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The Witch’s Familiar – The Witch is Familiar

September 28, 2015

drdavros

OK, thank you clever people who pointed that the Magician’s Apprentice can refer to Davros himself.  Yeah.  That works.  I think the same logic can demonstrate that The Witch’s Familiar refers to Clara.  But anyone with a cleverer answer do chip in.  I’m very gracious about admitting when I’m wrong.  Admitting I’m wrong is something I’m good at.  I get a lot practice.

From a visual point of view, Magician’s Apprentice/Witch’sFamiliar was a bit like going to a vintage car rally.  All your favourite Daleks together in one place, a delicious trip down memory lane.

Michelle Gomez continues to dazzle as The Master.  She gets the essential point about The Master which is that The Master has more in common with The Doctor than any other being in the universe.  She’s reached a point in her life, however, where she realises that while trying to kill the Doctor is wonderful, actually killing the Doctor would be personal disaster, an impossible bereavement.  Because there are, as they say…

“Things only another renegade Time Lord will understand….”

But killing Clara, or (much better yet) having the Doctor kill Clara is a more satisfying and exquisite bit of evil from The Master’s point of view.  Above all, the Master has always wanted to make the Doctor suffer – just to make the Doctor feel something unexpected.  In many ways the Doctor and the Master have a somewhat unilaterally defined sado-masochistic relationship.  And there’s no safety word.

Two thirds of the way through this episode, I started to worry that I was being required to get too soppy about Davros.  Like everyone else, I was taken aback by the simply but bold strategy of having him briefly open his real eyes.  But his reversion to type was something of a relief.  The question being asked was the same question that Davros has put to the Doctor for decades, since they first met in Genesis of the Daleks (1975), which this adventure so repeatedly references: “Is not compassion a weakness?”  In this adventure, it looks like The Doctor has been undone by compassion, then it turns out that he was always one step ahead of Davros and that compassion was therefore irrelevant – but then the very end of the show shows the “need” (utilitarian as well as merely existential) for compassion after all.

As to the final solution to Davros’ scheme, the sewage solution – I’m not really sure – it felt a little rushed.  But I’ve been watching a lot of Classic Who since Christmas, so everything seems a little rushed by comparison.

And so it turns out that the key word is “Mercy”.  Clara, trapped inside a Dalek shell that turns everything she wants to say all Daleky, can manage “Mercy”.  Steven Moffat, alert to the perceived anxiety (unshared by me) that Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is too waspish and unfeeling, has made a two part adventure about the idea of Mercy and Compassion.  Typically, the final twist, which involves a way of going back in time and injecting at least the possibility of mercy into the conceptual matrix of dalek-kind becomes also a way of getting the Doctor to foreground and acknowledge the pre-eminence of Mercy for himself.

Ah, the Twelfth Doctor was never UNmerciful, nor was he anything less than compassionate  But he didn’t feel the need to prove or assert it in so many words until this weekend.  Here’s hoping that the “likable” Doctor thing is now recognised by everyone and he doesn’t need to keep asserting it week after week.

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