Doctor Who RECAP & REVIEW: “The Witch’s Familiar”



And we’re back for the follow-up episode to ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’, ‘The Witch’s Familiar‘. In case you missed the first episode, and I highly recommend watching that before skipping ahead to this one, we had just witnessed Clara and Missy being zapped by a horde of Daleks, and presumed dead by the Doctor who was having a nice little chat with Davros.

We start, still on Skaro, with Clara hanging upside down. Missy sits nearby sharpening a stick, you know, in case she needs to hunt–or eat Clara.

Missy retells a story of the Doctor surviving an impossible encounter with invisible robot assassins, and tests how well Clara knows him. Clara is able to deduce that the Doctor used the power of the assassin’s laser beams to charge a teleporter to escape, which is exactly what Missy did earlier to let them both survive the Dalek’s weapons.

They make a point that what makes the Doctor different is that he always assumes he will win. This Clara and Missy back-and-forth is top-notch banter.

So, of course, the Doctor is still under the impression that Clara might actually be dead and takes Davros hostage. The Daleks are on high alert.

Yes! The Doctor emerges in Davros’ chair, while Davro’s half body lays wriggling on the floor. He now has the Dalek Empire under his control behind the personal force field of the chair.

Meanwhile, Missy takes Clara into the sewers, which aren’t really sewers. They’re actually Dalek graveyards, where Daleks are technically still alive but exist as a brown, gunky liquid: puddle-Daleks.

The Doctor’s takeover doesn’t last very long, as Colony Sarff returns and strangles him with his multitude of snakes. Another cool effect: Sarff’s face slithering apart into a snake – not at all disturbing.


In the sewers, Missy pushes Clara into a Dalek camera, alerting them of their presence. But when a Dalek emerges to exterminate, Missy uses her brooch (that just so happens to be made of a special metal that can pierce Dalek armour, which, of course it is!) to stab a few holes in it. Then, somehow, the dirty puddle-Daleks rise up and run right through the armour, causing it to blow up.

The Doctor has another flashback to kid-Davros standing on the battlefield surrounded by hand-mines, which is still weighing heavily on his mind. When he awakens, Davros has sealed them both in his control centre room; time for another chitchat.

Davros makes a point to bring up the cables in the middle of the room, which he explains are connected to the life force of every Dalek. Note that some (if not all) of the cables seem to be the snakes of Sarff, which is–odd.

He tries to tempt the Doctor with the idea of taking the cables and being in complete control of the Daleks. He would be a God and could obliterate them if he wanted to. Davros tries to justify it with Clara being dead.

But the Doctor is having none of it, and the idea of the Doctor relying on compassion comes up again.

Back to the sewers where Missy has convinced (or rather forced) Clara to get inside of the blown up Dalek. Dalek-Clara gets a quick 101 on being a Dalek, and the most notable thing here is the contrast between what she says and how it is translated. When she says her name it comes out as ‘Dalek’, and when she says ‘she loves’ it results in ‘exterminate’. Daleks apparently fuel on emotion, Missy informs her. Very interesting, although slightly confusing when you consider past Dalek encounters.


Now to the main course of this episode! The Doctor and Davros continue their chat, but this isn’t like any chat these two have had in the past. It isn’t even like the Doctor’s standard, common-ground small talk with the weekly baddies.

Instead, these two are chatting as old friends whose pasts have been so intertwined and who both fought to do what they believed to be the right thing for their people.

For the first time, Davros opens his human eyes to see the Doctor. He seems genuinely upset and questions, “Am I a good man?”, which is a nice callback to the same question the Doctor once asked Clara. Tears are rolling down Davros’ face and he looks like a poor, old man.

The feels.

The Doctor is now convinced that Davros is actually dying, and the two have a good old laugh together. As it seems that Davros doesn’t have long, he wishes he could look at the sun one more time.

And just in time, Dalek-Clara has taken Missy hostage and led her sneakily back into the city, although the others are starting to become suspicious.

Now the Doctor is going to grant Davros his last wish and starts playing around with the cords. Yet, when Davros laments that he no longer has the power to open his eyes, the Doctor decides it’s worth losing an arm or leg down the line (or just being really short!) and gives up some of his regenerative powers.

Jokes! Davros starts cackling; it’s all a trap and he was just playin’ all along.


Cable McCablestein, aka Colony Sarff, in snake/cable form starts draining the Doctor of his regenerative powers and fuels it all into the Daleks.

