Last year, I finally gave in to something I’d been putting off for years: watching the beloved BBC Sci-Fi series Doctor Who.
When I eventually finished that November, the show’s eighth season, which was the first starring Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi, was wrapping up. This meant that, apart from the Christmas Special in December, I would have to wait at least another 10 months for new episodes. This was troubling because, contrary to what I expected before I started, I had fallen in love with this show’s wonderful characters and fantastical alien worlds.
But the thing about binge-watching is that it can sometimes make your connection to an individual show less meaningful. After all, its very purpose is so that you can finish a show as fast as you can and then immediately move on to the next one. I was afraid that by the time the new season finally premiered this past Saturday the attraction might have faded away.
Thankfully, Doctor Who had one of its strongest premiere episodes in years. It was like being reunited with a long-lost alien friend who finally returned after spending too much time traveling to other worlds and dimensions.
The episode is titled “The Magician’s Apprentice”, but those expecting a romp through a high fantasy setting (Or Sorcerer Mickey Mouse, for that matter) should be advised to look somewhere else. The story begins with the iconic time traveling Doctor coming across an unexpected face from his past, a reference that will surely excite longtime fans and intrigue newcomers once they learn more.
One of the episode’s strongest aspects is the Doctor himself. This is Peter Capaldi’s second full season playing the Doctor, and this episode had him more natural, cool and confident in the role than ever. At the beginning of his run, his persona fit his appearance: the grumpy old man. But through last season he evolved, loosened up, and now he’s doing things like riding into a medieval duel on a tank while shredding on an electric guitar. But for all his renewed fun and energy, Capaldi still maintains a sense of world weariness, and darkness to the things around him. Capaldi’s personality is able to alternate between wonder and gravitas without missing a beat.
The Doctor disappears after this encounter, leaving his human companion Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) to find him, with some unexpected help from the thought to be dead Missy (Michelle Gomez), one of the Doctor’s greatest enemies. Like all other Who fans, it took me a long time to warm up to Clara. It had nothing to do with Coleman’s performance, but she never really served a greater purpose to the show like the other companions did. She was just there, except for when the script needed her to be a plot device. But she really came into her own in Season 8, culminating in what I believe to be the character and Coleman’s peak moments. So for the first time, I was looking forward to seeing Clara Oswald in this premiere.
Just one problem: Michelle Gomez’s Missy is one of the most fascinating yet demented characters that this show has ever produced. It makes you wonder why the writers would ever put such a towering and vibrant force of personality up against another that some fans still aren’t even fully on board with.
While Missy overpowers her co-star in every scene they’re in, she and Clara do form an interesting team once put together that culminates in one of the most chilling cliffhangers for both them and the Doctor that this show has ever had. As this is a two-part story, we will have to wait until next week to see how things turn out. A wait that is only made more difficult by this strong premiere episode.