Anyone who watched the new episode of this ninth series (more commonly referred to as “season” by folks who don’t know/understand much about the overall Doctor Who TV saga) knows full well that it didn’t take very long for showrunner Steven Moffatt and his crew to plant their flag in the “OMG” ground. The opening title of the show hadn’t even hit yet, and viewers were already treated to a major bomb being dropped and the promise of a wacky and wild ride to kick off the new slate of episodes. Read on to learn more!
WARNING: What you’re about to read contains spoilers about this episode and possibly other episodes/seasons of Doctor Who. Proceed at your own risk/reward!
RECAP: The opening takes us to a place where Doctor Who spends much of its time making social commentary: a battlefield. During the battle, a child gets lost and wanders into a field of hand mines (no misspelling here, it is literally an expanse of hands coming up from the ground, with an eyeball in the palm, waiting to grab any passersby and brag them underground). The Doctor swoops in to try and save the day, as he is wont to do, but he’s hit with a moral dilemma when he learns the boy’s name: it’s none other than Davros, creator of the Daleks and one of the Doctor’s all-time nemeses.
We quickly learn that the decision the Doctor made on that fateful day is echoing throughout his personal timeline in many ways – in addition to the whole universe-conquering race of evil R2-D2 ancestors, that is. Creepy bad guy Colony Sarff is on the galactic hunt for the Doctor, and his message is clear: “Davros knows. Davros remembers.” After searching some of the Doctor’s usual haunts and coming up empty, Sarff decides to go right to the source: he uses Missy, aka the feminized version of The Master, to launch an Earth-bound crisis in order to involve Clara – the two people in all the universe who likely know the Doctor the best – to help solve the mystery of where the Doctor has gone.
With some help from Kate Stewart and UNIT, the Doctor is found: he’s been hiding out for a few weeks in medieval Earth times, supposedly “meditating” but seemingly just mucking about in the timeline, showing the locals a tank, an electric guitar, and teaching them to say “dude” several centuries too early. But why is he there? He has sent a Confession Dial – the Time Lord equivalent of a last will and testament – to his “closest friend…” Missy, which understandably miffs Clara a bit. More to the point, Confession Dials are only sent, per Gallifreyan tradition, on the eve of a Time Lord’s final day of existence, so, y’know… pretty serious stuff. Sure enough, shortly after Missy and Clara arrive in medieval times to connect with the Doctor, Colony Sarff shows up and takes them all, in captivity, to see Davros on a “cloaked planet.”
The Doctor seems resigned to his fate being that of whatever Davros would like to do with him – but it seems that Davros, in his old age, has acquiesced his control to the larger group-think. In the big reveal, we see that The Doctor – along with Missy and Clara, who have found their way onto the planet’s surface – is on Skaro, the homeworld of the Daleks. Indeed, the Daleks are present and appear singularly focused on their primary goal of death and destruction: they seemingly kill Missy and Clara with ease as well as blow up the TARDIS! Horror! The real cliffhanger comes in the final scene, when it becomes clear to the audience that the Doctor might only have one way of avoiding all this tragedy: go back to the hand-mine field and kill Davros himself. To be continued next week!
>>> There can’t be any of us who really believe that Missy and Clara are truly dead, are there? If nothing else, Doctor Who has proven to heavily enjoy giving major characters a proper send-off when they are truly “biting the big one,” so neither character’s “demise” here feels all that real right from the get-go. Let’s not forget that both Missy and Clara were wearing Vortex Manipulators, meaning they can transport across time and space pretty much at a whim. In terms of the destruction of the TARDIS: again, the act of destruction itself is very quick and glazed-over, and even though I couldn’t hear the cloister bell, I’m pretty sure I saw the “pilot light” coming on before the Daleks “DESTROY!”
>>> Lost in the opening sequence and it’s shocker of a young Davros: the war that’s being fought on whatever planet is shown is insanely anachronistic. Biplanes are shooting lasers, and the ground troops are firing back with bows and arrows. Practically no background or explanation is given – hopefully this is something that can (and will) be addressed at a later date, because it looks quite fascinating.
>>> Colony Sarff makes three very intriguing stops during his search for The Doctor. First, he swings by The Maldovarium, which is essentially DW’s version of the alien-cameo-laden Cantina from Star Wars. Next, he hits up The Shadow Proclamation, who are informally referred to by the Doctor as “the outer space police.” We all know that Moffatt and company love to plant seeds that don’t come to bear fruit until a long time later, so let’s think on this seemingly-random appearance for a moment: one of the times the Shadow Proclamation was referenced was by the Tenth Doctor in the episode The Fires of Pompeii, an episode from the fourth series that is now infamous with DW “conspiracy theorists” for guest-starring current Doctor Peter Capaldi. Coincidence, or will this odd connection come full circle as long rumored at some point this season? Sarff’s third stop of note, of course, is to The Sisterhood of Karn, who were introduced during the Fourth Doctor’s run but are most noted for harboring the Eighth Doctor and assisting with his transition into the War Doctor, as seen in The Night of the Doctor webisode that led up to the 50th Anniversary episode The Day of the Doctor. Interesting that our current version of the Doctor is shown being harbored here as well…
>>> I’m sorry, but UNIT must be full of dumb-dumb-doodooheads if they need Clara to solve all their mysteries for them. That’s all I’ve really got to say on the matter.
>>> When the planet Davros is on is revealed to be Skaro, our trio of good guys all seem to be shocked, including the Doctor – which seems odd, because on their approach (which at the time appeared to be a space station, but in reality was a building on the cloaked planet), the Doctor says something along the lines of “of course he’d be here.” So – did the Doctor know, or didn’t he?
>>> Referencing the other incarnations of the Doctor will NEVER get old to me; I love it when the show acknowledges their heritage. In this episode we get two different scenes with direct references to the Fourth, Seventh, and Eleventh Doctors, including an amazing throwback to the Fourth Doctor in the episode Genesis of the Daleks, when he has a conversation with then-current-companion Sarah Jane Smith about the moral quandary of killing a child if you knew the child would grow up to be evil.
CLOSING THOUGHTS: Long-running fans of the show will have found plenty to chew on in this whopper of a series premiere, with plenty of questions set to (hopefully) be answered throughout the remainder of this season – in classic Doctor Who fashion. I can’t wait for next week’s episode – and I’ll meet you right back here on the site next week to talk all about it afterwards!
PRINCIPAL CAST FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE:
Peter Capaldi as The Doctor
Jenna Louise Coleman as Clara Oswald
Michelle Gomez as Missy