“I’M BACK. NOT DEAD. BIG SURPRISE.”
Note: The following review goes into detail about the episode. SPOILER ALERT!
Doctor Who, especially under showrunner Steven Moffat, can be a hard show to get into. Constantly concerned with reinventing the show’s mythos and crafting clever time travel tales, the BBC’s flagship sci-fi show has been hit or miss recently, with episodes either offering decent standalone stories or bigger, high concept plots which ultimately fizzle.
For that reason exactly is why it’s refreshing to see an episode like “The Magician’s Apprentice,” which doesn’t attempt to set up a big mystery or any future, but instead opts to tell the story of classic Who villain Davros. Switching between two time periods—Davros’s Hunt for the Doctor in the present and the two’s first meeting in the past—the episode creates an interesting exploration of not only Davros’s origins, but also shows more of Peter Capaldi’s morally ambiguous Doctor. While Davros was never lacking for motivation, Steven Moffat creates a compelling new reason for the villain to hate the Time Lords. “The Magician’s Apprentice” soars when it’s exploring the twisted relationship between Davros and the Doctor, keeping its focus on the characters and letting years of history speak for itself.
The rest of the cast doesn’t fare quite as well, however. Current companion Clara is unfortunately not given much to do again, relegated to the background for much of the episode as she searches for the Doctor along with a revived Missy. While it doesn’t seem like there’s any reason to see Maria Gomez’s female take on the Master again, Gomez continues to showcase manic energy as Missy and lights up every scene she’s in, even if she has no more reason to be there than Clara.
Peter Capaldi got to shine as the Doctor this time around though, as it seems the writers have finally hit upon the right way to utilize his talents. Whereas in previous episodes Capaldi seemed shoehorned into material meant for previous Doctors Matt Smith and David Tennant, Capaldi makes the Doctor his own in “The Magician’s Apprentice,” bringing a youthful spirit that’s tempered by a world where he believes the right choice isn’t always the most ethical one.
“The Magician’s Apprentice” is one of the best premieres Doctor Who has had in years, making great use of Peter Capaldi and a classic villain to tell a straightforward, character-focused tale. While the show still doesn’t seem to have the best grasp on the supporting characters, the emotional beats all hit right where they should, and the more grounded approach makes “The Magician’s Apprentice” a welcome change of pace for everyone’s favorite Time Lord. Also: The Doctor rides in on a tank while playing heavy metal and it’s amazing.
Are you glad to see Davros back? How about that ending, though? Tweet me @MaxMielecki. Also, be sure to follow us @YouNerded.
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