Recap / Doctor Who S35E2 "The Witch's Familiar"

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"I . . . show . . . mercy . . ."

"Genocide as a choice. Are you ready, Doctor? So many backs with a single knife. Are you ready to be a god?"
Davros

Written by Steven Moffat. Part 2 of the opening two-parter of Series 9.

At the end of "The Magician's Apprentice", the poor Doctor was begging for mercy that would not be granted him. Having chosen to abandon an attempt to rescue a young Davros from a hand mine field upon realizing who the boy was (leaving him nothing but a sonic screwdriver), the Doctor — now presently a prisoner of the dying scientist and the Daleks on Skaro — helplessly watched as Clara, Missy, and even the TARDIS were exterminated by the Daleks.

In the cliffhanger, with nothing left to lose, he appears to be going back to that day to correct his great mistake. It is an act that would defy his chosen name and principles, effectively make him a god, and rewrite, if not destroy, the entire universe's history.

But is all as it seems? How does he get back to the past? And even at the Despair Event Horizon, can he bring himself to commit genocide? Is there another way he might remedy a mistake made in a moment of weakness and prove the true depths of his courage, strength, and compassion?


Tropes:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Davros and the Doctor share a genuine laugh over Davros' comment about him not being a good (medical) doctor.
  • Age Without Youth:
    • The Daleks in the sewers. Daleks are made to keep living, but they still age and rot . . .
    • Emphasized with Davros, who we see in his wizened old state and as a young boy.
  • All There in the Manual: The published shooting script makes it clearer that we're watching Clara's own interpretation of the Doctor's mini-adventure at the start of the story while Missy recounts it. When the Doctor looks at the camera, he's described as actually looking at Clara.
  • And I Must Scream:
    • The rotting Daleks in the sewers beneath the city are alive. When Missy touches them, they really do scream.
    • Clara trapped inside Dalek armor and unable to identify herself is a smaller example. Well, she can scream, but it comes out as "EXTERMINATE!" as that's the only emotional outburst a Dalek is capable of.
  • Arc Words: This episode formally introduces the big arc word of Series 9, as the prophecy of the Hybrid is first broached. There's also:
    • Story: The Doctor explains to Davros that he's just "A bloke in a box, telling stories."
    • Win: Missy explains to Clara that the Doctor always gets out of scrapes because he goes into battle believing that he'll win, which helps open his mind to plans or means of escape. As Clara learns (or is reminded of) to their mutual sorrow as the season progresses, what he considers winning isn't always what other people consider it to be, and sometimes there is no plan or escape no matter how badly he wants it.
  • Armour Piercing Question: Davros delivers one to the Doctor in a chilling Ironic Echo:
    Davros: Am I a good man?
  • Badass Boast:
  • Bait and Switch: Davros searches through the Doctor's possessions, noting the Time Lord confession dial. The Doctor subsequently tells him that some of his things are off-limits . . . and quickly swipes his sunglasses away.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • Davros planned to trick the Doctor into giving him and the Daleks regeneration energy by pretending to have remorse. The Doctor saw right through it.
    • Missy gets Clara to hop into a Dalek shell so she can escort Missy to the Doctor. Missy then tricks the Doctor into thinking that this Dalek killed Clara, hoping to have the Doctor kill Clara unknowingly. Clara's pleas for mercy (the only way the Dalek shell can express her attempts to talk him down) convince him that something's not right.
  • Batman Grabs a Gun: Once again, Davros goads the Doctor into pointing a gun at him.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: A twenty-foot fall onto solid rock leaves Clara with little more than a few small scrapes. Likewise, she also endures having Dalek tech implanted in her temples but comes away with little more than a couple of marks.
  • Body Horror:
    • Daleks are genetically programmed to survive even when their bodies start to decay. Their sewers are filled with rotting Daleks that are essentially mush.
    • We finally see Davros out of his wheelchair, and it's not a pretty sight. His body just stops slightly below the stomach, and his twitching metal spine is visible.
