Doctor Who Season 9 Premiere: "The Magician's Apprentice" Recap (Spoilers)

The episode opens in the middle of a war fought with differing levels of technology, ie, aircraft vs bow and arrows, which is very reminiscent of The Hunger Games.  One of the soldiers notices a little boy stuck in an area that’s full of “hand mines”.  Get it?  It’s a funny little play on “land mines” only it’s “hand mines”, only wait, no, there’s nothing funny about it at all because hands come up out of the ground and drag you down to your death, which is actually a little terrifying.  Oh, and the palms of the hands have eyes on them, similar to the guy from Pan’s Labyrinth.

The soldier gets pulled underground and that’s the last we see of that guy, so now we have the point of view of the child, who is in the middle of a field of hands, and he’s pretty much done for.  Of course, it’s at this point the Doctor shows up, tosses the kid his sonic screwdriver, and gives him a pep talk.  The Doctor asks the kid his name, and he tells him it’s Davros, his longtime enemy and creator of the Daleks, and the Doctor proceeds to immediately freak out.  I guess there was no chance it was a case of mistaken identity (“Oh no, that’s Davros Jones.  I’m Davros Smith.”), and there’s only one Davros in all of time and space.  Ok, that’s just me being nitpicky because I know it’s the same Davros, you know it’s the same Davros, and the Doctor knows it’s the same Davros.

Then the opening credits roll.  All this stuff is in the cold open.

We come back to a robed, hooded, snake-like creature going through time and space asking people where the Doctor is, saying Davros has a message for him:  “Davros knows.  Davros remembers, and the Doctor must face him one last time.”  The Doctor is hiding at one of the places and gets the message.

Back on Earth, Clara is teaching class when she notices a plane frozen in the sky.  She has her students get on social media to be part of the conversation over the frozen planes, and she leaves to consult with UNIT.

Clara meets up with the head of UNIT, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, but not before Kate gets to say the line,”Tell the President I’ll call him back”, thus establishing how important she is.  Clara, Kate, and an as of yet unnamed UNIT scientist (if she has a name, I apologize – I didn’t catch it) discuss the frozen plane phenomenon.  After the obligatory and obvious “This is beyond human technology” line buy the scientist lady, Clara deduces that someone is trying to send a message, but who?

Then a message comes through the Doctor’s private channel, which he never uses.  It turns out it’s Missy, who isn’t dead after all, which is explained by, well, a non-explanation.  Missy reveals she’s the one behind the planes being frozen and arranges a meeting with Clara.

Missy and Clara, accompanied by several teams of UNIT agents, meet at an outdoor cafe.  The agents hang back and Clara sits at a table with Missy, and Missy reveals to Clara the Doctor’s confession dial, which, per Time Lord custom, is sent to a Time Lord’s closest friend on the eve of their final day, with the closest friend being Missy, and the day in question being the current day.  

Because of this, Missy has been looking for the Doctor, but hasn’t had any success in finding him, so she wants to use Clara and UNIT to find find the Doctor.  Clara then asks Missy if she’s supposed to believe that Missy has turned good now, although why Clara even thought that’s what Missy was trying to convey is a little beyond me, you know, with the whole freezing the planes thing.  Since there weren’t any puppies around to kick, Missy murders two UNIT agents to reassure Clara that no, she in fact is not “good”.

Together they come to the conclusion that the Doctor is somewhere on Earth, but exactly where and when is what they need to find out, which they do using a UNIT algorithm.  Once this is discovered, Missy transports herself and Clara to that time and place – medieval England.

There’s some type of event going on in an arena, where a challenger with an axe is preparing to face the reigning champion, the “Magician”.  It’s revealed that the Magician is none other than the Doctor (shocker!), and he rides in on a tank and playing an electric guitar.  

The Doctor gives a rambling speech, as the Doctor generally does, and when he notices Clara and Missy, he calls them down into the arena and introduces them to the crowd.  In the middle of this, the snake guy from earlier in the episode shows up and demands that the Doctor come with him to see Davros.  Initially the Doctor refuses, but the snake guy threatens the lives of the people there, so the Doctor agrees to go as long as no one gets hurt.  Against the Doctor’s wishes, Missy and Clara volunteer to be taken captive as well, so the snake guy takes them too.

It’s revealed that the arena challenger with the axe had been converted into one of the humanoid disguises for the the Daleks, and he finds the TARDIS, which the Daleks then confiscate.

The Doctor, Missy, and Clara get taken to a space station/hospital type place, because apparently Davros is dying.  The snake guy drops Missy and Clara off in a prison cell area and takes the Doctor to see Davros.

While the Doctor and Davros are chatting about life, mortality, philosophy and generally catching up like old friends, Missy realizes that they’re not on a space station, but on a planet instead.  She opens the door and her and Clara walk out into what seems like empty space, but as they adjust to their surroundings it becomes clear that Missy is correct, and they are on a planet, but not just any planet – Skaro, the planet of the Daleks, believed to have been destroyed.  Missy is surprised, and for the first time, seems a little horrified by this, and the Doctor, who has been viewing this with Davros, is even more horrified.

The Doctor and Davros continue to watch as Missy and Clara are recaptured by the Daleks, and brought into a room where they are keeping the TARDIS.  Missy tries to make a deal with the Daleks, telling them she can help them use the TARDIS to go through time and space to carry out their agenda of mass extermination.  However, the Daleks really don’t care about any of this and seemingly kill Missy.  Then Clara.  Then the TARDIS.

The episode ends back where it began – with little boy Davros in the field with the “hand mines”, with the Doctor reappearing.  Only this time, he has what appears to be a Dalek gun/cannon thing, with the apparent intention of “exterminating” Davros, before any of this ever happens.  What’s next?  We’ll find out next week!

Tony P. Henderson

Tony P. Henderson is a well traveled army brat who loves comedy and geek culture. After a stint in Los Angeles testing video games, performing comedy, and background acting Tony moved back to Georgia and hasn’t missed a Dragon Con since.

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