The Magician’s Apprentice: First Thoughts Review

Wow.

That was a hell of a roller coaster.  I feel like we’ve just dived into a darkened tunnel on a particularly nasty roller coaster, as I have no idea what’s ahead, except that it’s going to be wild and unpredictable and probably unpleasant at times.  But exciting too; of course I can’t look away!

“Listen, if someone who knew the future pointed out a child to you and told you that that child would grow up totally evil, to be a ruthless dictator who would destroy millions of lives, could you then kill that child?”  — the Doctor, “Genesis of the Daleks”

Skaro.  Davros.  Because of course that’s what it was.  On some level, we probably all knew that’s where the battlefield would turn out to be.  And it’s bringing the lessons of “Genesis of the Daleks” back to us, all grown up and explored more deeply.  Next week’s going to hit hard, I think.  But next week will have a triumph too, I think.

“Your powers don’t work here, Colony Sarff.” — Ohila

There were some very high points.  Colony Sarff is a very intriguing character.  I had wondered, from the name, whether it would turn out to be some sort of group entity, and sure enough it is, but I definitely did not anticipate the snakes.  (And seemingly without any reference to the Mara, which might be a good thing under the circumstances; that’s a tough creature to introduce at the best of times, and there’s no way they could do a proper job of it in the time available here.) So now we know why he looks like that.  It’s not scars.  It’s gaps.

“I though you wanted an axe fight!”  — the Doctor

Another high point was absolutely the Doctor’s outrageous entrance into the arena, astride a tank, playing an electric guitar.  And then riffing on it to call out to his friends when he spotted them in the crowd.  It was priceless!  And I think it had a clue to the rest of the season — the sunglasses.  They’re not just sunglasses.  We’ve heard rumor that the Doctor gets “sonic sunglasses” this season, and I’m pretty sure that’s how he was able to hear Missy and Clara over the crowd and notice that they’d arrived.  Perhaps he built them as a replacement for the sonic that he’d lost on Skaro, to his worst enemy?  Or maybe he just figured they looked cool.  I was sad to see Bors turn out to be a Dalek convert, though I wonder if he was Dalekized before or after Colony Sarff’s arrival.  After, I’d guess, since they didn’t know where the Doctor was before that.  Unless they did, and they were really just biding their time for some useful hostages to present themselves before swooping in?

“A cosmos without the Doctor – it scarcely bears thinking about.”  — the Master, “The Five Doctors”

Missy was very much on top form.  Like the Joker and Batman, Missy wants to kill the Doctor, but very specifically feels that only she can be allowed to do it.  I loved seeing her try to finagle a deal out of the Daleks at the end; that’s classic Mastery there.  But I’m pretty sure she had a Plan B up her big, poofy, leg-of-mutton sleeves there.  I’d bet Jelly Babies that it involves the vortex manipulators.  Missy’s bananas, but she’s not remotely stupid, especially when walking into an obvious trap.  She would absolutely have had an escape plan, preferably one that left her enemies counting her dead and therefore not looking for her.

The cliffhanger makes it appear that all is lost.  It’s a grandiose cliffhanger in the old style.  And the teaser only piles onto it, confining itself to the themes introduced in the cliffhanger moments and thus amplifying it.  Honestly, the teaser was one of the most effective I’ve ever seen because of that; it didn’t pull you out of the moment by teasing things that showed that yes, somehow they’d gotten out of this scrape.  It didn’t show Clara or Missy, for instance, or the TARDIS, even though we all know perfectly well that they’ve escaped destruction somehow, because of course they have.  But there were some gut-wrenchers thrown in, without the resolution that would help us judge them; we must spend the next week in the agony of suspense!  Not the suspense that Mary Whitehouse famously suggested kids would have seeing the Doctor being drowned at the end of “The Deadly Assassin” Part Three, where it would seem the Doctor was dying for a whole week, but the suspense of wondering if he’s going to undo everything he stands for.  What price would he pay to rescue a friend?  What price *wouldn’t* he?

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