Doctor Who: The Witch's Familiar ( review with spoilers )
OK, it's only two weeks into Series 9 of Doctor Who and my reviews are already running late. I could blame it on causal loops and collapsing timelines and all that jazz but it's actually just down to me not having enough time. Which is probably the same thing. I could really use a Tardis right now... and so could the Doctor. He's trapped on Skaro, surrounded by millions of Daleks, with no Tardis and no sonic, while Clara and Missy have apparently been exterminated before his eyes. Dark times indeed for our favourite Time Lord but is the sun about to rise?
The long-overdue return to the two-parter format gives this episode room to breathe, as opposed to so many Matt Smith-era episodes that felt tight and constricted and were over almost before they got going. This slower pace may not be to everyone's taste but I'm glad of the chance to see more character insight and dialogue-driven scenes. Jenna Coleman and Michelle Gomez sparkle in their moments together, their characters an odd couple who hate each other but are forced to work together to save the Doctor. Of course, Missy betrays Clara, seals her inside a Dalek casing and tries to persuade the Doctor to kill her / it, but the pairing of the Time Lady and the Impossible Girl is good, bitchy fun while it lasts.
More serious, and packing a surprisingly emotional punch, are the scenes between Peter Capaldi and Julian Bleach as the dying, but still devious, Davros. Touching on such subjects as genocide, the price of compassion and the reason for the Doctor's original escape from Gallifrey, these scenes are a fantastic showcase for two actors at the top of their game. Bleach even manages to convince you, just for a moment, that Davros can be redeemed as the dying scientist seems to reach out to the Doctor and to Skaro's rising sun.... but, of course, it's yet another trick, yet another trap, and the ages-old battle continues. After the Dalek city finally falls and the Tardis Team escape, Steven Moffatt's cleverly-constructed script turns back on itself and the Doctor once again returns to Skaro, to show mercy by saving the young Davros from a horrible fate, even if this act does guarantee the eventual creation of the Daleks. All in all, this is a great story which builds on the Fourth Doctor's "Have I that right...?" speech to give us a tough and challenging look at the characters of the Doctor and his arch enemies... and a brilliant dodgems joke...
So, I'm giving this one Four Out Of Five Sonic Screwdrivers ( or Daleks' "unmentionables" )