  • Bolivian Army Ending:
    • According to Missy, the Doctor was able to escape from assassin droids, only to fall into a pit of vampire monkeys.
    • Missy's story ends with her surrounded by Daleks as Skaro is torn apart around her . . . and she's just had a very clever idea.
  • Bottle Episode: Unlike its predecessor, this episode is set entirely on Skaro.
  • Brick Joke: The previous episode had Missy complaining when the Doctor said Davros was his archenemy and she would claw his eye out. When they do meet, she gives his third eye a good poke.
  • Call Back: Remember how River once made a Dalek beg for mercy? This episode reveals how the Daleks are even aware of the concept, not to mention that the word being in the Daleks' vocabulary banks saves Clara's life when Missy tries to trick the Doctor into killing her.
  • The Cameo: The First and Fourth Doctors each make a small appearance, albeit in a non-speaking role.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Davros asks the Doctor just what is recorded on his Confession Dial, showing off a handful of items found on his person. The Doctor gets flustered, telling Davros not to touch it, that there are few things that he holds as precious, but he will protect them. He then snatches his sunglasses from Davros's tray. Davros believes that this was just more of the Doctor being flippant, but it turns out that the glasses are what the Doctor now uses in place of his sonic screwdriver.
    • The rotting Daleks in the sewers are how the Doctor turns the tables on Davros.
    • The HADS makes a return to explain how the TARDIS survived the Daleks' attempt to destroy it.
    • Missy and Clara's Vortex manipulators save them from being vapourized. This also serves as a retroactive explanation for her survival of the events of "Death in Heaven", and possibly several other times when s/he escaped certain death over the years, including the end of the episode.
    • The Dalek's casing translating most of what Clara says into stock Dalek sentences is essential in Missy's plan to trick the Doctor into killing her.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Davros' insistence that the Doctor had ulterior motives in leaving Gallifrey is reminiscent of the Cartmel Masterplan, which would have suggested that the Doctor was a reincarnation of one of the founders of Time Lord society. In fact, we know that the Doctor did have at least one ulterior motive: to hide the Hand of Omega.
    • The Doctor once again points a gun at Davros.
    • Missy kills a Dalek using nothing but a brooch.
    • Continuing the theme of this story following up "Genesis of the Daleks", a Dalek having the word "mercy" in its vocabulary is a plot point that saves Clara's life. In "Genesis", Daleks not having "pity" in their vocabulary bank got Davros's Dragon and only friend killed by them.
    • Also in "Genesis", we got to hear the Doctor and Davros give their respective opinions on genocide: The Doctor doesn't believe he has the right to commit genocide even against the Daleks, while Davros insists that committing genocide "would set me up above the gods!". In this episode, Davros tries to push the Doctor into committing genocide against the Daleks, and the Doctor refuses.
      Davros: Are you ready to become a god?
    • Even the exact wording parallels "Genesis". Davros tells the Doctor that touching the wires would be "to hold in your hand the heartbeat of every Dalek on Skaro", in the same way that he imagined "to hold in my hand a capsule" that would destroy all life in the Universe, back in the earlier story.
    • Missy implies she'd have eaten Clara if other opportunities for food escaped or hadn't presented themselves. Her presumed predecessor, the Simm-Master, actually did eat people in his final story.
    • This is not the first time the Doctor has had his regenerations stolen (though it's up for debate how many were actually taken, and the process was started willingly this time, keyword being started).
    • One of the Daleks in the room with the Supreme is a Special Weapons Dalek. It even gets a line when the Daleks are mobilizing. Can be seen as an Author's Saving Throw to having been so blink-and-miss back in "Asylum".
    • This isn't the first time (some version of) Clara has been put inside a Dalek. Nor is it the first time a character used a Dalek casing as a means of disguise.
    • It's also not the first time an evil Time Lady had a captive companion of the Doctor's hanging upside-down.
