Mark Watches ‘Doctor Who’: S09E02 – The Witch’s Familiar

In the second episode of the ninth series of Doctor Who, THIS WAS GREAT. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of genocide.

So much to talk about! But let me just say that this was both a lot of fun and emotionally intense. Bravo on the balance, Doctor Who.


Look, I think it would be a crime to have Michelle Gomez not use her brilliant sense of comic timing, so I appreciated that amidst a fairly terrible atmosphere, she spends the bulk of this episode enjoying the chance to be chaotic. More than ever before, she feels like the Trickster, a character who exists solely to keep everyone else on their toes. She’s perfect at it, too, and I daresay say that keeping her alive after series 8 was a damn fine choice. I do want to see her get her own storyline, though, especially if she can interact with the Doctor in a way that will shed light on their past. DID SHE MAKE REFERENCE TO A DAUGHTER IN THIS EPISODE? Like I said in the video, I am not all that knowledgable about Doctor Who canon as I’d like to be, so THIS CAME AS A SURPRISE. Tell me more!

Hubris and Debris

Okay, I am both utterly disturbed and immensely impressed with the introduction of the Skaro sewers. What a gross way to show us how flawed the construction of the Dalek society is. Because the Daleks are genetically designed and bred for one purpose, it makes sense that over time, Dalek bodies had to do something. They don’t ever die if they’re killed, but they’re also not constructed to be invincible. Thus, Skaro is built over a living graveyard; Dalek bodies break down until they’re nothing more than a web of goo that lives underground forever. FOREVER. Of course Davros doesn’t care about it, and neither do any of the Daleks. It’s just evidence of their hubris.


I know that I’ve not been the biggest fan of the Daleks in recent series. I feel like it’s a challenge to write them in interesting stories because there is just SO MUCH CANON. How do you write new stories with antagonists that have thousands of hours worth of material behind them? So, here’s me appreciating the fact that Moffat found out how to write about Daleks by putting a person inside of a Dalek shell. Which might not be a new thing in Doctor Who canon, of course! I DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING, THERE IS SO MUCH I’VE MISSED. But seeing how the Dalek technology filtered out emotion and individuality was super fascinating, y’all.

It does mean, however, that Clara gets no real growth herself. That’s a problem with her characterization in general over the course of her tenure on the show. A lot of times, I feel like stories happen to her, rather than her being involved in them. I know there’s a thin line between the two of them, and I don’t need a character to constantly evolve with every appearance. However, does this episode change if you remove Clara’s story? Only sort of; until the Doctor interacts with her in the Dalek shell, I’d say it would unfold exactly the same. She does influence the Doctor’s decision to offer mercy to Davros. But what else? I definitely want a more personal story for Clara this season.


The strongest element of “The Witch’s Familiar” is the theme. At the end of the last episode, the Doctor ponders whether or not Davros is right about compassion. Long ago, the Doctor did not offer Davros compassion when he came across him as a boy. Now, in the present, Davros is on his last breath. Look, I BELIEVED IT. I bought it without question. Julian Bleach’s performance as Davros was so convincing that I never doubted that I was watching the final moments of Davros. On top of that, Capaldi’s moving performance as the Doctor led me to believe that I was watching something special. Despite that the Doctor had fought Davros for centuries, despite that his arch-nemesis had killed billions of Time Lords, and despite that there was no reason for it, the Doctor gave Davros compassion in his “final” moments. He helped him to see the sun rise on Skaro on last time.

Of course, it was all a ruse so that Davros could steal the Doctor’s regeneration powers for the Daleks, but that doesn’t negate how meaningful those scenes were. I say that because the end of “The Witch’s Familiar” shows us that the Doctor knows that compassion is his weakness, and he doesn’t care. If this had not been a trap, I think the Doctor would have behaved the same way. He would have given Davros kindness before he died. Why? Because it doesn’t matter what side he’s on, as long as there is mercy.

BUT LET’S ALSO TALK ABOUT HYBRIDS. Because I really hope there is some future story to address them. What a fascinating concept! Did the Doctor create the Hybrids? Some other Time Lord? What do Dalek/Time Lord Hybrids even look like? PLEASE TELL ME MORE, I’D LOVE IT.

The video for “The Witch’s Familiar” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be Death Note and Neon Genesis Evangelion. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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