Doctor Who: “The Witch’s Familiar” – Into The Episode

The Doctor, Clara and Missy are back and if you thought last week’s Season Premier was an emotional roller coaster – you haven’t seen anything yet! How can the Doctor survive Davros and the Daleks? What does the episode title mean? What’s in store for the rest of the season? This and more will be answered in this week’s “Into The Episode”. So let’s begin!

Episode Meaning – Who Is “The Witch’s Familiar”:

Continuing from where we left off last week, we learned that Clara was “The Magician’s Apprentice” in how she’s learned from the Doctor and was able to stand in his place when there was trouble. So with this episode called “The Witch’s Familiar” it’s a pretty safe bet this title is a reference to Clara as well. Whether this is going to be a season-long trait or present only for the first two episodes – since it was a two-parter – remains to be seen; but I’m willing to bet it’s Option #2. Either way, let’s actually break the title down.

If the Doctor is “The Magician”, then “The Witch” is Missy. Considering Missy and Clara spent most of the episode working together, this confirms our earlier assumption that this episode title references Clara; but what do they mean by “familiar”? Well, there’s two explanations. The first is simply that Clara is the person Missy is becoming “familiar” with. They’ve interacted quite a bit now and – as I’ll explain later – Missy is starting to see Clara as an equal/threat. Though at the same time, there is a much more demeaning connotation to the term “familiar”.

Doctor Who Witches Clara Missy

A “familiar” – especially for a witch – is a spirit that takes the form of an animal. This animal would usually accompany the Witch wherever she went and also was assumed to be just as dangerous as the Witch. As I already mentioned, Clara has been following Missy a lot these past two episodes and has also proven herself quite capable. Though there is one final – yet subtle – allusion to this idea. Take note of how Missy refers to Clara in each episode.

Last week, Missy pointed out a couple and classified Clara as “the puppy”. This week, Missy referred to Clara as “the canary” who inspects the safety of caverns before the miner. So whether it’s someone Missy (The Witch) is familiar with or embodying a dangerous ‘animal’ companion, all signs point once again to Miss Clara Oswald!

Solving Plot Holes #1 – How Did Missy Survive “Death In Heaven”:

Last episode Clara asked the question we were all wondering: How was Missy still alive? At first it seemed as though Moffat was going to pull another Sherlock and just tease us about how he’d never reveal the answer of how a central character survived a seemingly inescapable situation. And sure Missy just responded that “Death is for other people” and moved on, but this episode actually gave us that answer – if you could read between the lines.

When Missy is explaining that she survived last week’s ‘extermination” by siphoning the Dalek blaster energy into her Vortex Manipulator, she was actually giving us a hint of that last miracle survival. This was a last second calculation and thus Missy’s Vortex Manipulator right after teleport, but last time she was working WITH the Cybermen for quite a while. Much like how Davros’s chair had built-in Dalek security, Missy would have had the energy calculations ready in case of a rogue Cyberman. This is what allowed her to teleport away with zero repercussions. But again, since this time she was taken by surprise with the Daleks, her calculations weren’t as precise and lead to it being one final use.

Solving Plot Holes #2 – Why Did The Doctor Leave His Will If He Knew Davros Trap All Along:

Last week we saw how the Doctor was dreading his meeting with Davros. He knew sooner or later his past deed was going to come back to haunt him and it truly seemed like he was on his way to pay for his sins. Though this week we learned that the Doctor was on to Davros’s regeneration plan all along. So why did he have to send out his last will if this was all one big Chess match? Why did he have to party for 3 weeks? If the Doctor had this all figured out, WHY did he wholeheartedly think this was his end? Simple, the answer like the last Plot Hole was subtly given in-episode if you could read between the lines.

“A little shame never hurt anyone, I came because you’re sick and you asked. And because sometimes on a good day if I try very hard, Im also the Timelord who ran away, and the doctor.” – The Doctor

Later in the episode we hear Davros and the Doctor talk about how one day Compassion is going to get the Doctor killed. The Doctor knows this and says that he won’t die because of anything else. A very touching conversation to be sure, but it’s also the key to answering our question. The Doctor knows his compassion is going to get him killed and he also knows what Davros might be planning; but in the off chance he’s wrong he still wants to help the ‘little boy he failed to save’.

