Well, a late recap is better than no recap, right? Unfortunately, it appears that I've lost The Doctor's phone number -- where is that woman from the shop?! -- and I can't go back in time to write the recap back when the show first aired! Thank goodness for DVRs and BBC iPlayer!
We were promised that Series 9 of Doctor Who would start with a bang, but I didn't know to expect it in the first few minutes. This episode is a doozy! Enter: "The Magician's Apprentice".
The episode starts on an unknown battlefield. Soldiers run from lasers fired by bi-planes. One soldier stops, thinking he has seen a child run away from the attacks. He tracks the young boy, telling his fellow soldier that he doesn't care about any coming attacks; he is more concerned with the lost boy. He asks the boy if he knows what handmines are, and the boy says he does as the ground rumbles around them. The soldier explains that they must stand absolutely still, asking the boy if he's ever seen a handmine. When the boy nods, he asks 'where?', and the boy looks to the soldier's feet. A hand has reached through the muddy ground and wrapped itself around the soldier's ankle. He tries to console the boy, but his reassurances are cut short by his being dragged underground in half a second.
Hands begin to grow from the ground like seedlings. We now see that they have eyeballs in their palms. The boy is terrified and calls for help, and a certain sonic screwdriver comes soaring toward him. We hear The Doctor's voice, not exactly imparting calming words in that Scottish lilt but providing comfort nonetheless. He knows the odds of this boy surviving aren't good. He tells him that the screwdriver is creating an acoustic corridor and jokes that he was looking for a bookshop. The Doctor knows he has appeared in a war, but he doesn't know which war it is. When he asks, the boy replies, "It's just The War". The Doctor presses, asking what the name of the planet is, and the boy deflects. The Doctor explains, "You have got to make a choice. Yes, you have got to decide that you're going to live. Survival is just a choice -- choose it now [...] Tell me the name of the boy who isn't going to die today!"
Neither The Doctor nor I were ready for the boy's answer, though: "Davros. My name is Davros." The Doctor doesn't reply, and the boy's cries become more desperate. Cue intro music.
For those of you who are less familiar with The Doctor's vast history, Davros created the Daleks. Yep, them. He created a mutant species intent on destroying -- and destroying The Doctor, in particular.
When the title screen passes, we are suddenly at The Maldovarium, and a mysterious hooded figure is entering a distinctly Star Warsian watering hole. He introduces himself --themselves, it appears -- as Colony Sarff and says that they bring harm. They enquire about the Doctor and become more and more threatening.
Next up is The Shadow Proclamation (Where is Rose when you need her?). So far, the episode appears to be mostly long-time-fan service. 'Oh, remember when...?' Colony Sarff are there, too, asking for The Doctor. Here, Colony Sarff's employer is known, and, instead of answering questions, they turn and leave.
We see the red planet of Karn next, the place fans will recognise as where the 8th Doctor chose to regenerate into the War Doctor to end the Time War. Colony Sarff appear and are welcomed -- and threatened -- by the Sisterhood of Karn. Colony Sarff are told that The Doctor is "where he always is -- right behind you and one step ahead". We learn that Davros is dying, and the message is simple: "Davros knows. Davros remembers. Tell him he must face Davros one last time." Yeah, I'm sure that's on the top of his to-do list. The Doctor is there, hiding amongst the rocks, listening.
Davros appears, half in shadow, hooked up to many, many cables and holding a very old sonic screwdriver. Colony Sarff say that The Doctor cannot be found, but Davros knows the way -- find his friends.
Back on Earth, we enter Clara Oswald's Coal Hill classroom. She is teaching about Jane Austen -- apparently a phenomenal kisser -- when she notices a plane suspended out the window. She tells her students to check their phones, suggesting they search for #ThePlanesHaveStopped. We are bombarded with international news reports about the halted planes, and Clara is whisked away with calls from UNIT.
The amazing Kate Lethbridge-Stewart greets Clara at UNIT, and they brainstorm what the point of the planes are. Bombs? Invasion? Cry for attention? A message comes through the old Doctor Channel, and it's quickly decrypted: "YOU SO FINE. YOU BLOW MY MIND. HEY MISSY YOU SO FINE YOU SO FINE YOU BLOW MY MIND HEY MISSY!!!"
A video begins to play, and there she is: Missy. She has a few parlour tricks up her sleeve and explains her presence with: "Okay, cutting to the chase: Not dead. Back. Big surprise. Nevermind." She doesn't know her exact location, though she doesn't doubt they can find her. She says she'll need eight snipers, ready to take her down before she can regenerate -- because that's the only way she'll feel safe enough to talk to her.
