Ten Thoughts About Doctor Who – The Magician's Apprentice (SPOILERS)

From this point forward, follows spoilers for tonight's episode of Doctor Who. I'll be in the comments below if you want me…

1. Who Is The Magician? And Who Is The Apprentice?

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That title. The Magician's Apprentice. Somehow combining The Magician's Nephew and The Sorceror's Apprentice. A fairytale of a 20th century origin of Narnia and of European myth, the young and the old. And the idea of power given to the wrong hands, unstable, young, unpredictable hands that leads to disaster until a senior, wiser figure takes control. So the question here is who is the Magician? And who is the Apprentice? The young and the old?

2. Hands Labyrinth

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Steven Moffat has a stock in trade of making the mundane into the creepiest things possible, which is handy when you are on a BBC budget. Statues, shadows, something out of the corner of your eye, they cost bubkiss. In this case it's hands rising through the mud, waiting to drag you down, with a staring eye. A biological weapon of war, they both elicit the idea of Greek myth but set in a World War of mud, khaki cloth, biplanes with lasers, bows and arrows. The young and the old. But also, perhaps, cementing the idea in a young mind of the threat and power of a single eye bearing down…

3. We Know Where You Live. Or At Least Work.

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We've seen that UNIT monitor the Doctor's companions. So keeping one on tap in a government owned and run institution seems to be quite in keeping. But I don't think we'll be spending a lot of time at Coal Hill this series, even if they have a President-in-waiting amongst their kids. We've moved on…

4. The Future's So Bright, I've Got To Remotely Control A Time Locked Aeroplane To Keep Me In The Shade

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Planes hovering in the sky, while a bit like the first third of an episode of the Simpsons that gets forgotten for the final two thirds, or frankly, the crashed plane in the first series of 24, does tap into the public's attitude to planes and threats made against them since 9/11. And, again, done nicely on the cheap, with freeze frames and shadows. And, yes, makes a handy parasol for Missy. Talking of which…

5. How Do They Survive?

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Missy survives. Davros survives. They just do. Until, you know, she doesn't. Why should this moment be any more final than the last one? Or Clara's? Note her finery for tea service continues, it won't be the only Mary Poppins moment we get this episode. Also, I know a writer who said he could never write for Doctor Who because he would see the Doctor's companions as his pets. Well, this episode makes that point openly. Oh and yes, he is writing for Doctor Who now… funny how things work out.

6. Anachronophobia With Bill And Ted

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Sunglasses, jeans, T-shirt, jacket, "dude"… oh yes and a wireless electric guitar and a tank, without a driver. If you are going to die, why not mess up the continuum while you're at it? He may be the Magician but right now he's more of a Meddling Monk…

7. Okay, It's Better Than Kinda

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And Snakedance. And while the coiled snake reveal is utterly brilliant, this kind of uncanny valley snake is closer to the giant rat of the Talons Of Weng Chiang. Mind you everyone still loves that story. And talking of that Doctor…

8. Up Its Own Arse And Loving It 

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One of the criticisms that Doctor Who has undergone as it has gone on, is of stopping being about the world and being about itself. Casting aside stories that throw light on the way we live now, or did then, and instead try and address a continuity point from three seasons ago. This episode reeks of that, from modern day UNIT, to an untold origin of Davros, to all the different ages of Daleks (including a Special Wespons), Skaro, the Maldovarium bar with Ood and Sycorax, the Shadow Proclamation, the Sisterhood of Karn,  the mention of three different Atlantises, the confirmation that the Doctor had a child, to the extreme of clips from past episodes of Doctor Who. But I was ahead of it, seeing the child Davros instantly took me to the speech that the Doctor made in Genesis Of The Daleks, holding those wires about the child…

9. Exterminate! Exterminate! Exterminate! Finally!

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Considering how many of the Doctor's companions have gone up against Daleks, they all seem to have survived. Until today. But this is a time travel story and such a thing can not abide to be left undone. But at what price? To the universe or to the Doctor?

Missy is dead. Clara is dead. The Doctor is due to die, his Confession has been issued. And Davros? He's dying too, both at the beginning of his life and at its end…

I suppose those "dirty time travel" wristbands couldn't have provided a last minute save?

10. The Paradox Engine

Ten Thoughts About Doctor Who – The Magician's Apprentice (SPOILERS)

"Listen, if someone who knew the future pointed out a child to you and told you that that child would grow up totally evil, to be a ruthless dictator who would destroy millions of lives, could you then kill that child?" – The Doctor, Genesis Of The Daleks

Steven Moffat's greatest Doctor Who work was possibly his first, Continuity Errors, a short story in Decalog 3, a Doctor Who anthology novel where a different writer write a different Doctor and picked up an object from the previous story, passing one on to the next. Moffat has mined it for a number of his stories, including Silence In The Library and A Christmas Carol, but it looms large with the end of this episode. Can you make someone a better person in their past to get them to do something you want in the present? But then it was just getting a library book, this time it's making sure neither Clara nor Missy are killed. So now it's a little more permanent a change he wants to make.

Does he dare? You're damn right he dares. Whenever the Doctor picks up a gun, something, somewhere, has gone very wrong indeed.

Who is the Magician? Who is his Apprentice?

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Cliffhanger!

Bonus Thought: 

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Missy tickles those Dalek bumps like a pro….

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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