open thread: Doctor Who: “The Magician’s Apprentice”


I’m taking a little break (I’ll return on September 28th), and while I may have a chance to watch the Doctor Who Season 9 debut episode, I won’t have time to write about it. So here’s an open thread to discuss it in the meantime.

(I will catch up with blogging about this episode and next week’s episode during the week of the 28th, before the third episode debuts.)

Assume that the comments below are full of spoilers.

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UPDATE: My reaction to the episode is here.

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Sun, Sep 20, 2015 8:39am

I kinda sorta liked it if I just concentrated on the later stuff with Missy and the Doctor and Davros, particularly the last few minutes which zinged the episode back to life. I seem to be in a minority though as I don’t quite think I’ve seen such ecstatic comments from reviewers since Day of the Doctor. Sometimes I do feel like the show has moved on without me.
I still like Capaldi but maybe the guitar and tank might have gone on for a wee bit too long as cute as it was but I can cut him some slack as he’s a much more rounded figure here than in series 8 and one you’d happily hop into the Tardis with. My main problems remain ones which are core Moffat tropes. Most people delight in them, but I just can’t get on board and I think this is my main issue, in other words, I’m the odd one out.
I thought this might have been sorted out with Capaldi’s doctor but we go the quippity quipping instead of actual dialogue which two humans might say, including enigmatic pronouncements which sound deep but make you go huh? when you think about them; the young female protagonist being awesome/saucesome girl (yup I’d put Clara in charge of the defence of the Earth), the older female protagonist being saucy/fruity/suggestive and clearly her sexual frustration must be behind her madness; the constant look at me stuff chucked in for no logical reason (basically a lot of the middle bit leading up to Skaro – to be fair Davies did that too); the random ‘ cool stuff’ to prove Moffat is still down with the in crowd. (I literally cringed on the ‘dude’ line and hated how long and overdone the guitar/tank stuff was – we get it Moffat – this doctor is also ‘cool’); and the Doctor being the mystery himself, rather than solving the mystery. I expect we’ll find out that the Doctor or Clara created Davros and of course, the cliff hanger with no real peril which you know will be sorted out straight after the break (again Davies is not innocent here either).
So, gets a pass and I will bet that most of you who post here will probably like this more than me. Hoping that next week we get more Davros/Doctor chatting and character development and less frenetic jumping from one cool tableau to the next. Ironically, after all of the complaints about the lack of two parters in recent series to help episodes breathe, this might be the case where both parts could have handily fitted into one nice neat clean package if the unnecessary ‘cool’ and ‘awesome’ and self-referencing stuff was cut out. I do wonder what a newbie might have made of all of that! Anyway, I do feel a bit happier this year as Moffat has pulled all of his big shiny tricks straight out of the box, so hoping we get some nice straightforward stuff here on in and maybe for once a finale with personal, rather than global stakes. I do also like Capaldi immensely and admire Michelle Gomez for keeping in character so beautifully.

reply to  Jemcat
Sun, Sep 20, 2015 12:57pm

Yes, I agree that there’s lots of noise and spectacle (signifying nothing) and yes, it was very crowd pleasing. I have to admit that I was one of the crowd, although perhaps the only person on the planet who didn’t get the fish/tank joke. Also, in time travel fiction, the concept of “let’s find the doctor because tonight is the night he is going to die” really has absolutely no meaning whatsoever.

But, exploring the relationships with the Master and Davros seems to be a really valuable and well-executed idea. And what’s not satisfying (narratively speaking) about exploring the implications of the Doctor having a role in the cause of the Time War? These seem really fantastic tentpoles for the episode(s).

reply to  Jemcat
Sun, Sep 20, 2015 1:14pm

“to be fair Davies did that too”

That one line alone deserves great praise, and makes the remaining balanced critique all the more worthwhile to read.

I think you are probably wrong, however, that those who post here will like the episode more than you. Anyone still coming to Doctor Who material on this site is drastically more likely to be attracted to the “criticise Moffat at all costs” side of the Time War. I’m back myself after a long absence, after being told to shut up (to which instruction I obliged), but I’m unlikely to be posting frequently, because it’s difficult to address this topic without bringing up the issue that led to me being told to shut up (which I will not raise again).

As my comments above suggest, however, despite my willingness to enjoy Moffat’s work without feeling the need to blame him for all the world’s ills, I do agree with most of your criticisms. And praise, too. I particularly felt that Michelle Gomez managed to round out her portrayal quite a lot in this episode. I personally didn’t feel any suggestion that sexual frustration lay behind her madness: I didn’t feel sexual frustration from her at all. It felt to me like her banter with Clara was rather based on the assertion that non-sexual relationships can be far deeper than sexual ones. I’m not certain enough about this to get involved in a knockdown Internet fight on it, though.

reply to  Paul
Sun, Sep 20, 2015 7:59pm

I agree with you, and liked Missy’s line about how not everything has to be sexual – particularly given fandom’s catastrophic irrational attraction to “shipping.”

I have never been all that crazy about Missy, but really enjoyed her in
this episode. Michelle Gomez seems to have dialed her performance back a
notch, which serves her and the story better than the utterly manic and
over-the-top version from last season. And she’s written better too – more focus on her as an actual character, and less “Aren’t we being
all cheeky and audacious and outrageous by having a Time Lord
regenerate into a Time Lady?”

