The Doctor has made many enemies in his travels across time and space. But none of them have proven quite so deadly or as resilient as The Daleks. A race of mutants, bred to be ruthless and placed into nigh-indestructible tank-like vehicles upon birth, their warmongering has toppled civilizations and united whole star systems against their evil.
Now, The Doctor finds himself upon the Dalek home-world of Skaro. Trapped in the middle of The Dalek’s greatest city, The Doctor is at a severe disadvantage. He is without his time-traveling TARDIS, without his allies, without his enemies, without his trusty sonic screwdriver and without anything even remotely resembling a hope of escape.
More frightening, however, is what The Doctor does have – a chance to destroy The Daleks for all time, the means to make it happen and the temptation to follow through on the most destructive action he may ever undertake in his long life.
The Witch’s Familiar is a flawed but simultaneously enjoyable conclusion to last week’s The Magician’s Apprentice. And those flaws, it should be noted, come almost entirely at the writing level. The chief problem is one common to many of show-runner Steve Moffat’s multi-part stories – he asks big questions and fails to provide an answer or dismisses any attempt at understanding as unimportant, as The Doctor does regarding a mysteriously appearing cup of tea.
Thankfully, Moffat’s script is filled with as many novel touches as there are unanswered questions. Of particular note is a sequence that parodies the “sneak into the enemy base through the sewers” cliche, as we learn the horrifying nature of The Sewers Of The Daleks. This may be a subtle shout-out to Moffat’s parody The Curse of The Fatal Death, as is a brief quip about The Doctor being afforded one of the two chairs on Skaro, since Daleks do not sit.
Thankfully, the other elements of the episode are great. The direction by Hettie MacDonald is top-notch. Michelle Gomez continues to impress as Missy and Jenna Coleman proves a wonderful comic foil to Gomez, though it is frustrating to see her stuck in the straight-woman position when she’s proven capable of so much more. The true MVPs of the episode are Peter Capaldi, who does perhaps his best bit of tormented acting yet playing a tortured Doctor, and Julian Bleach as the Dalek creator Davros. Both play beautifully off each other and their interactions together are the high point of the episode.
The Witch’s Familiar may not be the equal of its Part One but it is not a bad episode by any means. Had Moffat been less self-indulgent, it might have been a truly great episode. As it is, Series Nine is still on the right track.