TV Episode Review: “Doctor Who” “The Witch’s Familiar” (09.02, 2015)

Written by Steven Moffat

Directed by Hettie Macdonald

We open this episode with Missy and Clara. Missy tells a story of how the Doctor escaped from robots programmed to kill him by using the energy of their attacks to recharge a teleport. While I enjoy Missy, there’s something very wrong about the way she tells this story: she tells it with an admiration for the Doctor that is unbecoming of the Master. She tells the story the way River Song would tell the story. One can almost hear her clicking her tongue and saying, “That man!” after she explains his escape, which is not the way previous incarnations of the Master felt about the Doctor.

Moffat is obsessed with the idea of characters being so unable to form friendships that their enemies are the people closest to them: Mycroft Holmes introduces himself to John Watson as “the closest thing [to a friend] Sherlock Holmes can have: an enemy,” the Doctor married the psychopath trained to kill him, even Tom Jackman is closer to the evil Hyde within than to any other people. So, it made sense for him to explore the relationship between the Doctor and the Master, his childhood friend who turned into perhaps his greatest enemy. However, rather than really explore that relationship, he has turned the Master into a replacement for River Song. Even changing the Master’s sex seems as much as anything like a ploy to turn him into River. Why get rid of River if you’re just going to turn the Master into her?

All that said, I’ve not stopped enjoying the character. I just wish that Moffat had something better to do with her than turn her into River Song.

The episode from there is pretty predictable. Davros continues to be just a standard issue mad scientist trying to use the Doctor’s nobler emotions against him and the Doctor is just too clever to fall for it (which makes the moment when we’re supposed to believe that he did fall for it a little difficult to swallow). There’s nothing terribly interesting, but it’s reasonably fun enough.

It’s a bit of a dull episode because of its predictability, and Missy has gotten to the point that as fun as she is she really isn’t interesting, but it’s not bad and it’s not one of those episodes that really points to larger problems with the show. Let’s just hope they ahve some better ideas coming.

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