Doctor Who “The Witch’s Familiar” Review (Season 9, Episode 2)

doctor who season 9 episode 2

“The Witch’s Familiar” brought the season nine opener of Doctor Who to a satisfying close, even if it didn’t offer anything too exciting or revelatory about our characters. Ultimately, what made the episode work well was the strength of the performances and some clever idea along the way, which outweighed some of the problems that have plagued the show in recent years.

Getting the bad out of the way first, the conclusion to this episode was just sort of dull, a problem of both the storytelling and the enemy in question. The thing is, we’ve seen the Daleks “exterminated” themselves so many times, that watching the capital city collapse failed to seem as big as it otherwise might have. At best, it’ll be one season before we see the Daleks again, and this episode failed to give us any new insights into the classic enemy to make it a worthwhile adventure.

Further, the way everything played out felt just a bit too convenient. A two-part episode works best when elements introduced in part one are what ultimately come back around to save the day in the end. Here, having the idea of a living Dalek sewer introduced so close to the finale made it feel less like a cleverly-planned way to defeat the Daleks than it did a last-minute solution introduced to get out of a narrative corner.

But though things came apart at the end, what really made this two-parter work was how committed to the performances all of the actors were. In particular, the scenes of quiet commiseration between the Doctor and Davros, however fake they ultimately proved, were great, with Julian Bleach really selling the villain’s weary self-doubt and regret. There are plenty of times where Doctor Who finds greater success in its quiet moments than its larger-than-life plotting, and this was one of them, giving us a great, seemingly honest discussion between two long-time foes.

There was also similar success with Missy and Clara, who made a delightfully antagonistic team as they attempted to infiltrate the city and rescue the Doctor. She’s one of the most outwardly villainous characters in the entire franchise, but Missy is so enjoyable because of how much she commits to her dastardly behavior. And while Davros was busy with a complex, drawn-out attempt to defeat the Doctor, it was Missy’s smaller-con attempt to have him kill Clara that stood out as the darkest moment of the hour. There’s no telling when she’ll pop up again, but I’m certainly looking forward to it.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments!