This week brought the much-anticipated conclusion of the two-part season opener. With lots of questions to be answered and lots of precarious situations for the main characters to find themselves in and subsequently attempt to get out of, how did it all shake out? And more importantly: how did it make you, the viewer, feel about it all? Let’s dive in to find out!
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: As mentioned in the “Observations” section of last week’s episode recap, we couldn’t really believe that Missy and Clara had truly been killed – and sure enough, they weren’t! Whew. Using a story from the Doctor’s past (and cleverly illustrating the “different faces, same person” mantra we need to remember when dealing with Time Lords), Missy explains the escape to her “captive” Clara, then the two set off to help the Doctor escape his current predicament.
And what an intriguing predicament he finds himself in. He and Davros – the slowest-dying villain ever – have some serious back-and-forth moments, with what appears to be genuine emotion and even respect traded between the two. Along the way, the Doctor gets to go for a ride in Davros’ chair, and we get to hear a few more tidbits about the back-story of why the Doctor left Gallifrey in the first place.
Davros also reveals that the cables surrounding his chair are a two-way conduit between him and every Dalek on Skaro; just as they give Davros continued life essence, so too could they be used to send deathly feedback through the system to kill each and every Dalek. A moral quandary for the Doctor, in parallel with his debate over whether to help young Davros on the battlefield: how precious is all life, even if you know that certain life will bring death and destruction to others?
As expected, the episode wraps up most of the major issues for us. Missy and Clara make their way through the Dalek “sewers” (in reality, the dumping ground the life essence of the older Daleks that have surpassed their usefulness), borrow a Dalek shell for Clara to ride in, and make their way back into the compound to the Doctor. Davros and the Doctor end up in a game of “I know you knew I knew you know” one-upsmanship when it’s revealed that neither of them were being particularly forthcoming with each other; Davros’ gambit was for the Doctor’s mercy to provide some of that sweet, sweet Time Lord regeneration power to the Dalek collective, and the Doctor did that very thing on purpose, so that the ancient Daleks in the “sewers” would have enough energy to now rise up against the current regime. The Doctor and Clara escape in the TARDIS (conveniently not blown up, also) and we last see Missy being surrounded by Daleks but about to hatch one more Master plan…
>>> While I personally find the dynamic of Missy to be very enjoyable (particularly her enjoyment of torturing Clara just because), I can see how too much of her in the show could cause many viewers to sour on her. So, I think it was a good choice to leave her with the Daleks for now – although I do hope to see her return before the season’s end.
>>> We once again get a throwback to previous Doctors, in the “story” that Missy tells earlier in the episode. That Moffatt and company chose the Fourth Doctor to be included is a no-brainer given Tom Baker’s ever-present popularity, but the choice to include William Hartnell’s First Doctor could be a sign that we may be going back to the Doctor’s earliest moments of leaving Gallifrey sometime this season – further evidenced by the question being asked this episode of “what made the Doctor leave Gallifrey to begin with?”
>>> The slice of Dalek mentality we are shown by having Clara inside the Dalek shell was a lot more chilling than we may have initially realized. Seeing the neural interface translate her thoughts and feelings of compassion and individuality directly into hateful Dalek-speak really goes a long way towards showing what these poor creatures might be feeling inside versus what they are “allowed” to project to the outward universe. Also, that Dalek shell was surprisingly spacious inside to fit a whole fully-grown human where normally a small mutated mass usually sits…
CLOSING THOUGHTS: As with many “multi-parter” vibes in both TV and movies, the first entry into the story felt particularly strong, but the follow-up may leave many people feeling a little flat and wanting more. Hopefully some of the themes and questions established in this tale – mercy and compassion, a more “lax” Doctor, why the Doctor left Gallifrey, what’s in the Confession Disk – will be effectively addressed throughout the season to come!
PRINCIPAL CAST FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE:
Peter Capaldi as The Doctor
Jenna Louise Coleman as Clara Oswald
Michelle Gomez as Missy