The Doctor is back, but also nowhere to be found. At least not by the giant snake creature trying to find him. The Doctor faces an old enemy in a much younger form: Davros. He is looking for the Doctor for some unknown reason, but obviously he can’t be trusted. The Doctor is on yet another farewell tour, but this time he sent his old friend The Master/Missy his will that will open after his death, which is supposed to be the next day. Oh, and Missy is still alive, but did we really expect anything else?
After freezing all the airplanes in the world, Missy tries to get the attention of UNIT and Clara, and it succeeds. They track down The Doctor, but not before being found by Colony Sarff, Davros’ henchman, who is a colony all his own. He takes the three of them to the Dalek homeworld Skaro to meet with Davros. What does Davros want and what happened between child Davros and the Doctor?
This two-part season premiere has all the excitement and dramatic build up of a season finale. The stakes are high, and everything is life and death, more than it usually is at the beginning of the season. It is refreshing to see this much bravado in the opening of this season considering how turbulent the last season was. The tone has improved significantly and was able to remain consistent for the first two episodes. Everything is fatalistic and the Doctor is pushed to his edge, past the point most people have before cracking. Capaldi finally feels like he has come to his own in his role as the Doctor. Or rather, the writing has finally gotten on par to showcasing this new Doctor in a complementary and compelling way.
He is still a madman with a box, but even when pushed to his limits, he will always do the right thing. Whether that means letting the bad guys deal with the problems they created for themselves or sparing the life of a person who would grow up to be his worst enemy and cause the most harm to his entire race of people, he will always make the honorable choice. The show does do a great job in trying to trick us into believing he is getting ready to murder a child, but this misdirection is meant to build on the doubts it had created up to that point. One of which is thinking that the Doctor would ever react like a normal human might in a similar situation. He doesn’t (at least not in this case), and you feel ashamed for ever thinking he could.
Not always, but usually the first few episodes set the tone for the rest of the season. They introduce hints at an overarching villain or some event that will eventually become the climax closer to the end. I can happily say that this episode felt like the long awaited climax we’ve been waiting for since the lackluster last season. Where will the season go from here? How will other events top that? I honestly haven’t the slightest clue, but not knowing is what makes the start to this season one of the best in the last few years. I can only speculate based on already announced guest appearances, like Maisie Williams, and the return of the Doctor’s wife, River Song. That news in itself leaves me giddy with anticipation.
There may be people upset that the longtime enemies of the Doctor, the Daleks, were introduced this early into the season. That the show has run out of provocative new creatures to depict. We get a taste of some old favorites in a bar scene like the ood, the hath and the sycorax. We also revisit the Sisterhood of Karn as well as the ever elusive Shadow Proclamation. All the nostalgia they provide are great, but we also meet a new creature we’ve never encountered before: Colony Sarff. His design, structure and even the reveal as we see his transition into his true form proves to us that the show still has the ability to surprise and impress us, especially this early into the season.
There is one element that sticks out above anything else. A change that transcends time and space that I’m not quite sure I can get used to just yet. The sonic screwdriver has been retired, as of now at least. Taking its place are a pair of black sunglasses that seem to have the same capabilities and activated with a Bewitched-like shake of the shades. Like the season so far, I hope this radical change is just a phase into something better and more innovative that leads into an upgrade of the iconic sonic screwdriver concept rather than a whole overhaul of it. As the Doctor has said, some things are fixed points, and the existence of a sonic screwdriver feels like one of them.
In the end, Doctor Who season 9 has garnered enough of my interest and goodwill to where I will eagerly follow it this season. The season has all but regenerated my trust in it by returning back to its roots and focusing on the characters that made this show great. About time, Steven Moffat. The story has already proven to be engaging enough for us to continue to trust in the Doctor, and to hop into the TARDIS for at least another season’s worth of adventures. Perhaps a little change will be for the best.
RATING: ★★★★★★★★★ (9/10 stars)