Doctor Who - Series 9, Episode 1

Doctor Who The Magician's Apprentice

Doctor Who is back and so is our Who Guru, Steve Hendry, as he learns how to be The Magician's Apprentice...

Are you still trying to work out what your favourite bit was? The young Davros reveal? Colony Sarff finally exorcising Doctor Who’s snake-related demons (Kinda, Snakedance, I’m looking at you. And still squinting)? Missy’s face emerging from the screen at the UNIT base? The fear in her eyes as Skaro appeared in all its sinister glory? The cliffhanger? Mine was none of those. It was the sight, at the Maldovarium, of those socialising Ood. Ood popping down the alehouse for a Crème de Menthe. Ood in a galactic Wetherspoons on curry night, ordering extra lime pickle and poppadums. These are magical visions to me, those spaghetti-faced guys and gals enjoying a few scoops of a Saturday night is Donna Noble’s greatest legacy, and I’m welling up at the thought she’ll never join them at Dorium’s place for a bag of scampi fries and a bottle of Smirnoff Ice.

It’s a crazy, brilliant, star-studded episode this, with a flavour of RTD’s season finales about it. And, if we assume the second part will be equally high quality, it augers well for the rest of season 35 that The Moff has planted it at the top end, rather than wrapping up the series with it. It kind of goes without saying that Peter Capaldi is the best Doctor we’ve ever had, but that isn’t going to stop me. His first season was impressive enough, but there were a couple of episodes where he and Jenna Coleman manfully propped the whole 45 minutes up with their bare hands. When the script is right though, and there’s the extraordinary range of allies and opponents to bounce off that he has here, we’re into BAFTA territory for the former Malcolm Tucker, surely. I proselytised at length last season about his and Coleman’s partnership, which has usurped Baker/Sladen and Tennant/Tate as my favourite TARDIS duo. But we’re now into Pertwee/Delgado territory with Number Twelve’s on-screen chemistry with Missy. Michelle Gomez is charisma personified, and surely the best piece of big character casting since Timothy Dalton’s Rassilon. Like Capaldi, Gomez wastes not a single second of screen time, catching myself laughing at her taunting Clara “how’s your boyfriend, still wonderfully dead?” and casually murdering UNIT’s men in black was possibly the most unsettling, yet at the same time entertaining aspect of the whole episode. If not for the curve ball in the pre-titles, we could have believed this was a Master-centred story. In fact, the whole plane-freezing business was a bit of diversionary Time Flight based banter – “I couldn’t have done anything with them anyway”. Despite the “It’s all about Davros” reveal, Gomez steals the whole piece.

Doctor Who The Magician's Apprentice

But, let’s talk about Davros. He’s dying again, apparently. Like, really dying this time. Ok then. The interesting thing about the pre-titles, and the whole of this opener, is that it pays only the most vague lip service to the “casual viewer” or “not we”. This pleases me greatly. Frankly, there’s Netflix, Couch Tuner, Dailymotion or DVD box sets (remember DVDs?) for those seeking an entry point to Doctor Who now, it’s 2015. They’ve had nearly 52 years to jump on. Moffat writes for me and thee, the hardcore fans who don’t have to wonder who the old birds on Karn are, and who can spot a Sycorax at a thousand paces. We know what the three versions of Atlantis are, and the significance of googling “blue box Doctor”. If you don’t like it, switch over to X Factor, then go jump in front of a Kroton. The piece de resistance in all this beautiful, indulgent fanwank, was the appearance of the Dead Planet Dalek, who’s aged even better than Nicola Bryant, and that’s really saying something. But yeah, Davros. Julian Bleach’s monster in a mobility scooter is a more than welcome returnee, and another one whose dialogue with Capaldi is spellbinding. The Doctor, literally on his knees, begging Davros to spare Clara, was utterly shocking. Dark Lord of Skaro though? He’s made that up himself hasn’t he? I’ll keep my powder mostly dry on the Great Healer ahead of next week though, when it looks like he’ll be on top form, rather than being a bit arsey after a nap in the nursing home.

All in all, season 35 has kicked off in truly spectacular fashion this week. Forget the false flags of Clara and Missy being dead (yeah right) and the TARDIS being blown up (the universe ended last time), and just enjoy this spectacle for what it is- fantastic, unbeatable television. Welcome back Doctor.

Image - BBC.