    • Upon his regeneration, the Supreme Dalek said he was "renewed", which was the first term used to describe the process.
    • The Doctor references "42" when he says he's been in charge for 42 minutes.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Davros always has a contingency plan. His chair is shielded from Dalek weapons, in case they turn on him, and Colony Sarff's snakes are hidden in the chair, in case someone steals it from him.
  • Cross-Referenced Titles: With "The Magician's Apprentice".
    • The Doctor is the magician.
    • Missy is the witch.
    • Clara and Davros are, in their own individual ways, apprentices.
    • Clara is the familiar.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The Doctor is approaching this point as the story begins, having lost his friends — in particular Clara — and the TARDIS. He calms down eventually, but not before delivering a threat that appears to frighten even Missy.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Played for Laughs. In Missy's story about one of the Doctor's past adventures, he escaped from a bunch of android assassins only to fall into a pit of vampire monkeys. But that's a story for another time.
  • Disguised Hostage Gambit: Missy attempts to trick the Doctor into shooting Clara by placing her in a Dalek casing.
  • Dodge the Bullet: The Doctor is seen doing this when Missy recounts the story of how he escaped the robot assassins, narrowly avoiding several shots from them.
  • The Dog Bites Back: The decaying Daleks left to rot in the sewers use their newfound strength from the regeneration energy to rise to the surface and attack the functioning Daleks for abandoning them.
  • Dressing as the Enemy:
    • Missy disables a Dalek and replaces the mutant inside with Clara. She is a lot bigger than the mutant, but there's clearly a lot of empty space in a Dalek shell. "Daleks in Manhattan" previously demonstrated that you can stuff a human in that thing, and the First Doctor's companion Ian Chesterton effected an escape in "The Daleks" in much the same way.
    • The Doctor briefly hijacks Davros' life-support chair to get to the stronghold of the Dalek city.
  • Driving Question: This season's arc questions are formally introduced in this episode after being seeded in the premiere: What is the Doctor's confession — the real reason he left Gallifrey millennia ago? And what about this prophecy of a Dalek-Time Lord Hybrid warrior?
  • Evil Versus Evil: Amazing as it seems, this is the first time the Master (in any of his/her incarnations) has met Davros.
  • Eyes Always Shut: Davros opens his eyes for the first time.
  • Eye Scream: Missy poking Davros in the "eye".
  • Fake Shemp: In Missy's story, we see silhouettes of the Fourth and First Doctors (floppy hat and long scarf, grey slicked-back hair and Edwardian suit), as it is ambiguous where exactly in the Doctor's timeline it is set.
    Missy: Doesn't matter which face he was wearing, they're all the Doctor to me. So let's give it to the Eyebrows.
  • Foreshadowing: The Doctor warns his enemies that there's no telling what he'll do if he finds out that Clara Oswald really is dead; as Missy and Clara overhear this the former marvels that this is what it's like when the Doctor has no hope — that he's capable of destroying everything, even them. In "Face the Raven", Clara is Killed Off for Real and in her Final Speech she orders him not to go down the path of destruction, knowing he can't handle being alone. Alas, it doesn't take — thanks to the horrors visited upon him in "Heaven Sent" exacerbating his anguish, he temporarily becomes a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds, willing to risk the universe's safety to bring her back from the grave in the Season Finale "Hell Bent".
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: When we see all the Daleks rising from the citadel, one or two of them can be seen bumping against a skyscraper.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Missy goes from saving Clara to threatening to eat her, to teaming up with her, to using her as bait to shielding her from an explosion. Also, she goes from saving the Doctor's life to goading him into exterminating Clara in minutes.
  • Hope Crusher: Davros is pushing the already guilt-stricken Doctor to the Despair Event Horizon in hopes that he can turn him into a man willing to kill Davros' younger self, willing to commit genocide against the Daleks at last . . . all to prove his own belief that the Doctor and his compassion are wrong and have an ultimate victory over his nemesis.
