Sunday, September 27, 2015

Doctor Who--"The Witch's Familiar"

       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)

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Doctor Who--"The Magician's Apprentice"

       I had to blow off some serious dust bunnies and knock down quite a few cobwebs, but my television review blog is up and running again. If you have not been following the drama that has been my life for the last couple years, do not fret. You have not missed anything but a sob story of bad soap opera proportions. You have no interest in such drivel. You want to read about the latest science fiction offerings from the idiot box. I can accommodate. A new series of Doctor Who is a fine motivation.
       It has been a while since I have watched Doctor Who. Life, such that it was, got in the way of finishing up seris eight. I fully intend to review the episodes I have missed up until this point. But there is no way I could hold off on beginning series nine while I reviewed all those. They will eventually show up. Look for them backdated in order somewhere behind this review in the near future.
       Because I have only seen the first two episodes of series eight, Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor is still new to me. He has certainly settled into the role from those first cuple episodes last series. His version echoes classic incarnations of the doctor more than any of the new series. He is more alien, with an air of sinister to him. It is that sinister vibe about him that makes the moral dilemma the doctor faces in 'The Magician's Apprentice” so compelling.
       The episode begins on an alien battlefield upon which a young boy has been trapped by a hand mine. Hand minds are hands will eyes on their palms which grab a victim and drag him under ground. The doctor comes to the boy's rescue—at least until he learns the boy's name is Davros. What action did the doctor take upon discovering the child before him would one day grow up to create the murderous Daleks?
       We do not find out until narly the end of the episode. In the interim, we have the Doctor missing with everyone from Clara, Missy, and UNIT to Davros' minion Colony Starff looking for him.  Missy has been given the doctor's last will and testament, meaning he expects to die within 24 hours. Davros is also dying. He wants to spak to his old enemy a final time. Everyone discovers the doctor inventing rock and roll in medieval Essex. Hr agrees to visit Davros. But the daleks intervene, apparently killing Clara and missy, as well as destroying the TARDIS. It is then revealed the doctor did save davros from the hand mine as a child. Was his compassion a mistake? The doctors appears to think so, as the episode ends with him traveling back to that time on Skaaro and apparently killing Davros himself.
      “The Magician's Apprentice” manages to avoid what might be two weak plot elements. The firt is the obvious parallel to the philosophical question of if you could travel back in time to kill Adolf Hitler as an innocent child before he clead the Third Reich, would you have the ethical right to do so/ The episode skips this by tying the question of saving Davros into the moral dilemma th fourth doctor faced in “Genesis of the Daleks” when he decided he could not commit genocide, even if it was of the Daleks, before they committed their atrocities. The second point is probably more my opinion than anything else, but was anyone else unnerved at Missy attempting to get attention by freezing every airplane over Earth with the possibly intention of ramming them into area where they would do the most damage? Yes, UNIT was only speculating on the plan, but still. Eight days after the fourteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is not the best time to see such a plot. Your mileage may vary.
       I give high praise to “The Magician's Apprentice.” It had me hooked from the beginning, and kept me on the line until the end in spite of both the Doctor enjoying relatively little screen time and the Daleks taking front and center yet again. I have wanted davros to return as a more menacing villain since his all too brief appearance in the final two episodes of the fourth series. Clara is still one of my favorite new series companions. I like the toucher companions who have not romantic interest in the Doctor. If there is any flaw, it is how annoying Missy is. As I said above, I have not seen most of series eight. Perhaps I will like her more once I have seen the large role she has already played. But for now, she does nothing more than obnoxiously chew up scenery. She is not my cup of tea. But I am lookng forward to part two next week.
Rating: **** (out of 5)