20th Sep2015

‘Doctor Who: 9×01 – The Magician’s Apprentice’ Review

by Paul Metcalf


Doctor Who is back with The Magician’s Apprentice, and while we already know that changes are coming in season 9, I’m sure nobody expected the first episode to start off with such a bang. This is exactly what it did though, which holds great promise for the season to come…

The basic premise and most non-spoilery synopsis for the episode is that the skies of the Earth have frozen by a mysterious alien force, and Clara has to investigate. Hoping for the Doctor’s help, he is strangely silent, until an old friend lends a hand.

With this season being the one where Peter Capaldi truly becomes his own version of the Doctor, no longer held down by his past, there needed to be something to catch the attention of the fans. The Magician’s Apprentice definitely does this but also treads a very dangerous line that could annoy fans, especially the old school ones.

Written by Steven Moffat, and directed by Hettie Macdonald there is something very grandiose about this episode, and it will make you wonder what the hell is going on at times. There is a method to the madness though, and while I did find myself questioning where it was going, I had to admit I was impressed that Moffat chose the route that he decided to take. It is risky, but for the most part it works. Now we’ll have to see what the next episode, The Witch’s Familiar brings. The fact is, if they don’t get this story right then they will have a hell of a lot of annoyed Doctor Who fans.

As it is not really a spoiler to reveal that Missy (Michelle Gomez) is in this episode I do think that I can discuss her return. The performance that Gomez gives makes me want her to make more appearances. As Jenna Coleman is leaving, maybe Missy can be the new assistant? Praise also has to be given to Coleman herself, especially working with Gomez. The chemistry between the two works well to keep the episode moving, even at its weakest points.

I’m an old school fan, I won’t hide that. I love the Jon Pertwee years, Tom Baker, and the rest, I’ve made it through many of the series. This is why I knew what this episode was touching on in terms of context. While brave, it is very risky, and this was shown in the over the top nature of some of the visuals that we see. There are also some traps that Moffat has fallen into with his writing, and I doubt he’ll dig his way out of them. There are elements in The Magician’s Apprentice that we have seen many times before, so there is a predictability about it. Now I’m waiting to be proved wrong in the next episode, but I don’t hold up much hope.

If Moffat pulls this off, there is a potential for The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar to become one of the most memorable Doctor Who stories of the modern era. The problem for me is that Moffat has taken one of the most iconic moments in Doctor Who history and built this story around it. I’m not sure modern Doctor Who can live up to that moment I speak of, but we’ll have to see.

While I did enjoy many moments of The Magician’s Apprentice there were also moments when I had to wonder just what the hell was going on? While it was a solid season starter, I still have to be convinced that this story can be ended in a satisfactory manner, but I would love for Moffat to actually have managed it. So to next week, to see how it all ends.

**** 4/5

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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