Doctor Who Recap: “The Magician’s Apprentice Part 1”

Peter Capaldi can really shred. In case you were curious: yes, that really was Capaldi playing the guitar in the season premiere of Doctor Who on Saturday. (Check out his ‘80s-era punk band Dreamboys—that’s Craig Ferguson on drums.) The Doctor treated us to his own punked-out version of the show’s theme, plus a couple of cords from “Pretty Woman” when Clara and Missy (together!) finally managed to track him down.


The episode opened in the middle of a battle known simply as The War—a conflict that appears to stand out for its use of handmines. Far more unpleasant than being blown to bits, handmines drag you down alive and screaming into the wet mud. As the Doctor attempts to save a young boy from that unpleasant fate, the child’s identity is revealed to him and he has to make a choice. We spend the rest of the episode slowly learning that he made the wrong one.


One or one thousand leaps through time and space later, the Doctor meets up with Missy (still alive) and Clara (still a school teacher with a secretly dead boyfriend) at a medieval times dinner and tournament (an authentic one) where he’s been throwing himself a weeks-long party in an attempt at extreme procrastination. And it was working too, until Clara and Missy tracked him down, leading message boy Colony Sarff straight to him.


The Sith-like snake dude has been sent by Davros, creator of the Daleks and, at this point in time, the Doctor’s archest enemy (much to Missy’s chagrin). “Davros knows,” says the snake nest in a dress, “Davros remembers.” For proof, he shows the Doctor an item he recognizes very well: his own sonic screwdriver—the one the Doctor threw to the child stranded in the field of handmines. Of course, the kid was Davros himself. Faced with choice of having an entire arena of people slaughtered by snakes or face his foe, the Doctor acquiesces and agrees to pay a visit to the allegedly dying creator of the Daleks.


Of course it’s a trap—the whole thing: medieval times, the spaceship Davros is living out his last days on, the corralling of the Doctor’s closest friends (and Missy). Davros isn’t floating helpless through the galaxy, he’s safe at home on Skaro, the planet of the Daleks, made invisible by some sort of advanced Dalek technology. And now that he has the Doctor where he wants him, he’s going to make him pay. Say goodbye to Clara and Missy…


Now avid Who-watchers will be familiar with the Doctor’s sometimes fuzzy policy about using time travel to rewrite events and unkill loved ones but by the end of this first episode, it appears as though that’s exactly what he plans to do. We won’t know for sure until next week.