Doctor Who: Series 9 Episode 1 “The Magician’s Apprentice (Part 1)” Recap

doctor_who_series 9x01

Quick Impressions on Doctor Who S9 x 1 (Full Spoilers Ahead)

Doctor Who Series 9 kicked off with a super solid episode. Before I get into what I liked and a couple of things that didn’t work in the premiere, you should know, I’m diving into this series with little knowledge of series 8. I know this is a weird place to start watching again, although I have watched series 5. 

Since I haven’t been following Doctor Who on a regular basis, one of the big questions is whether this premiere is strong enough to hook me in for the rest of the series. I will say that Missy and Clara won me over pretty quickly, so I to want to see how they return after being vaporized. For me, Missy is a scene stealer. It’s fun to see what she’ll do or say next. And the interactions between Missy and Clara, particularly at the patio table with the snipers surrounding them was one my favorite parts of the premiere.

Here’s what I think made the cold open stand out. I liked how it dropped the viewer into a battle scene and made me try to figure out what’s going on. The hand mines is a cool concept which references Pan’s Labyrinth creature designs. When the soldier with the bow tries to play the hero but gets swallowed up, it sets up a great moment for the Doctor to save the day … which is then subverted into something darker.

I like idea of exploring the darker side of Doctor Who. Whereas Missy clearly resents being asked “are you good now?” by Clara and then proceeds to vaporize two security guards, we are getting to see that the Doctor doesn’t stand at a fixed position on the spectrum of good and evil. By the end of the episode, we see why the Doctor went from leaving the Davros boy to die in a mine field to coming back later to exterminate the kid himself. The episode did a good job of building up to this cool cliffhanger in a way that felt earned and really has us contemplating what the Doctor will do. Since we didn’t see the Doctor actually kill the boy, I’m wondering if the writers will throw in another curveball.

Of course not knowing much about Doctor Who’s arch enemies, the reveal that the boy was the creator of the Daleks was lost on me. I imagine it was an awesome moment for those in the know. If the Doctor had saved the boy back then, maybe all the tragedies could have been averted. I think this goes into classic storytelling, which I like, where the hero protagonist is the one who created his or her own worst enemy. 

Doctor Who Series 9 Missy

This is my first viewing with Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. I think he handles the darker and more intense emotional scenes really well.  To be honest though, the scenes where he’s supposed to be a little zany eccentric cool didn’t land as strongly. Which is a shame because playing guitar on top of a tank in a shroud of fog, should have made for an epic entrance. It also didn’t help that the medieval set didn’t look authentic.

The opening episode to Doctor Who Series 9 didn’t hold back at all. There were plenty of big reveals such as the Planet of the Daleks to neat little concepts like the planes frozen in mid-air. I should also mention the make up and effects for Colony Sarff is on point. While I’m interested in how far Steven Moffat is willing to go with the darker side of Doctor Who, I think more scenes featuring Missy would be the bigger reason for me to continue watching. 

What did you like or dislike about this episode? Do you like Missy or do you find her annoying?

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Posted on September 20, 2015, in Television, TV Reviews and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. Missy is awesome. The Master and Davros are The Doctor’s two biggest single arch enemies. His true enemies are entire races of evil beings (Cybermen, Daleks). Last season we meet Missy, short for Mistress, female for Master. That’s the coolest thing about Missy. That she’s the Master in a female body. A close second is Michelle Rodriguez, who is awesome in the role. (side note… I loved her in The Brink. She plays an antiques poacher and is hysterical) The word is that she’s a regular this season but Moffat’s crew is notorious for misinformation. Best part about the guitar playing is that Peter Capaldi used to be in a band with Craig Ferguson and actually plays guitar. But the scene is supposed to be The Doctor trying to have forced fun before he dies when he can’t. It’s very forced and is supposed to feel that way. I’m glad you liked the episode. I liked your review with fresh eyes and it actually made me like the episode more. I initially thought there was too much going on. Three of his archenemies. All of his friends, etc. However, I trust in Moffat. And I know that every little throw away part will have significance later in the season. That’s my favorite thing about his time as Doctor Who Showrunner and head writer. He’s the king of the callback. Sometimes even seasons later. Hope you keep watching.

    • That would be awesome if Missy is a regular this season. I remember there were fans that wanted a female Doctor, even though the show didn’t go that route it’s cool about the Master. She’s a great actress, I don’t think I’ve seen her in anything before. I was wondering as I was watching if Capaldi knew how to play guitar, that’s a cool factoid. Maybe if I’d seen series 8 and was familiar with this Doctor beforehand it would have worked better for me. I don’t know much about the Whovian lore so it’s good that you pointed out some key things. I like that you mentioned about the fresh eyes, that’s what I was going for in this post. Tonnes of stuff dropped in this ep, it’ll be interesting how this will come back and tie back together. I’ll definitely check out the second part of this premiere and take it from there.

