Doctor Who Episode Review: The Witch's Familiar
This episode, which is a continuation of the season premiere, is about on par with its predecessor. Neo-whovians will love it while the uninitiated will feel under-whelmed. It is entertaining and attempts to convey an actual message, but it strains itself trying to throw plot twists at the audience.
During the previous episode, 'The Magician’s Apprentice', the Doctor was stranded on Skaro in a city of Daleks that had seemingly destroyed the TARDIS. The Doctor’s companion Clara and his nemesis Missy (formerly the Master) were apparently killed.
Missy and Clara, both of course actually alive, find their way into the Dalek sewers -- which also
function as a cemetery. The place is full of sludge that actually consists of decaying, disenfranchised Daleks. The characters eventually steal a Dalek shell and Clara uses it as a vehicle, which leads up to one of the better scenes.
Meanwhile, the Doctor bonds with Davros, who appears to be dying and has requested a meeting with the Doctor. The Doctor is still stricken with guilt over leaving Davros to die on a battlefield as a child, which was revealed in the previous episode along with hints of other secrets.
This episode contains some interesting elements, but many of them seem undeveloped. The disturbing possibility that Daleks may not be as hostile as they seem and are trapped in their situations is introduced but essentially dropped. The idea of a new race of Daleks infused with time lord energy is briefly introduced as well, but are these creatures destined to actually exist or do they never make it out of the vapor stage?
The underlying message of the episode is that while good and evil exist in everyone, we can still make our own choices and are defined by them. The Doctor acknowledges his guilt in certain matters but still tries to continue making good choices. The use of time travel in both episodes is generally simple and elegant.
Missy evolves somewhat as a character in this episode. She commits detestable acts but seems to be pushing the Doctor’s buttons for a loftier purpose. Is she trying to bring him over to her side or make him a better hero? Although I found some of Missy’s antics annoying and overbearing, the writers seem to be taking this character seriously (one suspects a romance is being set up).
There is a little too much going on for any one idea to fully stick. It is fun watching the Doctor engage in one-upsmanship with one villain but wearying to watch him do so with two of them.
The Daleks also seem played out. Any sense of menace was drained out of them in this episode. They should be put aside for a while and revitalized like they were during the Christopper Eccleston era.
Subsequent episodes will hopefully lighten up and introduce new villains – or at least put a fresh spin on the old ones.