The Witch's Familiar
|254b – "The Witch's Familiar"|
|Doctor Who episode|
The two-parter saw the return of the original silver-blue Daleks from 1963.
|Directed by||Hettie MacDonald|
|Written by||Steven Moffat|
|Script editor||David P Davis|
|Produced by||Peter Bennett|
|Incidental music composer||Murray Gold|
|Length||2nd of 2-part story, 50 minutes|
|Originally broadcast||26 September 2015|
"The Witch's Familiar" is the second episode of the ninth series of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It was first broadcast on BBC One on 26 September 2015. It is written by Steven Moffat and directed by Hettie MacDonald. It is the second part of the story, following "The Magician's Apprentice".
In the pair of episodes, alien time traveller the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) battles his old enemies the Daleks and attempts to save his companion Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman). Julian Bleach and Michelle Gomez reprised their roles as Davros and Missy, the current incarnation of the Master, respectively. The episode received critical acclaim, with many praising Michelle Gomez' performance as Missy and the interactions between the Doctor and Davros.
Several different designs of the Daleks from across the series' history reappear in the episode, alongside their creator, Davros, and their home planet, Skaro.
Clara finds herself outside the Dalek city along with Missy, who had rigged their vortex manipulators to make them appear to have died from the Dalek attack, a trick she learned from the Doctor; however, the manipulators have been destroyed. They make their way in through a sewer, which contains a number of decaying and insane Dalek mutants. They discover a Dalek case, and Missy convinces Clara to enter it to help them re-enter the city. Once inside, Clara finds her words are translated into only "Exterminate" or "I am a Dalek". Once they access the city, Missy abandons Clara.
The Doctor does not believe Clara is dead. While confronting Davros and the Supreme Dalek, he is attacked by Colony Sarff and knocked unconscious. When he wakes, he is back with Davros, who is attached to numerous cables that provide life-support to him from every Dalek. Davros tempts the Doctor to kill all the Daleks using the cables, but the Doctor reveals he came to express compassion to Davros having abandoned him as a boy in the past. To give Davros enough life to see the sun rise, the Doctor provides some of his regeneration energy, but this travels through the cables to every Dalek, creating new hybrid forms.
Missy appears and saves the Doctor while killing Sarff. The Doctor, aware of Davros' plan, notes even the insane Daleks will regenerate. They arise and attack the city, seeking revenge. The Doctor and Missy escape and run into Clara, still within the Dalek casing and unable to identify herself. Missy tries to tell the Doctor that Clara was killed, but the Doctor is able to see through her lies, particularly when the "Dalek" asks for mercy. He frees Clara and tells Missy to run. Missy is cornered by a number of Daleks, but states that she just had "a very clever idea".
The Doctor summons the TARDIS, which also had avoided destruction by its automated systems, using his new "sonic sunglasses". As the Dalek city is destroyed, he recalls why the Dalek casing allowed Clara to express a plea for mercy, and realises what he must do. They travel in the TARDIS to the battlefield that young Davros was caught in, and the Doctor uses a Dalek gun to eradicate the "handmines" and escort Davros away. The boy asks which side he fights for, and the Doctor replies it doesn't matter as long as there is mercy.
Missy and Clara teleport out of the city using the energy emitted by the Daleks, revealing how Missy survived after being shot by the Brigadier at the end of "Death in Heaven". The Fourth and First Doctors make brief appearances during Missy's exposition of her account of the Doctor's fight with 50 android assassins.
The scene where Clara is being put into the Dalek mirrors a scene from her debut episode, "Asylum of the Daleks" (2012). A similar tactic was used by Ian Chesterton in The Daleks (1963–64), the first Dalek serial of the original Doctor Who series, and again by Rebec, a Thal, in the Third Doctor serial Planet of the Daleks (1973).
Davros informs the Doctor that he has been given 'the only other chair on Skaro...' This references the first Dalek adventure; the Doctor's companion Barbara comments that on the Daleks' world, 'there wasn't any furniture, now I come to think about it...'
The Doctor lost his original sonic screwdriver when it was destroyed in the Fifth Doctor story The Visitation (1982). It wasn't replaced until the Seventh Doctor produced one in the 1996 Doctor Who movie. It remained a part of the Doctor's arsenal ever since, until this two-part episode.
When Davros tempts the Doctor with killing every Dalek on Skaro, knowingly committing genocide, he asks "Are you ready to be a god?" This echoes the debate the Fourth Doctor has with Davros in Genesis of the Daleks (1975); when the Doctor asks him whether he would knowingly unleash a virus that would destroy all life in the universe, Davros is intrigued at the concept: "Yes... I would do it. That power would set me up above the gods!" It also refers back to the climax of Genesis, when the Doctor agonizes over whether he has the moral right to destroy the newly created Daleks, ultimately deciding against genocide.
