Doctor Who - Series 9, Episode 2

Witch's Apprentice

Did The Witch’s Apprentice cast a spell over steven harris (or has he always had frog's legs?)...

What is it about Genesis of the Daleks that makes it the ultimate pepperpot adventure? Daleks clearly depicted as extremely to the right of Hitler. Two foes fighting a war nobody even knows the origin or reason for any more. Lots of trapped in bunker stuff. Sewers. Hostile open terrain. And Davros, the little-blue badge-wielding mega-loon who can park wherever he likes cos his creations will exterminate you if you say he can’t.

Davros is one of the few with a mind to rival The Doctor’s but he’s the anti-Timelord. Their exchanges in Genesis are tense, revealing and the pinnacle of good versus evil in terms of tea-time drama of a Saturday afternoon. The dialogue crackles as a madman tries to rationalise a zero tolerance policy that literally does mean zero tolerance.

Steven Moffat has crafted excellent dialogue for Twelfth Doctor and Davros in The Witch’s Apprentice and comes within a whisker of recreating the malevolent/fascinating tone. The pacing is a little off, however, just a tad slow in one or two places. Yes it does require a drawn out approach to a bluff and double-bluff conclusion and with Missy and Clara elsewhere on the planet offering cut-away light relief, much of the serious work is being handled by Capaldi (who actually pronounced a short sentence more like Tom Baker than his usual Weegie gravel) and Julian Bleach (the equal of Michael Wisher’s Davros from Genesis).

So timing becomes all and Moffat seems just that bit too eager to milk the dynamic for all it’s worth. if Doctor Who were Shakespeare, Davros and the Daleks would be the equivalent of Hamlet: something every young buck actor wants to tackle and every director/writer wants to innovate so that they can each respectively prove their chops.

I like chops. I’m hungry. No connection.

In forty years time I’ve no doubt that the opening two-parter of this new season will be seen as yet another Dalek/Davros classic. I’m being really picky, and spending ages doing so. Which means I’ll have to rattle through the rest.

If Davros is the anti-Timelord, Missy is the Doctor’s real nemesis and yet, a nod to the Jon Pertwee era, it is evident that there is a great deal of mutual respect, even affection between the two. The Doctor could never become Davros but he could feasibly become more like Missy/The Master (just ask David Tennant).

Conversely, Missy is perhaps shown as a little bit more like the Doctor than we’ve ever been allowed to speculate upon before. Her use of Clara as bait and a miner’s canary aside - the comic relief I was on about - she also utilises the human’s skills and abilities, though making sure to act all superior and Timelordy.

Clara climbs inside a Dalek (not for the first time) and we discover a beautifully vile truth about the creatures: any words or cultural references they do not comprehend literally translate as ‘enemy’ or ‘exterminate’ or various other forms of hate-speech. I forgive Moff the timing issue, this was brilliant, adding yet another later to the complexity of the universe’s most shallow and yet most convoluted monster.

Colony Sarff, as in Sarff Lahndahn? He’s made of snakes. Meh. It’s better when Nagini does it in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Boy Davros is definitely from Lahndahn and not Skaro but it’s a wonderful touch to hark back to the previous week’s question about who made Davros and show that in the making of the mentalist genius The Doctor’s most important contribution was the concept of mercy.

Twisty/turny, timey/wimey. And next week, trapped in a base stuff! Is it the 70s? Are the miners going to go on strike, dig up Thatcher, kill her, then bury her again underneath the Wigan Casino? Probably not but I’m loving the recognition that Who is as old as it is new.

Oh, and sonic sunglasses? Rock on!

Image - BBC