We then cut to Missy showing off some nice dance moves to the rhythm of the Dalek’s ‘exterminate’, which strangely feels way more like electronic dance music than it should.

The Dalek’s begin to glow with that familiar regenerative glow and Missy knows that the Doctor has done something he shouldn’t have. She runs to the control centre and blasts the Doctor loose, presumably killing Sarff in the process.

Now the Daleks have been regenerated into some kind of Time Lord hybrid? Maybe? They’re apparently now more powerful, and very happy about this.

Except, of course, the Doctor was a step ahead of Davros the entire time. He knew releasing his powers would also regenerate the puddle-Daleks in the sewers, which starts to cause the city to break apart.

Missy has a formal meeting with Davros for the first time, and comically pokes him in his Dalek eye. Hmm, seems right.

They escape just as Dalek-Clara approaches, although the Doctor isn’t able to tell it’s her. Missy tries to deviously convince him that the Dalek-Clara actually killed Clara in an attempt to trick him into to killing her. But even as Clara begs for help, the Doctor can’t understand her.

That is, until she manages to say the word ‘mercy’. He catches on that Clara must be inside and tells her to think ‘open’, which she does, and is able to escape.

Of course, he isn’t very happy with Missy, who points out that this was the reason she gave Clara to him in the first place: to highlight that every enemy has a bit of a friend inside, and vice versa, like a hybrid.


Missy runs away, while Clara and the Doctor go to get the TARDIS. Somehow, its shield is still protecting them, and the Doctor pulls out his new sonic sunglasses to start reassembling the TARDIS. Apparently it wasn’t so much as blown up than just momentarily redistributed due to the Hostile Action Displacement System. The TARDIS reforms around them, much to the confusion of the Daleks.

As the two watch the city being destroyed from the mountains, Clara enquires as to what was on the Doctor’s confession dial, but he’s extra evasive. He is, however, intrigued by how Clara was able to use the word ‘mercy’ as a Dalek, until it suddenly hits him.

He jumps in the TARDIS and we find ourselves where we were at the end of last episode, with the Doctor facing a gun at Kid-Davros. Except now he instead shoots the hand-minds.

Kid-Davros asks the obvious question: “Are you the enemy?” But just like the Doctor says, whether friend or foe, none of that really matters as long as there is mercy.

Recap Musings:

  • I kind of wished we had seen something come of this whole Dalek/Time Lord thing. For a moment, I thought we were actually going to see some kind of weird mutation, so it was a bit of a let down when the Daleks remained just the same. It would have been interesting to see what they could have looked like, if they did indeed look different. Having said that though, I would have been the first one to say, “WTF Moffat?”
  • And on that hybrid note, it’s worth noting the emphasis put on being a hybrid at the end, when Clara, Missy and the Doctor joined back up. Could being a hybrid be something that might recur later on this season?
  • So, the most important question is whether or not we are actually going to have a sonic pair of sunglasses now instead of the screwdriver. Seeing the glasses in next week’s preview suggests the answer might be yes, and I’m not sure how I feel about this.
  • Best Clara and Missy moment: pushing Clara down the hole to test the drop and Missy’s delivery of “Twenty-feet”.
  • The whole Dalek sewer business felt a bit too sloppy. Maybe if the idea had been introduced prior to this episode it could have been a satisfying ending, but as is, it seemed like nothing more than an overly convenient way for the Doctor to save the day.
  • Even if you assume that the Doctor believed Clara was still alive somehow throughout the episode, I kind of wished he’d maintained the frantic panic he had at the beginning. Looking back, it’s strange that he was kind of calm through most of it, when you would have thought that he’d have been much more desperate and irate.
  • Funniest moment: Davros offering the only other chair on Skaro to the Doctor.
  • Glad that Gallifrey’s return was brought up again. It feels like this point had been almost forgetting.
  • Putting Clara in the Dalek armour was an obvious callback to Oswin Oswald in Series Seven, but I’m a little disappointed that the Doctor didn’t acknowledge this. It seemed weird that he wouldn’t even address it. Also, will her being in the Dalek case be an ongoing issue?
  • I’ve been a bit iffy about how they use the Doctor’s regenerative powers. It seems that as time goes on, the rules about how it works seem to be ever-changing, and mostly just to suit story purposes. Not sure how keen I am on him just being able to call on his regenerative powers at any time, seeing that it would make it possible to potentially heal anyone he likes using it.

Next time…