I don’t normally do reviews of individual episodes of a series but I’m making an exception in this case as, not only am I a huge fan of Doctor Who (historically at least), but this new season has something of a ‘make or break’ feel for me.
To put that into some context, I found the last season (8 by the new timeline), the first to feature Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, more than a bit disappointing.
With the exception of the Missy revelation there is little from it that has stuck in my mind a year later and I was left with the feeling that with this and Sherlock show runner Stephen Moffat may have taken on more than one man could deal with, leading to Doctor Who becoming somewhat like high profile fan fiction.
In the build up to this season I had found my interest somewhat lacking as the powers that be in BBC’s marketing department seemed to be relying on revealing major plot points as a way of keeping us interested.
Inevitably they have ended up ‘spoilering’ a few key aspects of the story before it even started. So, I came to the new episode, The Magician’s Apprentice, more than a little doubtful.
Starting off with a rather traditional Doctor Who looking setting that could easily have been a quarry in Wales (and I really hope that at least some of it was) the pre-credits sequence managed, in one line that I won’t spoil here, to generate more intrigue than the entire last season combined and had me hooked.
To talk much more of plot details would be something of a spoiler, but suffice to say there was quite a lot to take in that I hope gets at least some kind of explanation as the series goes on.
The middle section of the episode did revert back slightly to some of the directionlessness and gimmickry of the previous season, but that was soon dealt with and the sense of intrigue returned with a further nod to the past, including a brief glimpse of Tom Baker’s Doctor.
As the episode drew to a close, on both a big ethical cliffhanger for The Doctor and a wider storyline cliffhanger, I was left with much more positive feelings than I’ve had for the show in a while.
A lot still remains to be seen in how these big set ups are dealt with going forward, and if it all succumbs to the same lack of direction as the last season, but for an opening episode The Magician’s Apprentice had a lot of good points that I hope mean we are in for a more engaging and controlled show again, like Doctor Who can be at its best.