I braced myself for the second part of the series nine opener to fall short of the premiere's excellent build up. My apprehension was quickly put to rest. “The Witch's Familiar” satisfied on many different levels. This means the episode satisfied the most important aspect—it tied up every loose end well. Add in some nods to both recent and classic episodes while striking the balance between drama and humor, and you have a fine beginning to the series.
The revelation begins with the revelation Missy teleported Clara and herself to safety prior to be shot by the Daleks. The Doctor is meanwhile preoccupied with Davros. Excluding a brief interlude in which the doctor steals his chair (Heh) and confronts the Daleks over Clara's unknown to him fate, the doctor and Davros discuss the matters of loyalty to their own people, genocide, and, most importantly, compassion. The conversations allude to several stories of the past. The one sticking out most prominently is the homage to Davros' declaration in “Genesis of the Daleks” he desires the power to commit genocide because it would make him a god. The roles are reversed here, as Davros offers the Doctor the chance to destroy the Dalek race by pulling the plug on the life support system funneling energy from the Daleks into him.
On the outside of the city, Missy comes up with the plan of killing a Dalek and placing Clara inside the shell. This brings to mind Clara’s first appearance when she was a Dalek. We learn quite a bit about Daleks through Clara’s operation of the “tank.” Any emotions expressed by the pilot are verbalized as negative by the Dalek. Negative emotions fire the weapon. Daleks are not supposed to have any emotions other than hatred, by I will let the continuity glitch slide since this set up makes more sense.
There must be a plot twist coming. We cannot have two old enemies bonding over genocides they have each caused. Davros has actually tricked the doctor into using regenerative energy to revitalize the Daleks and himself. But the Doctor knew this and empowered the decaying Daleks in the sewer to come up. They do, and with a blood lust for revenge. Missy nearly convinces the doctor to kill Dalek Clara until he recognizes the concept of mercy in her. In order for Daleks to recognize the concept of mercy, Davros would have to possess the concept as well, so the doctor travels back to when Davros was a boy trapped by hand mines and saves him. So there is the resolution of the cliffhanger scene.
“The Witch's Familiar” was highly entertaining. I enjoyed the mix of drama and humor. It is a bit difficult to swallow the risks the doctor took in defeating Davros' plan, but the implausibility did not kill the story for me. Ditto the continuity issues with Daleks and emotions. Daleks have expressed a desire to be shown pity and mercy in the past. But explanations were satisfactory here, so I just went with it. If there was any weak point, it was Missy. She has good chemistry with Clara, but I can only tolerate her obnoxious behavior in small doses. By the end, I was hoping those Daleks surrounding her would exterminate. It is pretty obvious they did not. Missed opportunity, that.
Rating: **** (out of 5)