All this also made her more believable in the role of ally to the Doctor (though how much truth is in that, we shall see….)

reply to  David_Conner
Sun, Sep 20, 2015 9:54pm

Well, the Delgado Master – and really, having watched his episodes I understand entirely why the old-time fans were so unimpressed with Anthony Ainley – often ended up working with the Doctor against whatever alien menace he’d brought to Earth that week.

reply to  RogerBW
Sun, Sep 20, 2015 10:02pm

Ah, I didn’t realize that was already a thing. I’ve only seen a smattering of the Old Who (basically the smattering of 1st-4th Doctor episodes that are available on Netflix at the moment), none of which have featured the Master.

reply to  Paul
Sun, Sep 20, 2015 10:03pm

Fair enough. Loads of people seem to love this episode to bits and didn’t find it to be as I did, 10 minutes of really powerful and interesting material surrounded by 40 minutes of rather silly and shallow guff which didn’t add markedly to the story. While a bit of guff is good and fine, I think the balance was way off in this one. Looking at next week, I think we’ll get the meat but surely it might have been better to balance it out between the two episodes or make one really tight one. I know Moffat is a master of dialogue (you can literally stop anywhere in his episodes and pull out something rather marvellous) but you also need characterisation and plot to propel the story.
Anyhoos, looking at myself objectively I think what has happened since Day of The Doctor which I actually didn’t like at all (Smith and Hurt were fine but again too much guff and too little meat and Tennant looked as though he had wandered in from the street, had his hair combed quickly, shoved into his old suit, told to parrot his big lines, act saucily, stare vacantly from time to time and just try to keep up with the big boys) is that I have gone from being a ‘fan’ to being the ‘not we’. I’ll still watch the show but like in late series 7 and mid series 8, if I miss an episode I probably won’t search it out.
All signs do point to this being a very good series according to those in the know and I would bet money on Clara actually being dead by the end of the series (and who wouldn’t want to see someone of Peter’s talent doing some good old fashioned emoting). Just not for me but good to see lots of new fans coming on board when this older one is probably stepping off.

reply to  Jemcat
Sun, Sep 20, 2015 1:40pm

…the random ‘ cool stuff’ to prove Moffat is still down with the in crowd. (I literally cringed on the ‘dude’ line and hated how long and overdone the guitar/tank stuff was – we get it Moffat – this doctor is also ‘cool’)

From The West Wing:

Doug: “It’s a simple equation. Bartlet rules America; America rocks; therefore Bartlet rocks.”
Sam: “‘America rocks’?”
Toby: “‘Bartlet rocks’?”
Doug: “Yes.”
Josh: “He really… doesn’t… that much.”

Any time the Doctor has been “cool” in recent years, it was because he was so completely and utterly uncool. (Related: Sales of bow ties in England went up significantly when Matt Smith was on the show.)

I also could have done without the scenes where Missy spoke in Internet slang—not because Moffat was flailing to connect with the young folks in the audience, but because not one of those jokes was funny.

reply to  Danielm80
Sun, Sep 20, 2015 6:20pm

Missy speaking in Internet slang begs the question what slang should a time traveller adopt which raises the question how is she speaking in English anyway because she doesn’t have a TARDIS any more. What’s doing the translating for her?

As a followup, how does the TARDIS translate “dude” to 12th century folk when the Doctor is being deliberately anachronistic?

Mon, Sep 21, 2015 2:16am

I found the episode a ridiculous continuation of last season. I sure didn’t expect to see Missy again so soon. It just felt to me like Moffat didn’t know what else to write so he went with the obvious.
Like some others have said, there was a small amount of good towards the end, surrounded by a bunch of nonsense.

reply to  MarkyD
Mon, Sep 21, 2015 10:41pm

and i hated her hand waving, “too complicated to explain” explanation for being “alive.” moffat does this nonsense all the time — this time he isn’t even giving a ridiculous explanation. obviously, he thinks the fans are idiots. he did the same thing with Sherlock when Sherlock come back from the dead. this was a very frustrating episode. i hate Moffat’s characters now… he did several really really good episodes — and then just bits and pieces. also, really? all of a sudden the Doctor is one day away from dying? on sunday morning, the BBCA showed several episodes from the Tom Baker years. they were just perfect examples of what is missing from moffat’s show running; the were charming, witty, and had a coherant story line that ran all the way through — not necessarily scientifically astounding but at least they were attempting to show the Doctor as a *scientist/adventurer* not a magician, wizard/fantasist. those shows did not treat the audience (remember, originally aimed at *children*) like idiots. there was even a reference in Seeds of Doom where the botanist is playing the organ to his plants, he says it’s his own composition, “An Ode to Linnaeus” — and no explanation given. those of us who got it, got it. those who didn’t — it doesn’t ruin the story line at all. Genesis of the Daleks (which this week’s episode referenced) had a complex moral, ethical and social dilemma with no easy solution. A kids’ show in the 70s and 80s was more complex – and interesting- than the current show. Moffat wants to be all things to alll people and all he has is a big mushy mess. sorry for the long rant.

Sat, Sep 26, 2015 2:58pm

I’m wondering if tonight I’ll find out why Davros was running in the opposite direction to the soldiers – towards whatever they were running away from.