Old Friends, Old Enemies: The Magician’s Apprentice

Honestly, I ask you, can it get any better than this?

In The Magician’s Apprentice, we get to hang-out with the Doctor, Missy, and Clara, teasing poking, and threatening each other, as they are wont to do, while working towards a common goal. Well, Missy and Clara seem to be working together, trying to prevent the Doctor from achieving his goal of tossing his butt upon the Alter of Davros as a shame sacrifice.

The line, re-quoted above, from Genesis of the Daleks is my favorite moment of classic Who. Must admit, some squee may have occurred when I realized what this story was all about. And then to see Tom Baker deliver this catalystic moment in new Who? Once again, I take off my metaphorical hat to you, Mr. Moffat.

Then there are the women. THE WOMEN!


Clara in charge, bossing Kate Lethbridge-Stewart around, threatening to give the command and have snipers take Missy out if she doesn’t stop dicking around, deciding that both she and Missy would be going to see Davros with the doctor as he pursues his mission of martyrdom. Excellent.


Missy, her evil incarnate heart continuing to beat away as she whimsically murders people just to prove she is too still a baddie (!) while simultaneously demonstrating her love for the Doctor in a way we can actually believe. Missy had the best lines in the episode and Michelle Gomez’s delivery was pitch perfect. I could watch Missy all day and be thoroughly entertained.


Kate. What is up with Kate Lethbridge-Stewart? She was dressed in jeans and flannel (flannel?) with her hair up in the  “too busy to do my hair this morning” mom hair twist. Since when is Kate anything but perfectly elegant at work? She appeared to have just come in from her family’s farm. Just to be clear, I am not saying Kate doesn’t have the right to come to work a little messy. It’s just so out of character for her. She also seemed lost and confused. This was definitely not the hyper-prepared woman who brought a left-over Cyberman head with her to arrest Missy just to make her point. I am hoping that distracted Kate is explained in the Witch’s Familiar.

The Doctor
The Doctor? Well, he is STILL confused about himself, isn’t he? But, at least this time we see him actually taking into account the impact he has on the people he meets, struggling with his role and responsibilities after interferes with someone else’s life. The Doctor is feeling shame. Heady stuff, here.

This is a two-parter, and an incomplete story is difficult to analyze. However, I did notice some interesting stuff around relationships and character development.

Clara has most definitely come into her own, which is thrilling. Not only does it make this story more exciting, but I am hoping her clarity and confidence serves to set-up Clara for an equally strong and confident departure from the TARDIS.

Old Friends

At the heart of this episode, which I realize may not hold true for The Witch’s Familiar, are the ancient relationships Clara, Missy and Davros have with the Doctor. It’s kind of like your wedding, when everyone you have known your whole life (or through college, which might as well have been your whole life) is all in the same room together and suddenly you realize there is no where to hide? That is happening for the Doctor a bit.  The Doctor is deeply connected to Clara, Missy and Davros and has been for most of his life.

“I always see your face.” The Doctor’s love for Clara is grounded in the extraordinary risks each has taken to care for the other. While it was somewhat hidden during Series 8, the depth of the Doctor’s connection to Clara as cemented during Series 7 (when he was the Eleventh Doctor), is clearly evident in this episode. Any doubt Clara harbored about her ability to relate to such a changed Doctor is also gone. They are true Mates now.

Again with Missy, the depth of their connection is also more evident than it has been. Perhaps because Missy isn’t psychotic in this incarnation… Regardless, Michelle Gomez does a brilliant job of balancing love and hate (which, really, aren’t they two sides of the same coin?)

Finally, the connection between Davros and the Doctor. No love here, at least not yet. Clearly. these two episodes will serve to flesh out the relationship between the two. Given that the Doctor is meeting Davros as an innocent child, perhaps we will discover that there is love between the two after all.

What do life-long connections mean to us? They ground us. They preserve our history. They remind us of who we used to be, and who we no longer are. They are placeholders in our personal history, anchoring us to moments in time that we have left behind, but want to not forget. Life-long connections create an experience of being known for all of who we are (“I am throwing a party and all of me are invited”) which is so important to the human psyche (and perhaps the Time Lord psyche as well). However, they also scare us  because we can’t hang onto denial with our old friends. They know THAT happened.

Missy, Davros and Clara have seen the Doctor in all or almost all of his incarnations. He is exposed, vulnerable, naked in front of  them. And Davros, uniquely, has seen the Doctor behaving cowardly. I am really looking forward to seeing what that will mean for him.

A Tank?

One final thought…I noticed that tanks are referenced several times. Specifically, the Doctor rides in on a tank before he goes to meet his death. He talks about Davros putting his entire race in tanks.  What are tanks? First, they are used by soldiers. So, the Doctor seems to have gotten over his thing about that. They are used for war, they are hard and scary. They have long guns that shoot and destroy things.  They are invulnerable. Was the doctor looking to shore up the vulnerability created by his sense of shame by outfitting himself with a very, very big gun?

OK-that’s it for this week.  Thanks for reading!


2 thoughts on “Old Friends, Old Enemies: The Magician’s Apprentice

  1. The women do seem to be slightly improved here, although it grieves me that the majority of Missy and Clara’s interactions in The Witch’s Familiar are arguing over the Doctor, etc. etc. Clara does have a thematic subplot, but is inexplicably Missy’s tool the whole time as well, while Missy is yet another rehash of Moffat’s favorite stock character, Sexy Umbridge… I actually really liked both episodes, it’s just when I compare the women’s roles to Moffat’s previous work I see the same problematic things happening. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

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