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The Witch’s Familiar: The Only Other Chair on Skaro

"So why am I tied up?"
“So why am I tied up?”

The action starts right after last week’s cliffhanger “The Magician’s Apprentice“, where it looked like Clara and Missy were killed by Daleks. As it turns out, Missy faked their deaths with a Vortex Manipulator/Sonic Screwdriver hack. Introduced in this episode, it comes off as the deus ex machina plot bailout from the Russell T. Davies era. Steven Moffat pulled similar solutions from nowhere in “The Big Bang,” and “The Impossible Astronaut“.

The suspension bondage scene, however, hinted at Clara’s adrenaline addiction. Briefly hinted at last season, it gets a bit more definition in “Under the Lake.” Clara thinks nothing of waking up in classic Wonder Woman predicaments.

Get Out!

The red and gold Dalek is like Iron Man insecurity: a wounded, frightened nerd hiding in super powered armor. Dalek armor was orginally designed as protection from radiation, which came from their civil war with the Thals. This distinction is lost on most Doctor Who writers, who portray Daleks as generic sci-fi killer robots.

It was nice seeing humans stoop under doorways ergonomically designed for Daleks.

Seeing the Doctor in Davros’ chair was terrific, but Moffat cheated us of seeing how he did it. Did the Doctor forcibly yank him out, like Mr. Pink’s carjacking scene in Reservoir Dogs? If so, Twelve is the most two-fisted, film noir Doctor ever.

Daleks Have Sewers?

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How does Clara fall 20 feet with no broken bones? How does Clara get out of that goopy Dalek suit without one stain? If you even think “just accept it,” I will jump through this computer or mobile device and punch you in the nose.

Missy’s in complete control, but even she initially freaked out when she found out she was on Skaro. Her scenes aren’t written well enough to tell if her sense of security comes from superior knowledge or delusional insanity. There simply aren’t enough calm moments in Michelle Gomez’s performance to judge. Like John Simm, she plays the homicidal Time Lord like Jack Nicholson’s Joker: a hammy, bloodthirsty cartoon. These funny-but-senseless scenes could be in an Avengers movie.

By the way, I’m not slamming the actors. Their performances are guided, controlled, and defined by the showrunners.

The Dalek graveyard is another deus ex machina plot device. Without it, Missy and Clara would have been killed by the living sewers of Skaro. I’m beginning to think this episode was ghost-written by Rose “Bad Wolf” Tyler.

I can’t stand the Doctor’s begging for Clara’s life, especially in context of Dalek’s killing and prison camps. It is, however, consistent with Doctor Who history. Jo Grant, Sarah Jane, both Romanas, Nyssa, Tegan, Peri Brown…even Mel got desperate pleas! Perhaps emotional connections to Earthlings shield him, and us, from typical Time Lord traits of detachment and violence.

For a witch’s familiar, Clara’s really frightened. She came off as a dominatrix last season. How is this “I’m going to die” moment any different than the others she’s faced since “The Bells of Saint John?”

Tonight, We Entrap a Time Lord

“You keep saying that; you keep not dying” reminds me of Hyman Roth in Godfather II.

When did Davros become such a smooth talker? It had to happen sometime after “Journey’s End.” Moffat seems to be confusing him for the Roger Delgado era Master. If Davros’ original plan was “tearing the Doctor apart to take his regeneration energy,” why did he waste all night stroking the Doctor’s compassion? Davros can only see compassion as a cancer.

The “we’re both the same” moral ambiguity reminds me of older, better examples. The theme was executed with more nuance by Alan Moore (Batman: The Killing Joke ,) John Woo (The Killer, Bullet in the Head, Hard Boiled), Hayao Miyazaki (People of the Desert,) and just about any Toshiro Mifune/Akira Kurosawa film film.

The Doctor’s counter-plot isn’t any more convincing. He’d have died if Missy didn’t free him, oozing his new regeneration cycle on Skaro. Perhaps Moffat earned his cliffhanger serial writing degree from Republic Pictures.

I’m Helping a Little Boy I Abandoned on a Battlefield

Aside from seeking personal redemption by saving the cute white kid, how is maiming a bunch of Handmines humane? This is a 180-degree turn from understanding others. This also points to the Doctor’s hypocritical stance on revising one’s personal history. This is the same guy that lectured Rose Tyler about fixed points in time in “Father’s Day?” The Monk from “Time Meddler” looks better every day.

Stray Thoughts

Obviously, I ran out of time last week. Shut up.

  • Only on Doctor Who could sludge be a deadly weapon.
  • The callback to “Asylum of the Daleks” is pretty good.
  • On the Dalek’s concept of mercy, does Moffat even remember his own scripts?
  • “Your sewers are revolting” is a great line.
  • For reasons I can’t reveal yet, the TARDIS Hostile Action Displacement System is brilliant.
  • “The Doctor and Clara Oswald in the TARDIS” is just awful.
  • Does everyone on new Who speak fluent punch-line?

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