Review of Doctor Who season 9 premiere
Whovian Sunday 'The Magician's Apprentice' will not change anyone's minds regarding Doctor Who -- particularly the more recent incarnation. You are either a convert or you aren't.
This episode, which is the first of a two-part story, kicked off the widely anicipated ninth series of the show. It is also Peter Cataldi's second season as the Doctor.
The episode opens well with the Doctor trying to save the life of a young boy on a battlefield while visiting an alien world and almost immediately changing his mind. The boy is revealed to be Davros, who as fans of the show know eventually grew up to create the semi-mechanical Daleks -- the Doctore's genocidal arch enemies.
The Doctor goes on a history-spanning binge in the TARDIS to supress his guilt. Viewers will love or hate the scene in which he shows up for an axe duel wielding a guitar.
Jenna Coleman reprises her role as the Doctor's latest beutiful uber-competent companion, Clara Oswald. Michelle Gomes returns as Missy, the Doctor's nemesis, who was formerly the Master until becoming a woman.
The chemistry between the actors is good, and fans who enjoy the snarky dialougue that marks the later Doctor Who will enjoy this. But the gender change for the Master seems pointless and rendering the conflict with Davros more personal than in previous adventures smacks of desperation to raise the dramatic stakes. A potentially interesting side plot involving planes mysteriously suspended in mid air is presented as a mere conceit and too casually dropped.
As with much of Doctor Who, this episode was basically heroic fantasy disguised as science fiction, which is not a criticism -- just an observation.