Doctor Who Witches Familiar Davros

Plan sman, don’t piss of the Doctor!

It doesn’t matter that Davros is the Doctor’s mortal enemy, if there is even the slightest chance to make up for his past deeds he’ll do it because that’s who the Doctor is. And the Doctor knows this is a crazy and suicidal idea – and THAT is why he sends off his Will. That is why he truly thinks he’s going to his death. He’s always been compassionate; but this time he knows his compassion will most likely end in his death.

Wibbly Wobbly Quick Thoughts:

  • There seemed to be a theme this episode with siphoning, ie: Story about the Doctor siphoning energy to teleport, Missy doing the same to escape the Daleks, Davros siphoning the Doctor’s regeneration energy.
  • Dwarf Star Alloy? I’m sure that was an established material, but how much you want to bet that’s going to come up again this season? Either way, the last time I heard a material by that name was on Arrow with Ray Palmer/The Atom.
  • We knew the Cables were a trap long before Davros’s sob story started because we saw the snake eyes – not sure if this added to the suspense or spoiled the surprise though.
  • Anyone else get serious Soufflé Girl flashbacks this episode, you should of since that was the first time we saw Jenna Coleman strapped into a Dalek frame.
  • Davros and the Doctor joking was actually really sweet and looked like a moment of clarity for the tyrant, but of course IT’S A TRAP!
  • Missy kept her promise and did get to claw at Davros’s eye – a fulfillment to what she said last week when she learned Davros was the Doctor’s “Arch Enemy”
  • The Doctor was REALLY upset that Missy almost tricked him into killing Dalek Clara – as you can imagine. As I said earlier Missy does see Clara as a threat and hearing how the Doctor would burn all the Daleks because of Clara was the final nail she needed. If the Doctor would do all that for Clara, then Missy would see Clara as an obstacle to her friendship with the Doctor.
  • Wait, so are the sunglasses really replacing the screwdriver? I’m not sure how I feel about that, and I’ve only been with Doctor Who from the Ninth Doctor onward. Feel like that might piss some longer fans off.
  • Apparently Davros surviving and creating the Daleks is a ‘Fixed Point’, but the Doctor can go back and introduce the concept of “mercy” whether friend or foe.
  • Can we just take a moment to appreciate the fact that Missy described a Time Lady as “an upgrade” that some can afford. Seriously, after Capaldi we need a female Doctor – and I’m still pulling for Hayley Atwell!

Season Long Questions – Clara’s Role & The Doctor’s Confession:

As with most Doctor Who season premiers, we get to set the stage for the rest of the season and get a glimpse of what we’re leading up to. Last year we saw how Season 8 would deal with the question of “Who is this new Doctor” while also building up to the confrontation with the mysterious Missy. Season 9 kicked off with the Doctor and Clara knowing full well who he is and the mystery behind Missy is now commonplace. So what’s the new focal points of this season?

Well as I mentioned at the start of this article, there’s been an interesting focus on defining Clara in terms of animals. It’s hard to say if that specifically will continue or if this season will deal with Clara’s role in general; but I’m willing to bet on option #2 since this is Clara’s last Season with the Doctor. This ‘defining Clara’ theme would also make sense we again saw ‘Dalek Clara’ in a sense. And I’m still worried about what Missy said about ‘unplugging’ from a Dalek could have unknown consequences. Please don’t let Dalek fusion be Clara’s actual fate >.<

Doctor Who Witches Familiar Sunglasses

Now what about The Doctor. Well the fear of ‘fusion’ seems to be striking him too… or rather struck. If letting Davros live wasn’t the Doctor’s confession then what is? There seemed to be particular emphasis this episode on why the Doctor fled from Gallifrey in the first place. We know the Time Lords became cruel towards the end of the Time War, and we even saw some signs of that in The End Of Time. But is there more?

There seemed to be some hints at the Time Lords researching a Dalek Time Lord fusion – a “new warrior” as Davros put it. Though it’s hard to know if that was true or just Davros being Davros. Either way, this season’s driving narrative/question seems to be ‘what was the Doctor going to confess?’ Between that, Clara’s upcoming farewell and the stress upon reuniting with Gallifrey, and this season is going to be a roller coaster of awesome and emotional moments – just like this two part Season premier.

So stay tuned for next week’s episode and bother chance to go “Inside The Episode”

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