Previously, a Hostile Action Displacement System has been referred to as being on the TARDIS. In the Eleventh Doctor story "Cold War" (2013), it caused the TARDIS to leave the area. The system was first used in the Second Doctor story The Krotons (1968–69), also making the TARDIS dematerialize to avoid destruction.
A screening for the opening two-parter took place on 10 September 2015 in Cardiff.
Broadcast and reception
The episode was watched by 3.71 million viewers overnight in the UK, the lowest overnight figure of any episode since the show returned in 2005. The final consolidated ratings were 5.71 million viewers. The lower-than-expected ratings were likely due in part to competition from the England-Wales match in the 2015 Rugby World Cup, which aired the same evening. It received an Appreciation Index score of 83. In America, the episode had 1.12 million viewers on the night.
|Rotten Tomatoes (Tomatometer)||94%|
|Rotten Tomatoes (Average Score)||8.6|
|The A.V. Club||A-|
|New York Magazine|||
"The Witch's Familiar" received critical acclaim, particularity praising Michelle Gomez's performance as Missy and the interaction between the Doctor and Davros. The episode received a score of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 17 reviews, with an average score of 8.6. The site's consensus reads ""The Witch's Familiar" is proof that Doctor Who is back on target, ending the two-part season opener with a revealing, meaningful, and twist-driven conclusion".
Patrick Mulkern, writing for the Radio Times, called it a "shining example" of the series, praising it as "underpinned by emotional intelligence" and noting the "excellent" performances of the four leads in "protracted dialogue scenes that test their mettle and demand audience attention", awarding the episode a full five stars out of five. Michael Hogan of The Daily Telegraph also enjoyed the episode, awarding it four stars out of five, commenting "plenty of twists and a brilliant Missy made for a very fun episode". In particular, he praised Michelle Gomez's performance – "[she] continued to excel as Missy, whirling around dementedly while chewing on dialogue with real relish", and closed his review by summarising that "it packed more ideas into 50 minutes than most shows manage in an entire series".
Scott Collura of IGN also lavished praise on the episode, awarding it a score of 8.9, deemed "great". To him, while the episode "had the deck stacked against it", it succeeded and was "exciting and touching". He praised Missy as a character and her interaction with Clara within the Dalek as "amusing", though "actually quite dark", in addition to acclaiming the dialogue between the Doctor and Davros. Alasdair Wilkins of The A.V. Club responded very positively to the episode, awarding it an A- grade. He especially praised the Doctor and Davros' exchange, finding it "by far the best use the TV series has made of the [latter] character since Genesis Of The Daleks". He also believed having Davros open his eyes "a particularly brilliant touch" and went on to praise the moment as "insightfully written, beautifully shot, and brilliantly acted".
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- Nick Setchfield (26 September 2015). "Doctor Who S9.02 – "The Witch's Familiar" review". GamesRadar+. Retrieved 28 September 2015.
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- Michael Hogan (26 September 2015). "Doctor Who Series 9, Episode 2, The Witch's Familiar, review: 'full of sly wit and surprises'". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 28 September 2015.
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- Lee, Ben (27 September 2015). "UK TV ratings: Doctor Who falls to 3.7 million, as Rugby World Cup dominates with 8.4 million". digitalspy.co.uk. Digital Spy. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
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- "Doctor Who Review: "The Witch's Familiar"". pastemagazine.com.
- Nick Setchfield (26 September 2015). "Doctor Who S9.02 – "The Witch's Familiar" review". GamesRadar+.
- Elizabeth Lang. "Doctor Who". TV Fanatic.
- Kaite Welsh (27 September 2015). "Review: 'Doctor Who' Season 9 Episode 2, 'The Witch's Fam – Indiewire". Indiewire.
- Scott Collura (26 September 2015). "Doctor Who: "The Witch's Familiar" Review". IGN.
- "Doctor Who Recap: Mercy Mercy Me". Vulture.
- Michael Hogan (26 September 2015). "Doctor Who Series 9, Episode 2, The Witch's Familiar, review: 'full of sly wit and surprises'". Telegraph.co.uk.
- Patrick Mulkern. "Doctor Who review: series 9 episode 2 The Witch's Familiar". RadioTimes.
- "The Witch's Familiar". Rotten Tomatoes. 29 September 2015.
- "Doctor Who The Witch's Familiar review: "Michelle Gomez reminds me of a young Maggie Smith"". radiotimes.com. Radio Times. 26 September 2015. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
- Hogan, Michael. "Doctor Who Series 9, Episode 2, The Witch's Familiar, review: 'full of sly wit and surprises'". The Telegraph. Michael Hogan. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
- Collura, Scott. "DOCTOR WHO: "THE WITCH'S FAMILIAR" REVIEW". IGN. Scott Collura. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
- Wilkins, Alasdair. "Doctor Who argues compassion is the best incurable disease". The A.V. Club. Alasdair Wilkins. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
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