side we had what felt almost like a humorous perversion of a normal Doctor Who episodes, with Missy and Clara adventuring in a way that was often reminiscent of the Doctor and Clara, until Missy inevitably did something to remind you of who she really was. On the other side, we had a closed room story. The Doctor and Davros, old enemies without the trappings of friendship occasionally shared by he and the Master, interacting as only old enemies can. In short, it was beautiful.

For me, the interactions of these two stories worked perfectly to counterpoint one another. The humor of Missy shoving Clara down a hole to determine how deep it was, playing off of the somber mood established by the chess-like game of deceptions that have been playing out between the Doctor and Davros since the Dalek creator’s first introduction.

Doctor and Clara

As a fan of the classic series, I found myself conflicted in the best way possible. Not only am I beginning to consider Michelle Gomez’s Missy to be the best iteration of the Master. Her insanity has the show burn of Ainley with the manic moments of Simms while she accomplishes being as terrifying at times as Delgado.

Meanwhile Davros is being written better than he ever has before. No longer camp and “villainous” like in the old series, nor is he just a raving megalomaniac like in his previous appearance in NuWho, this Davros is in every way the Doctor’s equal and, sometimes, shows that he and the Doctor are far too alike for comfort.

In short, what I’ve found in this two-part opener is that the new series of Doctor Who, when written properly, can be everything the classic series aspired to be and more. I know the season is young and unlikely to keep this same feel and quality for the entire run, but it’s still nice to know that once the bar had been set as high as I thought it could go, there was still room for the BBC to do better.

Doctor and Clara
Somehow our Clara became the new Ace. Didn’t see that coming.

“The Witch’s Familiar” completed, for me, the work an opener needs to accomplish. I’m excited for the rest of the season. While I don’t expect every episode to have the same Old Who charm or gigantic budget, I do feel as if Moffat may have finally hit his stride when writing for Capaldi. Also, I’m glad that the season arc appears to be something simple, the confession disk. I’ve grown a little tired of world-ending catastrophes as season arcs. It’ll be nice to explore the Doctor a little more and maybe get one step closer to Timelords in funny hats.

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