As per my blog policy of reviewing two-part stories together, I’ll wait until The Witch’s Familiar airs next week before doing a full-length review of the whole story. This is just going to be a quick round-up of my initial thoughts after watching the first episode.
Warning: spoilers ahead.
- I’ll just say that I thought it was absolutely fantastic. If the second half holds up, this will easily be, by a good length, the best series opener so far. More than that, it’ll easily propel itself into the company of the show’s all-time classics if the second half is as good as the first. I think my mouth was stuck in a comical ‘o’ shape for the whole duration of the episode; I literally could not take my eyes off the screen. I’m going to be reeling for a fair while after this (and so you should be, too).
- Something I really appreciated was that this was a very different kind of storytelling to what Doctor Who has traditionally done. Trust someone who’s gone through and reviewed every episode — this one is going to be somewhat more difficult to analyse and review because it’s so different to what I’m used to. This episode presents Doctor Who more as a serialised drama, with its strong continuity connections and its setting up of arc and narrative threads. It’s not Doctor Who’s traditional “monster of the week” format. There was a sense of scale and overarching magnitude that no Who episode has carried since The Day of the Doctor. The events of this story are definitely not going to be forgotten about any time soon.
- And so the rumours about the Doctor meeting Davros as a child and being faced with the choice of whether to kill him or not were true. I thought that was an inspired story idea at the time, but seeing it onscreen is exhilarating. I love it when the show presents the Doctor with torturous moral dilemmas. In his decisions we learn something about the Doctor’s character, which can be every bit as exciting as new, scary monsters and alien planets. Here we learn that the Doctor would leave a small child to die in the hope of averting the creation of the Daleks (or, alternatively, since it isn’t explained, as punishment for what Davros would do in the future). “Davros made the Daleks, but who made Davros?” Really meaty, riveting stuff, this.
- By the way, can I just indulge myself for a moment: OMFG DAVROS IS BACK!!!!!!@@@@ And back in jaw-dropping fashion. Davros’s return was not wasted by any means.
- Dat cliffhanger tho. That was torturous. That was cruel. The last time we saw a lead character (let alone two) die onscreen was when the Doctor died in the beginning of The Impossible Astronaut, before he came back 5 minutes later. I think these were legitimate deaths, though. Not like Missy’s “death” at the end of Death in Heaven. It’s obvious how the story is going to go about reviving Clara and Missy (i.e. that final scene where the Doctor points a Dalek weapon at little Davros and declares he’s going to kill him to save his friend(s)). Or, at least, that’s how the episode wants us to think it’s going to happen. I sense Moffat deception afoot.
- Skaro!!! It’s lovely to see the place again, and it looks amazing. It’s nice to see Doctor Who sojourning to legit alien planets again, after a very earth-bound Series 8.
- I’m really intrigued by the Doctor’s “confession”. This seems like it’s going to be separate from the plot of this story, like it’s going to form part of an overarching narrative of Series 9. Those who’ve read enough spoilers would have a good idea that it has something to do with why the Doctor left Gallifrey in the first place. Which is, not to put too fine a point on it, HUGE.
- The Doctor rocking out with his guitar and his Ray-Bans and his (fish-)tank in medieval England was possibly the coolest thing ever. I didn’t think old Twelvie had it in him. Although I’m not sure I like the Doctor’s new look — too scruffy. The Doctor has the biggest wardrobe in the universe, surely he could find something with fewer holes in it?
- Missy’s entrance was probably just as awesome as the Doctor’s. Oh, Missy, you so fine.
- In a very continuity-dependent episode, I loved all the little touches from the past inserted. Daleks of all shapes and sizes from 1963 to 2015 (thankfully the Tellytubby Daleks weren’t invited). And the playing out of that critical scene from Genesis of the Daleks where the Fourth Doctor agonises over whether to snuff out the Daleks at birth? Pure fanservice.
- One of the few things that annoyed me was how easily the Tardis was shown to be destroyed. This is supposed to be the most indestructible ship in the universe, and it was disintegrated by a stray Dalek laser. How, exactly, did it survive the Time War?
- From the “next time” trailer: did…did Davros just offer the Doctor the chance to kill all the Daleks? With his help? How can I be expected to wait a whole week for this? Oh, gosh, how I’ve missed two-parters.
Okay, so I ended up writing a lot more than I anticipated (approximately the length of one of my proper reviews, actually), but meh. There was a lot to talk about.