by DAVID CRANMER
On a distant planet a soldier notices and goes to assist a terrified young boy running through a battlefield. Unfortunately they have wandered into a sea of creepy hands slowly protruding from the ground. Each hand has an eye on its palm looking for another victim to devour. The boy watches as the soldier is grabbed by his ankle and swallowed underground. A second chance for the kid comes in the form of The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) who describes himself as “Just a passerby. I was looking for a bookstore.” He tosses the kid his sonic screwdriver to communicate better and insists though it’s a 1 in a 1000 chance of survival that “you forget the 1000 and you concentrate on the 1.” But then the boy’s odds further deteriorate when he reveals his name to be, Davros (creator of the Daleks—one of The Doctor’s oldest and most despised enemies).
The Daleks are a very tired and monotonous storyline but Davros himself is not and the main theme of “The Magician’s Apprentice” is an engaging one, “Davros made the Daleks but who made Davros?” The episode ends with the pacifist Doctor, training a Dalek weapon on the young Davros, facing that philosophical stumper: if you had the opportunity to go back in time and kill Hitler when he was an innocent baby to prevent the Holocaust, could you?
Kudos as always to Michelle Gomez who steals every scene as the latest incarnation of the Master. But I would like to see less of UNIT and the corny ‘Earth being held hostage’ storylines. Been down that cliché-worn road a bit too much thanks not only to Who but also the James Bond series. And the planes being frozen in the sky were simply unconvincing.
All in all, “The Magician’s Apprentice” was a strong start for season nine of Doctor Who and expectations run high on how it will be concluded in “The Witches Familiar.”