Reasons Why The Doctor Who Season 9 Premiere Was Better Than All Of Season 8
Season 9, Episode 1: “The Magician’s Apprentice”
1. THE PLOT. I’ve watched it three times already. There are only two episodes from season 8 that I’ve seen more than once. Seasons 1–7? Seen them all multiple times over. And I don’t believe it has to do with Capaldi — though he says himself he feels like he has yet to nail the role of The Doctor, I believe it’s the writing. He’s a very watchable Doctor. But rarely have the plot elements and character development all been aligned with The Doctor and Clara. Which brings us to…
2. Missy. The only episodes I’ve rewatched from season 8 are the ones with Missy in it. Michelle Gomez is electric and brings out the best in The Doctor, the way the Master pretty much always has. And she challenges Clara in the same way.
3. This episode had a contained plot (well, besides the to-be-continued ending, but two-parters can be great). Right in the first 5 minutes, I got chills when the kid says his name: “Davros.” That’s a throwback to classic Who that’s frightening — and the incorporation of his past, surrounded by the old Doctors, is also when he’s at his best (and usually when Moffat is, too). In Matt Smith’s first turn as Eleven, the most compelling scene was when he was surrounded by old Doctors, threatening other aliens against threatening Earth. “Magician’s Apprentice” also featured throwbacks to the Shadow Proclamation and Judoon, which were in some of the best episodes of Ten’s tenure.
But the contained plot — the simple question but complex situation that challenges the Doctor’s Time Lord-ity as well as his humanity — is what’s so enticing about this season premiere. Would you take a child’s life if you knew he grew up to be a murderous dictator? Davros wants him to say it: “Compassion is wrong.” And our faces are mirrored in The Doctor’s expression of crisis. So excited to see the resolution, but I’m also wary that it could be a weak one.
4. Despite the seriousness of the situation, the episode still had silliness — the guitar playing, the tank, the dad jokes that are centuries too early. It was a nice try to start Twelve off in an existential crisis a la Season 8 (“am I a good man?”), but it may have been too dark to start with — audiences need to fall in love with this version of The Doctor first. Each Doctor in New Who has become darker and more aware of their power near the end of their turn/close to regeneration time. And you can do both, be light and dark. HEY MISSY!!!!!
Maybe a wide-eyed companion with a wide-eyed Doctor wasn’t the most compatible to start with, either. Clara is great as confident, dark, and no-nonsense alongside Missy.
I’m still worried that the stakes have been too high in all of Twelve’s episodes — Clara and Missy are ‘dead’ (again), the TARDIS is destroyed, which makes no sense, so on and so forth. But the premiere had a lot of potential. As The Doctor says:
“Forget the thousand [chances to fail], concentrate on the one [chance to survive]. One is all you ever need.”