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27 September 2015 @ 04:44 pm
The Magician's Apprentice/The Witch's Familiar  
I feel bad about not liking this pair of episodes more, because there was lots in the episodes that I really liked but, taken as a whole, I find myself a bit meh! about them.

I liked the look back to Genesis of the Daleks and, in particular, the re-examination of the Doctor's "could you then kill that child" speech taken from a different angle. I thought it was neat and clever. I'm not sure investing so hard and so specifically in one scene from classic Who was a wise choice for a season opener 40 years after the fact, but then I'm not any kind of an expert in how one appeals to the general Saturday night audience on BBC1. I liked the explicit framing of Clara as Apprentice/Familiar, emphasising the idea that she is far more like the Doctor (and probably by implication Missy) than previous NuWho companions have been, whose role has been to act as a check and balance. It's an interesting, and probably overdue, change to the Doctor/companion dynamic to have one who, if anything, needs to be restrained by the Doctor. I liked the whole theme of friends and enemies and how they relate to each other. All this was good.

I also loved all the other touches and homages, particularly to 1960s Dalek stories: the companion disguised as a Dalek; the set design; the multiplicity of Dalek designs on show. That said, a lot of 12th Doctor episodes have had a very washed out colour palette and this was true here. I'd like to have some more colourful Who back soon.

I would have liked to like Missy more and the interactions between Missy and Clara, but somehow it never quite hit the spot for me. They were kind-of fun and kind-of amusing but I don't find myself gushing about them the way I'm seeing a lot of people online. For me, the interactions somehow missed the mark. I didn't think Clara quite stood up for herself enough, quite challenged Missy enough, and I thought she was particularly ill-served at the end when all she can think to do is to mindlessly repeat "I am Clara" rather than finding some other way around the communication barrier. I can't quite put my finger on what bothered me about Missy, I liked both her obvious concern about the Doctor and her obvious anxiety about what the Daleks were up to, and the way that was contrasted with her genuine disregard for human (and, presumably other) life. I rate Gomez's Master more highly than both Ainley's and Simm's and I liked the step back from out-and-out madnesses they took here so I'm not sure why, ultimately, I feel it fell a little flat. One problem may have been that several times I found it hard to hear the dialogue. I had this problem in some of David Tennant's stories - the background music and sound effects are just loud enough that I can't actually make out what anyone is saying.

But mostly I think what rather killed it for me was that it was a bunch of fun moments and interesting themes and conversations in a big sea of not very much. As has been pointed out elsewhere, both Davros and the Doctor's plans are stupid and convoluted. The resolution is "gloop ex machina", and the ending comes close to suggesting that enemies are, really, enemies and any appearance otherwise is a sham, which somewhat undermines the rest of the episode.

I think I like a lot of the trappings and the themes of the story, but I wish he underlying nuts-and-bolts story-telling had been better.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/172264.html.
wellinghallwellinghall on September 27th, 2015 04:11 pm (UTC)
Your final sentence sums it up for me. I enjoyed playing spot the reference, but would have enjoyed watching a story more.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on September 28th, 2015 09:55 am (UTC)
I sometimes feel bad about insisting on nuts-and-bolts plotting since there are plenty of great works which have egregious plots, but I generally feel you need a lot to get over a bad plot.
wellinghall: Goldiewellinghall on September 28th, 2015 10:04 am (UTC)
Again, I completely agree
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on September 29th, 2015 07:21 pm (UTC)
all she can think to do is to mindlessly repeat "I am Clara" rather than finding some other way around the communication barrier

I liked this story more than you did, but this bit bothered me too. I mean, if she had said, "I teach English at Coal Hill School" would it really have come out as "I teach advanced extermination techniques at Dalek Academy"? Although that whole sequence was so bizarre I wondered if Missy had done some deliberate sabotage.

I have that dialogue problem too, although I suffer more from the fast pace of the dialogue and the pop cultural references that go way over my head.

Still, I generally liked this - it was different and brave to start the season with a quieter, more character-focused story than we are used to getting in that slot. I described it to parrot_knight as a work of genius made out of fifth-rate fanfic. "Genius" was probably putting it strongly, but I did like it, but I also have no idea how Moffat pulled off something that was treading a tightrope for ninety minutes.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on September 30th, 2015 10:13 am (UTC)
NuWho has a difficult relationship, I think,with fifth-rate fanfic. I mean Davies rather triumphantly demonstrated that you can absolutely line the Daleks up against the Cybermen and the general public will lap it up. I suspect the core idea have pretty wide appeal, its just knowing how much background information you can expect the general audience to bring with them, so that they enjoy the ideas as much as the fans.
cynthia2015cynthia2015 on October 1st, 2015 03:38 am (UTC)
Was Clara trapped inside that dalek case?. Why couldn't she open the case herself instead of having the Doctor tell her too?. Was the real reason the Doctor change from a sonic screwdriver to sonic sunglasses was so he wouldn't accidentally get hit in the crotch again?. I can only assume Clara panicked and she only followed Missy instructions because she couldn't think of a quicker way to find the Doctor.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on October 1st, 2015 09:37 am (UTC)
It's not a good story for Clara since the resolution depends on her being panicky and stupid. It's sad, particularly as one of Clara's major flaws highlighted last season was to assume she was absolutely in control of the situation (provided she lied often enough to enough people)

As for the sunglasses - I dunno - they feel like some kind of Chekov's Gun to me, particularly as I see no real reason to replace the screwdriver. My guess would be that a plot point in the season finale is going to revolve around the Doctor's sunglasses and at the end they'll get replaced by the screwdriver again. But that's only a guess.
cynthia2015cynthia2015 on October 1st, 2015 10:43 am (UTC)
Clara is either way too assertive like she is with UNIT, (Kate seemed to be undermined in her scenes). Then Clara becomes incompetent when she's with Missy.
There needs to be consistency or balance with her character.

I remember the Eleventh Doctor wore a pair of thermal imaging sunglasses to detect Silurians in the dark.
I like the sonic screwdriver because the Doctor always had a cool way of flipping or tossing it around. I did notice the Twelfth Doctor didn't really do this, maybe it's not his thing anymore. At least the sunglasses won't be associated with innuendo like the screwdriver was in "The Day of the Doctor".
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on October 1st, 2015 08:23 pm (UTC)
Clara has in general been poorly served by scripts. I thought things were looking up in series 8, but she was all over the place in series 7, and her characterisation seems quite confused again here.