  2. Great review. Missy is an awesome character. I think people should give S8 a chance. There are some really awesome episodes in that series which really play to Capadi’s strengths in terms of exploring a “darker” doctor. Some people felt S8 was uneven but I really enjoyed the subtle and quieter moments in comparison to say David Tennant’s Doctor who was more like an action man. Anyway back to S9 – what a way to kick start the series! Call me excited. As a fan of the series, the episode was perfect and had a bit of everything – a bit of Russell T Davies, darker elements from S8, a bit of Star Wars/Harry Potter, remembrance of the past Doctors and a guitar playing Doctor. It was a bit mad but it certainly paid off. Can’t wait for the next episode. I still trust Moffat.

    • Thanks a lot! Great to hear you’re a fan of Missy, she is awesome and I like that’s she unpredictable. I plan to eventually catch up on S8, I think I left off at half way through S6. I also heard that S8 was uneven, I’m okay with that as long as there are some awesome episodes like you mentioned. There’s was a lot of stuff going on in this premiere and I didn’t get as lost as I thought I could have been, having never watched S8.

      • Trust me, there’s some awesome episodes in S8 – look out for The Mummy on the Orient Express, Flatline and Deep Breath. Those are some of my favourites. S8 reminded me of old school Doctor Who which is why I’m loving Capaldi so much. Watching him and then looking back on Matt Smith (although I do love his incarnation), almost feels like a person going on a gap year in comparison to the darker themes explored in S8 and potentially S9. S8 is still worth it in my opinion and Missy does get a great intro throughout the series (although at the time when it was unclear who Ms Gomez was playing I thought she was the Rani – long overdue character which I would love to see back on screen).

        • I’ll be sure to check out those episodes and the rest of S8 eventually. I’ve actually watched half of S7 too. The order I watched depended on which DVD’s I could get my hands on but then other shows took my interest so I haven’t finished S6 & S7. Matt Smith was the first Doctor I started watching and I liked his take. I haven’t seen the earlier Doctor series but I can imagine Capaldi is reminiscent of the old school. Seeing the intro to Missy is another reason that S8 piques my interest. Since they brought back Davros, maybe they’ll bring back Rani some day (whoever she is) :).

          • Understandable. I still think Matt Smith’s best season as the doctor was S5. S7 was all over the place and it didn’t help with the UK broadcast where the season was split in two. S6 suffered in the same way but at least the storyline arc was handled better. Capaldi is amazing and last night’s episode was proof positive of how good he is and how brilliant the start of S9 has been.

            The Rani – female renegade Time Lord. Hopefully they can fit her in, in some capacity 🙂

            • Matt Smith’s take on the Doctor got me interested in the show when I first watched S5. Then Time of the Angels blew me away. There’s always great episodes among the lesser ones. I’ll have to watch more of Capaldi before I can form my own thoughts on his Doctor. Rani sounds interesting, I can see why now you might have thought Missy was her.

              • If they ever brought back the Rani, would love Gillian Anderson to play her 🙂

                Let me know what you think of Capaldi as the Doctor.

                • Gillian Anderson is terrific, looking forward to seeing her again in the X-Files revival. I wouldn’t doubt she’d be great as Rani but I don’t know much about that character.

                  Having watched 2 eps now, I can’t say that I’m blown away by Capaldi. But he’s not bad at all. I do think when he has to react against green screen it’s a little noticeable. If I watch some of the classic Doctor Who, I might appreciate his take more. 🙂

  3. I just finished watching the previous season on Netflix and I’m excited for the new one. I like Capaldi’s Doctor so far. He seems darker than Matt Smith, and while I loved Matt Smith as the Doctor, the nice thing about having different actors in the role is that they each bring something new to the series. I’m looking forward to seeing where the story goes this season.

    • That’s great that you caught up on last season and are ready in time for the new one. I haven’t seen S8, but I hope to eventually catch up. I totally agree about each actor bringing something different to the role, it’s interesting to see what the actor and writers do. Everyone seems to like the premiere of the new season, let’s see where it goes from here!

  4. You should definitely go back and check out series 8, it’s uneven but there are some decent episodes – especially the two part finale. The reveal that the boy was Davros and they were on Skaro (the Daleks’ homeworld) was a massive nerd buzz. Davros is one of the Doctor’s biggest foes and his dilemma here harkens back to the dilemma Tom Baker’s Doctor faced in the classic 70’s serial “Genesis of the Daleks”. Loved it!

    • I’ll be sure to check out series 8 eventually, I have a huge backlog of shows I’m trying to keep up with, on top of new shows that suck me in. 🙂 If I had known more about the Whovian history, those reveals would have landed bigger for me but I can totally see them being awesome moments for long time fans. All the more reason to catch up on the older series!

  5. Oh dear GOD!!

    I have been so busy I didn’t even notice that new episode of Doctor Who is already aired 😦
    I didn’t read your post because I don’t want to be spoiled 😉

    Will watch it first then read yours

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