  • Hybrid Power: Davros intends to make a hybrid race by giving the Daleks the regenerations of Time Lords.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: When Clara asks why she's tied up, Missy says she may not find anything else to hunt and winks. She continues to comment about eating Clara. It might count as To Serve Man since Missy is technically an alien, but the species look so much alike that it's closer to this trope.
  • Ineffectual Death Threats: Missy calls out Clara on her inability to carry through with her threat to kill her.
  • In Spite of a Nail: At the end of the episode, it turns out the Doctor saved Davros as a young child, and told him the value of mercy . . . and he still turned out an utter bastard. That one bit of mercy saved Clara's life, though, in spite of what Davros would become. It also goes a way to explaining Daleks like "Rusty" and why they need a Morality Dial to stay evil.
  • Internal Homage: Much of the episode is this to "The Evil of the Daleks", down to one of the final scenes being very similar.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • Davros asks the Doctor "Am I a good man?"
    • Near the end, the Doctor tells Missy to run.
  • Irony: When we first see Jenna Coleman in Doctor Who, it's as one of Clara's splinters who has been converted into a Dalek. Here, the real Clara is disguised as one.
  • It's All About Me: Davros threatens to kill the Doctor, and the instant the Doctor pulls a weapon on him, Davros pleads for his life:
    Davros: You would threaten a dying man?
  • Kick the Dog: Missy hides Clara in a Dalek casing, then subsequently tries to goad the Doctor into killing her.
  • Large Ham: Missy just ramps it up here, complete with using a crazy Southern accent while killing a Dalek.
  • Last of His Kind: Discussed by both the Doctor and Davros about how a man needs a race to belong to and hold allegiance with.
  • Life Drinker: Turns out the Daleks are trying to gain the Doctor's regenerative power.
  • Lost in Translation: When Clara tries speaking in the Dalek casing, the words come out in Dalek form, and it is incapable of translating any concept foreign to the Daleks. Any expression other than hate is "Exterminate!" and any concept of self is boiled down to "I am a Dalek!", meaning she is unable to tell the Doctor she is Clara or even express herself in a non-Dalek fashion.
  • Made of Iron: Clara. Twice during this episode she endures falls that would, in real life, possibly result in injury: she's effectively dropped on her head when Missy undoes the ropes after hanging her upside-down, and she is later pushed down a twenty foot drop and, while she is knocked unconscious briefly, she immediately shrugs it off with only a couple small scratches. Even hanging upside down for an unknown length of time doesn't even make her woozy (you try it). She also seems to immediately shrug off the fact she just had wires stuck into her head from the Dalek.
  • Magic Skirt: Zig-Zag: As Clara hangs upside down at the start of the episode, the rope binding her ankles is wrapped around her torso, keeping her skirt in proper place.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Davros exploits the Doctor's compassion to get at his regeneration energy, and Missy uses Clara's desire to save the Doctor to use her as bait and other things.
  • Meaningful Echo: The lines the Daleks used when Missy is first captured are repeated at the end when she's captured again. It's implied that she'll use the same technique she used before to survive.
  • Meat Moss: The gloopy substance coating the walls of the sewers? That's the decaying (and still living) bodies of old Daleks.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Moffat combines Daleks, the Master, a possible final end for the Doctor, exploring the fact that the Daleks have at least another chair, and a trek through some distinctly unpleasant sewers for the first time since his first televised Doctor Who story.
    • "My vision is impaired! I cannot see!" — Says a Dalek being overwhelmed by the sludge at the end, quoting a line from back when dealing with them was as easy as covering or gooing up the eye stalk, in the original series when suffering Badass Decay.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Not a power, per se, but it's revealed that Davros actually can see with his natural eyes, after it being strongly implied going all the way back to his first appearance that he was blind (or, at least, that his natural eyes did not function properly).
  • Nonchalant Dodge: Missy dances around without a care while Clara, still trying to get a handle on the Dalek shell she's controlling with her mind, blind-fires deadly lasers in every direction.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Missy's method of escaping death is based on one of the Doctor's.
