In a new feature on Blogtor Who, each week regular contributor Richard Unwin will be taking a more personal, in-depth and spoilery look at each episode. So, obvs, SPOILERS ahead if you haven’t seen Doctor Who Series 9, Episode 2.
Did you love that? We loved that.
After last week’s setup this episode delivered the meat of the adventure, and together the two parts make a (Dalek) supremely satisfying whole – a big bold proper Dalek/Davros epic that is a worthy addition to the canon. (And with the Special Weapons Dalek making an appearance, the addition of a worthy cannon.)
A lot of this story seems to be about contrasts and reflections. (We’re wondering if that might be a theme for the whole season, with the full list of episode titles appearing to come in mirroring pairs…) The balance between zany comedy and full-blooded adventure is breathtaking – expertly achieved here in a manner that only Doctor Who could ever really pull off.
This is perhaps best demonstrated through the Doctor and Clara’s individual acquisition of ‘Dalek Bumps’. The sight of Peter Capaldi gliding into the Dalek control room in Davros’ chair is an unexpected and hilariously striking visual, gloriously capped with an impossible cup of tea. (And further bolsters our theory that Steven Moffat wrote this episode while playing with Doctor Who dollies – isn’t pulling Davros out of his chair and sticking the Doctor in exactly what a child might do with action figures…?)
Clara’s confinement within one of the metallic monstrosities, however, is a different kettle of Kaleds entirely, playing out as tense and claustrophobic horror. (And calling to mind a similar predicament in Asylum of the Daleks – in which we assume the very specific Dalek speech restrictions introduced here must have been on the fritz…)
And then there are the distinct brands of evil on offer from the show’s two biggest of bads. Davros and the Master – here together for the first time – couldn’t be more different in their approaches to unpleasantness. Although both claim a twisted bond of friendship with the Doctor, only one of them truly means it. We love Missy’s resentful response to the assertion that Davros is the Time Lord’s arch-enemy, and the jealous poke in the third-eye that she gives him upon their eventual meeting – piercing his pomposity along with his his pupil.
It’s Missy who really steals the show here. Her ‘odd-couple’ pairing with Clara for most of the adventure is an absolute triumph. We’re so glad to have her back so soon – thanks to Steven Moffat for activating the fast return witch. We pity those fans that are still unable to accept her as the Master on the grounds of her gender – what bizarre short-sighted prejudice. (We’ll be honest – we used to be a little nervous about the idea of a female Doctor. Then we witnessed the frothing misogyny that sections of online fandom convulsed with when presented with the concept, and now actively long for a lady Who – specifically to explode the heads of that small minority of bedroom-bound bigots.) Missy’s final line about her ‘clever idea’ make us suspect that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of her this series… Hooray!
While we’re on the subject of inappropriate fan response… There’s a thread on a popular Doctor Who forum, in response to The Magician’s Apprentice, in which people are complaining about black actors being used to represent inhabitants of the planet Skaro. We kid you not. They are also very unhappy about ethnic minorities appearing in the crowd sections of the medieval sequence. All we can say to these people is that you appear to have completely missed the point of Doctor Who – you are the Daleks. Go away – go and watch something else – you don’t deserve this beautiful progressive inclusive work of art.
And it is beautiful. After all the antics and adventure, the security man made of snakes and the metal monsters choked with the sludge of their ancestors, we end with the Doctor rescuing a child from a warzone and proving to us all that mercy was always going to be the solution. Always mercy. Call us old softies, but this prescient message induced a little eye-leakage. Our vision was impaired.