Dr Who Season Primer: The Magician's Apprentice
One of the things I love about science fiction is it’s ability to surprise me. This doesn’t happen as much as I would like even in the great shows, but it’s great when it does. One of the shows that does that the best is Dr. Who. A show that can be truly funny one week and deadly serious the next. It has a history of decades and yet isn’t afraid to try new things. And the season premiere of Dr. Who was great because it really did surprise me.
At the beginning of the episode you have the doctor appearing to save a young boy who has wandered into a handmine field. (The exact type of oddity that shouldn’t work but that Dr. Who manages to make feel scary). It immediatly puts The Doctor in a nearly impossible situation, because he learns quickly that this isn’t just a young boy. He’s a young boy who grows up to be one of the doctor’s greatest enemies.
The show then leaves the doctor’s for some time allowing Missy and Clara to carry much of the heart of the episode. Someone is looking for The Doctor and they need to find him but even Missy can’t. They do a fairly good job of keeping things going. Still, this search for the doctor felt a bit unnecessary for the episode, though it allowed The Master’s (Mistress) character some time to grow.
The show ended with a cliffhanger. One that could be very interesting. He has the chance to kill an enemy before he is an enemy. But not only does that threaten the morality of the doctor (which has been threatened before) but to change the entire history of the doctor who universe. (More specific spoilers ahead).
That boy is of course Davros the creator of the Dalek. It seems hard to believe that his life wouldn’t be a fixed point in time. But then the rules of Dr. Who are never all that hard and fast and I like the possibilities that this creates. But assuming he can it leads to a truly interesting point in the show. Everything in the new seasons of Dr. Who has been centered around the time war between the Timelords and the Dalek. If Davros didn’t create them then the timelords wouldn’t have been in a war, the doctor wouldn’t have time locked them and he wouldn’t be the last timelord.
On a more personal note it could actually alter the doctor’s time-line fairly substantially. Without the war there would have been no war doctor. From there it’s hard to imagine that anything is the same. Would he even have regenerated into the same forms. Almost certainly not at the same time. He might have had different companions or even not felt as much need for them since he would be less alone.
All of which is why I hope that they had the courage to actually surprise everyone and have the courage to change everything. I wouldn’t expect this to be a permanent change. But I would love to watch an entire season of Dr. Who where things are different than we have known. There are timelords and no Dalek, many of the old threats are gone but there are new dangers. Of course the actors in the show wouldn’t change and the ultimate arc of the season would almost certainly be the doctor realizing the mistake he made and change things back. But that could be interesting not only because it would mean his own people returning to being time locked but also because it would potentially lead to the death of Clara and Missy.
Overall this was an entertaining episode that set up a lot of possibilities but whether it is just another interesting episode or something that will be memorable is largely going dependent on the next episode. If they are willing to examine what would happen if The Doctor changed time even for an episode or two this could be very interesting.