Okay, so I know now why the two episode titles – with the Doctor, Clara is treated as an assistant, but teamed with Missy, she is more of a “familiar” – a pet creature who amplifies the spells, so to speak.
Last week, when we left off with the Doctor stranded on Skaro with Davros, and Missy and Clara “dead,” I predicted there’d be some sort of simple handwave explanation, and boy, was there ever. Bigger than shark-repellent Batspray. And a cheat, too, since we saw their skeletons glow blue as in an extermination ray, which would not have happened if they’d actually teleported out a split second before the ray hit. At least they had the decency to throw in a vintage Tom Baker clip and a reference to vampire monkeys while explaining.
I’ve no idea if George Lucas was inspired by Davros to create Emperor Palpatine, but there’s no doubt that both Russell Davies and Steven Moffat have been inspired in the opposite direction. Last time I saw a Davros episode, he was throwing the equivalent of Force lightning – this time, he’s trying to get the Doctor to feel the hate swelling within him…and even uses the Darth Vader line about looking upon something “with my own eyes.” Julian Bleach and Peter Capaldi are good enough to make these bits work anyway – I certainly had an inkling Davros was faking tears and any notion of being a good man (duh – he’s Space Hitler), but no idea if the Doctor knew too and was double-bluffing. Of course, the way the episode ended, we now know that Davros was not in fact set on his evil path by the Doctor – but retained whatever inkling of mercy he had due to the Doctor saving him; a perceived weakness he was trying to exploit all along.
But when you go with the Bill and Ted theory of time travel – that is, if you remember to do something tomorrow, it will happen today – there’s a problem. Dig: the Doctor is surprised to hear the word “mercy” in a Dalek vocabulary, so once he does, he later goes back in time to ingrain that concept so they’ll have it when he needed it this episode. But doesn’t that mean they should always have had it, all along? Or is there a statute of retcon limitations? Timey-wimey, lazy-wazy. And I’m not a fan of the magic sunglasses allowing a TARDIS to materialize around them. Way too much of an easy out. I’m cool with the shades meaning something – just not that. Matt Smith had the decency not to replace the sonic screwdriver with his fez.
On the funny side, seeing the Doctor take Davros’ chair for a spin was awesome, as was the way the Dalek interpreted English idioms into “Dalek-English” (“I love you” = “Exterminate”). Not quite so funny – using an ending already utilized by South Park and Axe Cop, in which, essentially, intelligent shit rises from the sewers to turn on the assholes who made it.
Also I still don’t get the snake guy. Davros just thought it’d be cool to have a snake guy?
Missy continues to develop rather wonderfully, and hints that becoming a woman is an upgrade – yes, they are setting the groundwork for the female Doctor everyone keeps complaining they don’t have yet. Clara being inside a Dalek is nicely ironic given that we first met her inside one – you’d think she’d do better in there, but of course she doesn’t have the impossible memories.
So do we ever know why the Doctor was so convinced he’d die? He was so ashamed that he thought he’d created Davros’ evil that he was going to let Davros kill him in return? Doesn’t seem right. Regardless of guilt, he ought to have suspected a scheme that would require him to save the universe again and put his selfishness aside. It’s fitting that this two-parter is named for witches and magicians – there’s a whole lot of misdirection, yet it doesn’t quite obscure the cheap tricks at work – even with a deft handwave.
If Moffat wanted to copy Return of the Jedi, he succeeded to a point, in that the good-evil temptation battle is by far the best part, and the rest is just pretty. It’s a trap.