      Missy: He's traveling by teleporter. Unfortunately the teleporter's out of power. Also unfortunate, he's being stalked by, oh, say about 50 android assassins? I may be rounding up!
    • On top of that, we see her silhouette in the Flash Back, and one must wonder how Missy knows all of this when the Doctor was alone without a companion or the TARDIS. Yes, she (well, most likely "he" at the time) probably sent the 50 invisible killer robots after him.
    • And then another at the end of her story:
      Clara: So the androids think he's dead, and the Doctor escapes?
      Missy: No, he's the Doctor. He fell into a nest of vampire monkeys. But that's another story!
    • Similarly, her Badass Boast to the Supreme Dalek suggests a previous meeting between the two.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Davros realizing that all the Daleks buried in the sewers have just been empowered and are coming after him.
    • The Doctor, upon realizing Clara is inside the Dalek.
  • Out-Gambitted: Davros tries to con the Doctor into creating Dalek/Time Lord hybrids by getting him to willingly give up his regeneration energy. The Doctor obliges, knowing that the Meat Moss Daleks will also receive that energy and immediately turn on the normal Daleks that left them there to rot.
  • Out-of-Character Alert:
    • The Doctor realises that the Dalek he is told killed Clara is unusual when it isn't trying to kill him and keeps saying "Mercy!", a concept which should be foreign to it.
    • The Doctor's emotional rant at the Daleks regarding Clara being returned is enough to have even Missy worried about her safety.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: Specifically, the Doctor and Davros sharing a genuine laugh and the Doctor subsequently transferring regeneration energy to heal Davros . . . at the same time reinvigorating the decayed and bloodthirsty Daleks in the sewers.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Clara has a hard time explaining herself because of the Dalek translator, and because of that, the Doctor doesn't know that she is not a Dalek herself. The subversion comes when she gets enough past the translator to make her point.
  • The Power of Hate: This has always been the most prominent part of the Dalek mindset, but this episode reveals that they literally channel it to power their machines.
    Missy: Cybermen suppress emotion. Daleks channel it . . . with a gun.
  • Redemption Quest: The Doctor is in the midst of finding a way to redeem his mistake of abandoning young Davros and causing the universe-plaguing evil of the Daleks to come to pass.
  • Rule of Symbolism: To show that the Doctor and Davros are Not So Different from each other, when the ending depicts the Doctor taking a young Davros home, it shows that the Doctor is holding a Dalek gun, while Davros is holding the Doctor's sonic screwdriver.
  • Schmuck Bait: Davros explains to the Doctor that the cables connect him to every Dalek, and the Doctor would be able to find a way to use them to commit genocide. As we subsequently find, the cables are actually snakes, and touching them is extremely inadvisable.
  • Shout-Out:
  • So Last Season: Consider Davros's temptation of the Doctor to commit genocide against all of the Daleks. Not even counting the fact that the Doctor plans on using his regeneration energy to make Davros's plan backfire anyway, you'd think with the Doctor already establishing he's always above that note , he'd use something else. Which he did, in using a Wounded Gazelle Gambit.
  • Spot of Tea: The Doctor somehow procures one after he hijacks Davros' chair. He lampshades it.
  • Stab the Scorpion: The Doctor's appearing in front of young Davros with an energy weapon and shouting "Exterminate!" makes it look like he's about to try killing Davros before he becomes evil. Instead he uses the weapon to take out all of the "hand-mines".
  • Stable Time Loop: Because Clara is able to make the Dalek shell express the concept of mercy, the Doctor realizes that Davros must also understand this. He thus goes back in time and saves Davros, knowing this seed of mercy will exist from then on, however small.
  • Status Quo Is God: Despite the teasing of both Davros' death and possible Heel Realization, he's just as alive and evil at the end of the episode as ever he was, Joker Immunity in full effect.
