At last! At long last! The wait between seasons is over! “This Week on TV” is back! Yay! Hooray! Whoo!
And kicking off the new season: the premiere of the new Doctor Who‘s ninth season! And boy, is it a doozie!
“The Magician’s Apprentice”
You know, Doctor Who has been looking back for awhile now. Back at who the Doctor is, back at the things he’s done, back at his enemies, back at what he has left in his wake. Back, back, back, further towards the elusive “beginning.”
And there are so many beginnings, aren’t there?
For instance: the beginning of the Time War is found in the beginning of the Daleks, which is found in the beginning of their creator, Davros.
The last we saw Davros, he was inside an exploding Dalek space station. But he’s alive. Just like the Daleks, and the Cybermen, and everything else the Doctor defeats so many times. They just keep coming back. Including the Master, or “Missy” now. Just because. That’s a touch annoying after awhile, for them to keep popping up again “just because,” but c’est la vie.
Once upon a time, Davros was just a scared little boy, trapped in a hellish war. He once stood in a field of death, crying and begging for help as eerie hands reached up to pull him straight into the earth, to die. The Doctor happened to pass by and, not knowing who he was, made to help him. Then he learned the name of this little boy who was so close to dying. And, knowing everything Davros would do, what destruction and suffering would be wrought by his hands… left the little boy to die, for things he had not yet done, alone and forsaken.
The Doctor once attempted to destroy his own world and people, solely because there was no other way to stop the Daleks and the Time War. But what if Davros died early, before he created the Daleks in the first place? A previous incarnation of the Doctor once asked the question, “If someone who knew the future pointed out a child and told you that child would grow up to be totally evil and be a ruthless dictator who would destroy millions of lives, could you then kill that child?”
It’s a tough question. I mean, when one commits atrocities and robs people of their rights, they forfeit those self-same rights. Thieves, rapists, and murderers are cast into prison, and the worst of the worst are condemned to die, to stem their evil and prevent future murders. Their past behavior is used to determine what they will do in the future, but for a time traveler, the future is the past. And it’s not as though the Doctor killed Davros with his own hand. Just left him to die. As a child. Before he’d done any wrong.
I have one answer to that question, and it is perfectly logical: no. We don’t punish people for what they might do, only for what they have already done. In fact, if one can change the future by changing the past, the act of sparing or even saving that child could well turn him towards a better path. So, no, I would not kill a child, nor leave that child to die.
…and yet, we are not always logical creatures, are we? Whatever our resolve, it can take just one perfect blow to shatter it like glass. I can talk about how I wouldn’t let a child die just because he might do something evil… but suppose I knew, for a fact, that the people most dear to me would be the ones to pay the price for that decision?
And that is the scheme of Davros, who apparently survived being abandoned: to break the Doctor, one way or another. How do you break someone as strong as the Doctor? By going after his friends.
Two of those friends are Clara and Missy. What is the one thing that can unite these two? The Doctor expects to die, very soon. This is at least the third or fourth time that’s been the case, but it’s usually been saved for a special or a season finale, not the season premier. In fact, this whole episode felt more like a finale, or the setup for one. But I digress.
Missy goes to great lengths to use Clara to find the Doctor, having received the Doctor’s last will and testament, his “Confession,” and being unable to find and help him herself. They do find him, as he’s not exactly trying to blend in, but they also lead the enemy right to him. Or, rather, they lead the serpentine servant of Davros to him. The Daleks already had at least one agent near him, and they confiscate the Tardis when the Doctor, Clara, and Missy are taken to where Davros is.
One thing about Davros: he is very spiteful, and he can’t stand the Doctor’s sanctimonious preaching about ideals and compassion. So he brings the Doctor and his friends to him. As the unlikely duo proceeds to investigate and escape, they find themselves on Skaro, the home planet and birthplace of the Daleks, the whole thing turned invisible from space.
And Missy becomes afraid.
When “the Master” is afraid, things are really, really, really… bad.
Among the things the two Time Lords share: an enemy. The most terrible enemy in the whole of the universe: the Daleks.
Missy seems to make an offer, to join with the Daleks and offer them the entire universe, but they exterminate her. The Doctor is forced to watch, unable to help, as they do the same to Clara. And the Tardis.
All to break him, to let Davros hear him say, “Compassion is wrong.”
Yep, spiteful, and determined to win their protracted argument at the end of his life.
It’s easy for me to say I would let the child live. But what if I knew that child would, specifically, kill the people I love? One classic reason for not killing someone who hurt your loved ones is, “It won’t bring them back,” but what if it could? I have my logical answer… but humans are not always logical, and I am no exception. I would kill anyone who was actively, at that moment, trying to harm them… so what if I could save them beforehand? Isn’t that what we do in war? Kill the enemy before they can kill what we love? And yet… there’s no easy answer.
As for this episode, I suspect not everything is at it seems.
Missy has a vortex manipulator, and so does Clara, slave to Missy’s. Missy also has a strong desire to live, and Clara is very sharp, able to figure out the Doctor’s convoluted schemes, so why not Missy’s? Heck, she already did figure out Missy’s earlier scheme with time-locking the airplanes. Not to mention how easy it was for the Daleks to apparently destroy the Tardis. And how does the Doctor show up at the end, in the cliffhanger, if he’s either dead or alive but without his Tardis, to supposedly kill the young Davros?
Hmmm, there’s more to this than meets the eye, I think.
I wonder what the Doctor’s final answer will turn out to be.
(yes, I know, they can’t just undo the Daleks and the Time War and such, but still, what will the Doctor’s specific answer be?)