SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! *grating mechanical voice*
The Doctor is being sought. Where is the Doctor? It’s no surprise that the season opener starts with a cliffhanger, but if you know this series you know there’s some world-ending event about to happen. You also are likely to receive the news along with every other Whovian with a resounding “again?” said in unison. If you want to up to ante, you have to show some old school creds, so we get this mysterious Colony Sarff visiting the Doctor’s old haunts. The Maldovarium. The Shadow Proclamation. Karn. He has a message from Davros. Yes, that Davros.
The cold open set the tone with the little kid trapped in a hand mine field. You’ll realize why they’re call hand mines soon enough. I know that I’m telling this out of order. The Doctor comes to his aid, handing him his sonic screwdriver. Then he learns this boy is called Davros and bolts. We know this happened recently for the Doctor because it’s Peter Capaldi’s face. We also know because he loses his screwdriver so he’s had no adventures since then.
Well, this is where we might be wrong. The Doctor is causing waves by literally hanging out in medieval times. In the same fashion that A Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, he’s playing an electric guitar, comes to the duel with a tank and teaches everyone the world “dude” ahead of time. And I’m jumping ahead again. I don’t really know why I like to do that, but I do.
Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) is plucked from her teaching duties by UNIT when all the planes freeze in mid flight. We’ve done the whole world crisis before and we know it’s a distraction for us the viewers, but for the companion this is someone knocking at the door. I loved the whole scene with Clara joining none other than Missy (Michelle Gomez) for a cup of coffee. She’s apparently in possession of the Doctor’s last will and testament. Yeah, he’s dying. No, he’s not because it’s the frigging first episode, but again. Upping the ante.
At this point, I’m enjoying the tension build and all the female talent on screen. I’m really not super thrilled we’re dealing with the Daleks again. However, an origin story for Davros that ends up involving the Doctor (without the darn Exterminate! trashcans) is potentially interesting. Let’s just not overdue the Dalek appearances this season, please? I do love the Gremlins-style result to feeding R2D2 after midnight (if you didn’t get that, don’t worry I overcomplicated that pop analogy) to appear once every couple of seasons, but to be the central focus every single time is just tiring. Overexposure leads to recycling. Recycling to weakening the show. Weakening the show leads to cancellation. Let’s not.
The happy reunion of Clara, and even with Missy, is short lived. Colony Sarff has finally found the Doctor. As they all are taken to- ok, not jumping ahead this time- where Davros is, Clara addresses the purple elephant in the room. She doesn’t want the Doctor to apologize for sending his will to Missy, she’s mad because that means the Doctor expected her to be alive. But sidestepping any pettiness, she wants the Doctor to make it up to her – and hence forcing him to find a way to survive. I know there might be holes in her reasoning, but if you’re looking for a solid and airtight logical argument you are watching the wrong show.
I’ll let you find out how does Missy – and the Doctor for that matter, but I was glad to see Missy getting some screen time here – figures out they’re not in space. Well, technically they are in space. I mean, technically you and I are also in space. Everything is. That was not my point here. My point, or Missy’s for that matter, is that they are in Skaro. The birthplace of Davros and consequentially of the-
Crap. Yes, the Daleks appear in the first episode of this new season. They’ve also found and brought the TARDIS because the Doctor needs an escape route. Uhh, wait. I mean because they’re totally going to destroy it. They also kill Missy and Clara. Don’t worry, we’ll see them again. Yeah, that technically is a spoiler and technically I am guessing but you and I are totally right on that one. You know that without a swan song, grandiose music, and a finale, death tends not to stick.
The interaction with Davros is somewhat interesting. I actually felt more depth in a Davros that seems tired and ready to crash that anything else. We know there’s a trap coming and the Doctor will have a plan that more than likely involves time travel. What I did find fascinating is the clips played from previous incarnations of the Doctor where he has interacted with Davros. Specially a message from Fourth where he lays out the question that inspires this episode. If you were to meet the child version of the killer of millions of lives, what would you do?
- Michelle Gomez as Missy. The meeting between Missy and Clara. She also has one of the best lines in the show: “No, wait, hang on a minute! Davros is your arch-enemy now?” And her retort after the Doctor hushes her, “I’ll scratch his eye out.”
- Colony Sarff. Okey, I admit. I like a well designed henchman, and I’m really glad Davros didn’t send a Dalek here. I’m pretty sure the whole villain-turns-into-a-hundred-lethal-vermin has been done before, but I thought it was well done nonetheless. Also the fact that he-they vote because, “we are a democracy” also means that decision-making and improvisation are weaknesses that can be exploited.
- Daleks, why did it have to be Daleks again? You could’ve kept Davros alone without his creations. Somehow would feel fitting for him to be dying then.
- Hand mines. Is if the first time we see them? I liked the concept.
- I did enjoy seeing the Doctor’s old haunts revisited. I loved seeing Tom Baker himself posting the actual premise of the episode in one question from so long ago. It does cement the episode in Doctor Who’s lore but…
- …But of course, makes you wonder how come Davros didn’t mention it before or recognized the other sonic screwdrivers he’s faced throughout the ages. Then again, you can come up with a Doctor-Who-style explanation of your choice easily enough. Davros memory was locked to prevent paradox by… You can probably come up with a better one.
- Despite the talking mailboxes with the spigots, it was still an engaging first episode of the season.
- The bonus scene from the next episode implies the Doctor could, potentially, try to alter time. Of course, we all expect him to come up with a different solution.
- In case you haven’t heard, Jenna Coleman is leaving the show after this season. Hear me out. New companion: Missy! No, I don’t want her to become good. I want the Doctor to constantly be looking over his shoulder. Every time he’d require her assistance, it would be a negotiation in which he would have to watch his step. It would make for one hell of a season.
That will do for now.