Doctor Who XXXV/9.2: The Witch’s Familiar
Still no comprehensive account from me; work is even more hectic than it was a week ago. Perhaps this was the reason I found this episode heavy going, while acknowledging the steel joints of its snakes-and-ladders plot and the sigh of relief as some recent developments were explained in a way that made them seem less glib than they had done. Or, perhaps it was the catalogue of violations: the Daleks cast out from their casings to liquefy in the sewers, still living; the Doctor, milked for compassion he freely offers, gently performed but drawing out the audience’s apprehension; and Clara, treated as a disposable tool by Missy, fun to be tortured and used as a torture instrument. I’d feared for Clara during the week – and it’s rare I become that involved in a character’s fate between episodes – because I wondered if some Dalek nanogenes would do their worst. For a while, we seemed to be heading in that direction, with Clara wired into a Dalek in a manner which echoed her pre-introduction in Asylum of the Daleks, though Moffat’s theory of Dalek engineering seems to have changed a little to serve this story. I wondered if a scene dramatising the difficulties of disconnecting Clara from the Dalek was cut; the episode’s flow seemed disrupted.
This was an episode based on four great performances, but it was Michelle Gomez and Missy who seemed to be having the most fun. I particularly liked her Gurney Slade-like gesture at the end of the pre-credits sequence which gave permission for the title music to begin; and if Doctor Who has a series of usually silent narrators, Rose Tyler alone breaking her silence with ‘the last story I’ll ever tell’, Missy’s emphasis on the Doctor’s adventures as mythology and romance suggest that this two-parter has been her tale, down even to our seeing the beginning of her negotiated escape before the city of the Daleks is smothered in sentient effluent; the latter an obvious nod to perceived childhood obsessions, Moffat’s own Curse of Fatal Death and perhaps even the argument of some critics that enduring shared universes emerging from low-status forms (I think Grant Morrison on DC Comics, but others will know better than me about this) become sentient entities in themselves. Perhaps this story has been laid down only to be picked up again in some later form.
After this it’s no surprise Clara wants to return to exciting adventures with monsters: and so next week we get a ghost story for the darkening evenings.