Summary 9×02: The Doctor is trapped in Skaro with a scheming Davros. Missy and Clara launch a rescue mission, but can the Master really be trusted?

Rating: ★★1/2☆☆

If compassion was a disease, the Doctor would be terminal. Any being – human, Time Lord, or otherwise – who can show a their genocidal nemesis a shred of mercy must certainly have two hearts. As episode 2 shows, Twelve is more than deserving of his samba heartbeat.

“The Witch’s Apprentice” opens back on Skaro, just moments after Clara and Missy were vaporized by the Daleks. Only, they weren’t, or else Jenna Coleman’s final episode would have come far sooner than anyone could have predicted…

Instead, Missy is chilling in the desert, practicing making Stone Age weapons with a mysteriously procured knife while Clara dangles upside down, a potential meal for the Master should her spear hunting prove futile. Despite her rather sociopathic tendencies, Missy is good for one thing – dishing out insight into her closest friend/worst enemy. Under the guise of explaining how the pair escaped their apparent extermination, the Time Lord does just that.

Clara and Missy regroup in the desert [BBC Worldwide Limited]
Clara and Missy regroup in the desert [BBC Worldwide Limited]
Cut to a black and white flashback. The Eighth Doctor’s scarf and fedora whip around the edge of a pillar… the First Doctor’s diminutive silhouette flits out of the shadows… no, now it’s Twelve, his eyebrows dominating the scene. Whichever regeneration Missy is remembering, he’s in dire straights.

But he’s not afraid. He’s not forwarding his confession dial to his childhood pal. He’s not throwing himself a goodbye party. The Doctor, as always, is self assured and ready to think his way out of a crisis (which he does with a little rejiggering of his timey-wimey tech, ultimately patenting the escape move Missy just copied). He is everything Twelve currently isn’t. But why?

Quick as ever, Clara knows the answer. The Doctor now assumes he’s going to die, whereas he always assumes he is going to win. Unfortunately, if Twelve kicks the bucket, Clara and Missy will undoubtedly follow him into the grave. So, how will they find and save the Doctor? By heading into the sewers, of course.

Davros, meanwhile, is fraying Twelve’s last nerve. The creator of the Daleks will soon draw his last breath, but it appears he will spend his last ounce of oxygen baiting his mortal enemy. The Doctor, however, flaunts his genius and finds the one safe haven in all of Skaro – inside Davros’ own Dalek chair.

Twelve always has a plan [BBC worldwide Limited]
Twelve always has a plan [BBC worldwide Limited]
No leader lives without fear of an assassination, particularly the backstabbing form that comes at the hands of one’s loyal subjects. As the rank and file Daleks will soon learn, any man/bizarre hybrid creation that sits in Davros’ tricked out wheelchair will be ultimately protected from the pepper pots’ murderous schemes.

Unfortunately for the Doctor, no matter how ailing or incapacitated old tri-eyes is, he can always call on Sarff. It’s not long before Twelve is trapped in a futuristic version of Indiana Jones’ worst nightmare.

Meanwhile, it’s back to Missy and Clara’s foray into the world of sewer maintenance. As it turns out, a Dalek sewer is really just comprised of the living, gooey, oozing, decomposing bodies of their ancestors. Apparently a Dalek can’t die; they just decompose in a disturbingly sentient state.

If you say so, Steven Moffat.

Anyway, Missy uses Clara as bait to capture and kill(?) a Dalek. Or rather, she lets the liquefied Daleks swamp their living counterpart until he, too, is nothing but a thoroughly disgusting smoothie. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Master then sticks Twelve’s companion inside a Dalek suit, hard-wiring her brain so she can telepathically control the mini tank.

Missy knows the Daleks, inside and out [Simon Ridgway/BBC Worldwide Limited]
Missy knows the Daleks, inside and out [Simon Ridgway/BBC Worldwide Limited]
The drawback: Clara can’t force the machine to do anything that goes against Dalek protocol. She can’t say her name (it comes out as “I am a Dalek”), she can’t convey any emotion that isn’t the embodiment of a red-faced emoticon, and even the tiniest spark of frustration sends her blaster into overdrive. All in all, it’s an interesting look into the psyche of the universe’s deadliest creature.

Now it’s time for the duo to utilize the patented Star Wars prisoner trick to get the enemy to usher them directly to Papa Dalek.

It’s this very father that the Daleks are all giving just a little of their life force to in order to keep him alive. The little rage-filled bots have a soft spot for dear old dad, and Davros is about to give Twelve a chance to utilize that emotional flaw to commit the genocide. Why? Possibly to see the Doctor fail his own moral code; to score a final victory even in death. Just a pull of Davros’ life support cord and mass murder will be the order of the day. It’s a “Coward, any day,” moment for the Doc, and just as he did eight seasons ago, Twelve refuses to dive down that rabbit hole.

Instead, Davros and Twelve wind up discussing why Twelve left Gallifrey in the first place. It’s all a bit convoluted, but it appears Moffat is attempting to set up season 9’s big mystery. Twelve is running from something, and the answer to his centuries long sprint is tucked away in his confession dial. Davros even gets a bit weepy at this point, a sure sign that the laws of nature have stopped functioning all together – up is down, big is small, socks with sandals is suddenly acceptable.

What’s worse, Twelve is buying into the act. Davros wants the strength to see his children with his own eyes, just one last time. Unfortunately, he is far too weak to pry them open. A little regeneration energy, however, would certainly do the trick. The Doctor agrees. He grabs the life support wires to dose Davros with a little Time Lord juice… and winds up giving every single Dalek a blast of regeneration mojo.

Davros has won! An alleged Time Lord/Dalek hybrid now roams the universe.

Or not.

The Doctor is far too clever by half, and he’s used Davros’ trick to power up those rotting Daleks of days long past. The sewers start to tremble. Skaro begins to break apart. There are some pissed off Daleks on the way, and their liquefied bodies are on the attack. Soon every pepper shaker is oozing with guts as their inhabitants meet their demise. The Doctor has won. He has his groove back. Now, all he needs is Clara and his TARDIS.

Twelve sports a set of sonic sunglasses [Simon Ridgway/BBC Worldwide Limited]
Twelve sports a set of sonic sunglasses [Simon Ridgway/BBC Worldwide Limited]
Unfortunately, Missy has another agenda all together. She thinks it would just be a gas if Twelve was to accidentally off his own companion, and she claims Dalek Clara is the one responsible for allegedly murdering the schoolteacher. Unable to identify herself, Clara is helpless… until she taps into a piece of Dalek programming the Doctor can’t believe even exists. She begs for mercy.

Twelve immediately launches into rescue mode, telling Missy she’d better run before she gets a taste of his “Demons Run” rage. With Clara by his side, Twelve recovers his TARDIS via his newly minted sonic sunglasses (the ship redistributed its molecules in self defense, obviously) and heads back to save a young Davros. After all, it’s the Time Lord’s compassion that sparked the very strand of Dalek mercy that saved Clara’s life.

Missy, however, stayed in the ruins of Skaro. She’s already busy working on her next clever idea…

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