  • Sudden Anatomy: Davros' makeup usually has no visible eyes or eyelids, just depressions indicating an Eyeless Face. It's jarring to see him without eyes in one shot, then having them in the next.
  • Suddenly Voiced: The Special Weapons Dalek gains a voice and the accompanying flashing lights; in previous appearances, it never spoke.
  • Super Speed/Super Reflexes: According to Missy, the Doctor managed to dodge gunfire from dozens of robot assassins, run several thousand calculations in his head, and concoct a plan to escape his assailants, all in the space of four nanoseconds or less.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: The Doctor shows some for Davros. Naturally, it bites him in the ass within minutes. Which was the Doctor's plan all along.
  • Trailers Always Spoil:
    • The BBC blundered and aired a trailer for this episode before the previous one aired — thus revealing the return of Davros early.
    • Also, general Series 9 trailers and press releases made it pretty clear that Clara, Missy, and the TARDIS weren't Killed Off for Real at the end of the previous episode. However, the specific promos for this episode don't feature them, meaning the real cliffhanger is just how they survive and get back into the action.
  • Tranquil Fury: When the Doctor realizes that Missy tried to trick him into killing Clara, he very calmly tells her to run.
  • Troll: Missy has great fun making Clara say things while in the Dalek casing, like her name or "I love you", only for them to come out as typical Dalek phrases "I am a Dalek" and "Exterminate!"
  • Uncertain Doom: Missy is last seen surrounded by hostile Daleks — but she's just had a very clever idea.
  • The Unreveal:
    • We don't find out what's in the Doctor's confession dial. (At least, not in this episode.)
    • Invoked in-universe when the Doctor refuses to reveal how he procured a cup of tea while sitting in Davros' chair.
    "I'm the Doctor. Deal with it."
  • Unwilling Suspension: The episode begins with Clara tied up and hanging upside down due to Missy.
  • Wham Line:
    • Missy had a daughter, and the Doctor probably knew.
    • Arguably one for the fans when the Doctor reveals that he had replaced his iconic Sonic Screwdriver:
    "I'm over screwdrivers, they ruin the lining of your jacket. These days I'm all about [pulls out his new sonic sunglasses] wearable technology!"
  • Wham Shot:
    • Daleks regenerating.
    • The Doctor donning the sonic sunglasses, now we know they're sonic.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Missy uses a knife to carve herself a pointy stick, but the knife is never seen or mentioned again, and they are described as armed only with a pointy stick, not with a pointy stick and a knife.
    • We never learn the fate of Bors, the Doctor's friend from the middle ages. We last saw that he'd been converted into a Dalek puppet, but we know from the case of Tasha Lem from "The Time of the Doctor" that this does not necessarily mean the person is lost forever.
  • What You Are in the Dark:
    • If the Doctor kills young Davros, there will be no Daleks and the universe's history will be rewritten. He might get his friends, his homeworld, etc. back. No one need know he killed a child to do it . . . what will he do? It turns out he was saving Davros.
    • Davros invokes this trope when he tells the Doctor that the cables would give him a means to kill all of the Daleks on Skaro; not in self-defense or as the justifiable action of war, but as pure, cold-blooded genocide. Davros even further baits him by saying, "No one would ever know." The only other person in the room, himself, is dying.
  • Who Needs Their Whole Body?: The Doctor steals Davros's chair, leaving his upper body on the ground protesting impotently.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Davros tries to play on the Doctor's sympathies by asking to see the sunrise with his own eyes one last time. The Doctor decides to donate a little regeneration energy to help him along, at which point Davros reveals it was an act so he could drain all the regeneration energy to create Dalek/Time Lord hybrids. Unfortunately for him, the Doctor knew what he was up to and knew the Meat Moss Daleks would also be energized, and they hate other Daleks.
  • You Can't Thwart Stage One: The Daleks learned to regenerate, but the only ones who did end up being consumed by decaying Dalek sludge.


"So long as there is mercy. Always mercy."


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