Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Doctor Who: The Gallifrey Times Team Reviews The Witch's Familiar

WARNING: This post contains spoilers for The Witch's Familiar.

Saturday night saw the opening two-parter wrap up with a story that saw living Dalek sewers, the first meeting between Missy and Davros and the controversial introduction of the sonic sunglasses. What did our team make of it? Read on to find out:

Louis (Editor)

After a stellar series premiere, The Witch's Familiar certainly had a lot to live up to - but, thankfully it lived up to its predecessor, and then some. The scenes between the Doctor and Davros were some of the most fascinating, thought-provoking and often moving scenes between the Doctor and a villain in an awfully long time, backed up by superb performances from Peter Capaldi and Julian Bleach and acting as a neat reminder that Steven Moffat can nail simple, deeply emotional material. Missy and Clara made a fun pair, too, with Missy acting as an entertainingly unstable rogue element who could betray anyone at almost any point - as before, Michelle Gomez is an insane delight, and the indication that Missy will make a comeback in the near future is an encouraging one. There might have been a few niggles, such as the tonally inconsistent opening ten minutes and the slightly toe-curling introduction of the sonic sunglasses (the BBC really wanted a new toy, didn't they?), but this was a worthy successor to The Magician's Apprentice, capping off a supremely confident start to the season. 9/10

Ben (Assistant Editor)

When it comes to two-parters, the second half can often be a disappointment. With so much excitement building up in the first half and having to wait a week to see what comes next, expectations are too high and the episode doesn’t always deliver. However, The Witch’s Familiar did deliver. Whilst The Magician’s Apprentice introduced hand-mines, The Witch’s Familiar gave us Dalek sewers and an explanation behind Dalek vocabulary - disturbing ideas that add another level of craziness to the Daleks, proving that even after 50-odd years, there are still new ideas and the characters are still being developed. There was also the scene that we’ve all waited so long to see, with the Doctor stealing Davros’s chair. Whilst comic elements like this aren’t always well received by fans, it made me chuckle. The only disappointment in this episode was ‘Good Davros’, whose joking around - whether real or not - was an unwelcome twist for the character, whilst the revelation of his real eyes completely spoilt it for me. Although it was relevant to the plot, I felt it made him look too human and lost some of that eerie maniacal charm that made Davros so insane and brilliant. Overall, the episode was a strong second-parter with a lot of good elements that have made both the Doctor and the Daleks more interesting. Still not keen on Missy though. 9/10

Owen (Instagram & News)

Silly scenes seem to creep in occasionally ruining the eerie tension rising, but The Witch's Familiar is a near elegant piece of drama, the connections between two characters are almost too good for the melodramatic usual standard of Doctor Who. Capaldi (obviously) stunned, Bleach once again showed us how brutal and rich of a villain Davros is, Coleman encrypted us back into Oswin and Gomez just showed us exactly why she's a vital asset (cheeky) to this show. Severely well written, and dark in it's roots, the episode never failed to match it's predecessor's quality - actually, out-performing it in terms of sincerely, slight but incredibly strong moments that continue to bring Series 9 into very original spotlights, shedding lights on the beauty under the style of the show - the real, emotive and sensitive substance. 9.5/10

Andrew (News)

I feel very guilty for having approached The Witch’s Familiar with an aspect of cynicism, maybe stemming from the sense of fear I got seeing how the viewing figures for the opening episode had caused such wild headlines of doom, not least from the BBC. My bad though, the only concern for me is that it’s an episode that HAS to be watched twice. Michelle Gomez portrays Missy, the Doctor’s deranged best friend, flawlessly, making the character totally believable as she tries in her own way to save the Doctor. Jenna Coleman too gave an extremely strong performance depicting the anguish and sorrow of frustrated emotion whilst encased in Dalek technology. Julian Bleach as Davros is breathtaking, expertly capturing the illusion of emotions coming from a dying old man who has become chillingly versatile in orchestrating deceit (complete with crocodile tears). It was great to see Capaldi play the Doctor on top of his game having thought through the whole trap. The key thread is the Doctor’s compassion, by the end of the episode we see this compassion generate the mercy registered in Davros’ mind when he is saved as a boy on the battlefield. This was the Doctor having a change of heart, one that helps ease his shame. On the downside there is a lot of confusion in the episode. The fact Davros is seen handling the Doctor’s sonic as a private trophy must be a timey wimey thing going back again to the question of how the young Davros survives the battlefield. And please, enough of the high tech sunglasses! 8/10

Landon (News)


If there's ever been a great second half to a story in Doctor Who, The Witch's Familiar would have to be it. Full of both humor and emotion, this exciting follow-up to The Magician's Apprentice does not disappoint. The writing and directing of the episode was very well done, the acting - especially by Michelle Gomez (Missy) and Julian Bleach (Davros) - did not fail, and the overall story was a very good series opener. What really did it for me was Davros and his fooling the Doctor into believing he was "good". I must admit that I was convinced that Davros had changed, and was utterly surprised when he was revealed to still be his classic evil self (which I think we were honestly all hoping to happen). What I think the big point was, however, was "Always mercy". Just as the Doctor said, no matter if you are friends or enemies, always show mercy. This plot introducing mercy to Davros was just another great example of Moffat's writing. Along with the many other highs of the episode (for example: Clara inside the Dalek, the Dalek "sewers",) The Witch's Familiar proves to be an excellent successor to the series opener, as well as one of the best Dalek stories in Doctor Who, and as one of Capaldi's best episodes thus far. 9/10

Patrick (News)

The Witch's Familiar on its own, away from the shackles of a two parter, stands tall. Even with the the inevitable survival of Clara and Missy, momentum from The Magician's Apprentice makes the trip relatively unscathed, as does the narrative strength . Even writer Steven Moffat appears to throw no punches, opening up directly with Clara and Missy outside Skaro. This immediate continuation instantly builds a bridge between both episodes, something previous two parters such as The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon lacked, often to the detriment of the episode's pacing. It is refreshing to witness a series opener that tries something different structurally. The scenes featuring Capaldi and Bleach are undoubtedly the greatest of both the episode and the two parter, acted to perfection, switching from anger to sympathy to anger in an instant. Whilst Davros's sincerity will come under much scrutiny as the series progresses, within this scene alone Bleach extracts such sorrow and sadness beneath that decaying prosthesis, enough to nearly shed a tear from this one. The goo Daleks on the other hand are a horrific creation, a silly one but nonetheless disgusting. Their revenge against the Daleks above is one of the weaker elements of the episode; it is hard to take seriously goo rising from underground to destroy a city. Nevertheless, The Witch's Familiar is a terrific conclusion to Series 9's opening arc. Here the writer's narrative muscles have truly been flexed in ways never seen on Doctor Who before, brave to push the story in different directions and play with characters in new lights. Missy is still deliciously evil, Clara still ever so courageous and faithful and The Doctor still dark and harsh, but new dimensions have been revealed on Skaro, funny ones and charming ones. The Witch's Familiar does not end on the strongest note, or the most unpredictable which ultimately weakens the episode's finely woven narrative strands, yet with more two parters to come, if Moffat and co. can continue what has been accomplished with Series 9's opening, we could be in for a special series indeed. 9/10

Our team's average totals out at 8.92/10, just a little behind The Magician's Apprentice. Here's our (admittedly short) team leaderboard so far:
  1. The Magician's Apprentice - 9.25/10
  2. The Witch's Familiar - 8.92/10
We should have a spoiler-free review of Under the Lake this week, and our spoiler-filled team review should be with you next Monday!