Doctor Who – Series 9 Episode 1 – The Magician’s Apprentice review

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The series premiere begins with a great scene set in a sort of no mans land as a little boy is surrounded by handmines. Just as the credits roll we find out who this boy is, which sets in motion an exciting 10 minutes or so as a mysterious snakelike figure searches for The Doctor.

After this initial, well paced beginning, things become a bit muddled. There are too many beginnings, lots of set up and enigmatic plot, that the episode is pass the half way point before things have a visible destination. Then things get bizarre, and a little complicated as we meet The Doctor playing the guitar in the 12th century.

The episode is just a lot of set up for a lot of other stuff, there’s no middle, just a beginning and an end, especially as a set up for a two parter, it feels awfully and unnecessarily epic. Once again The Doctor is confronted with his own demise, once again he elusively disappears and needs to be sought after, once again everything is played out enigmatically and mysteriously.

One of my big problems with the show of late is how everything must be the worst, the scariest, the greatest, the oldest or the most fearsome. Nothing can ever be just a rollicking adventure, it must always be the greatest possible foe for The Doctor. Here, in just the first episode, we get enough plot and story to fill a seasons worth of story arcs, and we’ve seen it all before.

Still, the episode is engaging enough. Capaldi makes a fine Doctor, although I didn’t care for his posturing during the guitar scene, and Coleman is a confident and likeable presence, although I feel like her story has nowhere new to go. It’s got the usual great cinematography, effects, direction and music, although it has got to the point where it’s a little too cinematic. I remember thinking the first trailer for S9 was too much explosion, fizz, bang wallop, and the murkiness is reflected here.

Michelle Gomez is great as Missy, and there’s some nice ideas, and some great callbacks to previous seasons. It just feels too cluttered, too many ideas, too much posturing and yet again, tending to retcon a whole bunch o’ stuff.

Still, it had lots to like.

Rating: B-  6/10

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