21 September 2015

Doctor Who S9E1 "The Magician's Apprentice" review

It should be clear to anyone who read my reviews of Doctor Who season eight that I am no 'Whovian', the name that the fandom of Doctor Who refer to themselves as. I haven't really enjoyed watching Doctor Who since David Tennant left the show, my interest only sparked in the show again when it was announced that Peter Capaldi would be playing the newest incarnation of The Doctor. So I stuck with Doctor Who through it's shaky eighth season, always willing to give it the benefit of the doubt and another chance being as it was Capaldi's first run on the show. But after watching "The Magician's Apprentice", this review was nearly titled "Why I won't be reviewing Doctor Who anymore".

The story this time has The Doctor stumbling upon a planet in the midst of a war. On the battlefield, he finds a child in dire need of help - trapped on a small patch of land, booby traps block the scared child's route to safety. But when the child reveals to The Doctor that his name is Davros, he has a rather important choice to make about the fate of the child.

On it's own, that sounds like a really interesting premise for an episode. All the best episodes of Doctor Who are the more self-contained bottle episodes ("Blink" and "Midnight" for example) and the idea of The Doctor contemplating the idea of sacrificing one to save many is interesting. But that isn't the direction that "The Magician's Apprentice" wants to take, solving The Doctor's dilemma before the opening credits have started and instead dealing with the aftermath of that decision, throwing us into a convoluted, confusing and plain unsatisfying waste of time that, as the first half of a two-part episode, doesn't even have any kind of conclusion.

Even if you can deal with the shows inability to get over it's own history and iconography (do we really need Daleks, Davros and The Master/Missy in the very first episode of a new season?), "The Magician's Apprentice" is a bad episode. I don't expect much of Doctor Who anymore (almost every episode since Matt Smith started saw to that), but it is the brazen laziness of "The Magician's Apprentice" that really annoyed me, writing so half-arsed that the episode simply failed to hold my attention for more than a few minutes at a time.

Everything is just so forced, from the hook that gets Clara involved in the story to the reappearance of Missy, who is simply unbearable to watch for more than a minute or so at a time here. I can't really blame Michelle Gomez (the actress who plays Missy) for that one though - her character has no real reason for doing nearly any of the things she does in "The Magician's Apprentice", which makes her feel completely extraneous to the story, and her eccentricity is simply annoying when it feels like she is getting in the way of the story happening.

Chuck in Clara continuing her winning streak of being the blandest assistant The Doctor has ever had and a good 10 minutes or so of The Doctor playing electric guitar on top of a tank in 1163AD (no, I'm not joking) and "The Magician's Apprentice" is one of the worst episodes of Doctor Who I have ever seen, an episode that has done nothing to convince me that season nine will see an increase in quality over season eight thanks to the sheer amount of pandering illogical nonsense fan-wank that it contains. It's actually unbearable how obvious it is that "The Magician's Apprentice" was written just to please the lowest common denominator of fans - "The Doctor playing guitar! Cool! Missy shooting people for no reason! Cool! Daleks and Davros and Ood and The Shadow Proclamation! I recognise all of those things! Cool!".

I've just about got enough patience and hope left in me to tune in for next weeks "The Witch's Familiar", but unless something special happens it could well be the last time I do so. I'm all for second chances, but by my count Doctor Who has had more of those than he has regenerations, and I have a very strong feeling that the show won't be the show I used to enjoy until Stephen Moffat has nothing to do with it anymore.

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