The 'she' Missy means is, of course, Clara, who heads over right on schedule, snipers in place. They have a bit of banter, and Missy shows Clara a Confession Dial, the last will and testament to be delivered to a Time Lord's best friend on the eve of their death. Clara thinks it's for her, but Missy says it was delivered to her -- which must mean The Doctor both knew Missy was alive and where she was. Missy kills a few UNIT officers to prove that she's not turned good, and Clara makes her release all the planes before she'll help her.
So The Doctor is dying -- or, at least, thinks he is -- but no one can find him. The best way to find him is to check the chatter for Doctors, magicians, blue boxes -- and they narrow it down to the place with the most chatter and least crisis. Our Doctor would want a going-away party. "Do not go gently into that good night".
We get blips of Essex -- clapping hands, a man with an axe, cheering crowds -- and Missy transports Clara and herself to this old place, telling her to be on the lookout for tiny anachronisms. Enter The Doctor: wearing shades and riffing an electric guitar atop a tank. (Is this the point to acknowledge that we have a Doctor who was in a Scottish punk band?!) He is full of puns about axe fights, fish tanks, and ordering goods online. He is quite manic, but he spots the girls and begins playing "Pretty Woman". He starts monologuing after being told he has been there for three weeks, not the day he thought he had. We have seen this desperation not to die before, as the 10th Doctor had an entire farewell tour. Clara, despite knowing all of The Doctor's incarnations, doesn't recognise him as himself, and he declares, "It's my party, and all of me is invited" before introducing Missy with her theme song.
Oh, Colony Sarff are there. Davros was right; they followed his friends to The Doctor. We soon learn why Colony Sarff is plural -- he is snakes -- and repeats their earlier message left with The Sisterhood of Karn. Missy is offended by the idea that she is not The Doctor's arch-enemy, and Colony Sarff drop the screwdriver at his feet. The Doctor says he doesn't have a screwdriver anymore, and he hangs his head in shame. We see a flashback of The Doctor choosing to turn and leave young Davros to his own demise back in The War. Back in Essex, The Doctor says goodbye to Clara, but she refuses to accept it, announcing that they will go with him.
Bors, the man with the axe, follows a long hallway and throws back a tapestry, revealing the TARDIS. He has a Dalek sight coming out of his forehead, and he reports that the TARDIS has been found. Unmistakable Dalek voices reply.
The Doctor, Missy, and Clara appear to be in a dim jail cell (or hospital, as The Doctor suggests), and Colony Sarff enter to retrieve The Doctor. Before leaving, he whispers "Gravity" to Missy. She already knows, dancing around and saying the gravity is all wrong there because it's all right. She threatens to kill Clara by opening the airlock.
The Doctor confronts Davros for the first time in ages. Davros asks if The Doctor came because he missed their 'conversations' and begins playing audio of former interactions with former incarnations. He also has a video of the 4th Doctor discussing the idea of killing a child to prevent future genocide.
Missy and Clara are not dead ("treading softly"), and they discover they are on an invisible planet -- or, at least, they can't see it until they sync with the atmosphere. It quickly becomes clear that they are standing on Skaro, the home planet of the Daleks, which was thought to be destroyed long ago. Davros says, "Where does an old man go to die but with his children?", raising the question of whether he means himself or The Doctor, who might also be responsible for the Daleks' creation.
Missy and Clara are kidnapped by a Dalek and brought to a room with the TARDIS and Daleks from many ages of Doctor Who. Missy mouths off at the Daleks, trying to sell them on her ability to control the TARDIS. They don't take her claims lightly, and they EXTERMINATE her with MAXIMUM EXTERMINATION. They turn to Clara, wanting her to run; she complies, and they zap her, too. The Doctor, emotionally destroyed by the losses, questions why he has always allowed Davros to live, and Davros wants The Doctor to renounce compassion, his greatest weakness. The Daleks set to destroy the TARDIS.
We are back -- on what we now know is likely Skaro -- with young Davros. The Doctor is back. Young Davros asks if he is going to save him, and The Doctor replies that he is going to save his friend. He lifts a Dalek arm and shouts, "EXTERMINATE!" as the screen flashes to "To Be Continued..."
I told you this episode was a massive one! What did you think of all the literary references throughout the episode? Did it feel a little Russell T. Davies-y to anyone else? Was it worth waiting since Christmas? Are Missy and Clara really dead now? What are we going to do until next week?!