Doctor Who 9.02: “The Witch’s Familiar”

Last week, Stephanie suggested that I had DILUTED OUR BRAND by failing to include pictures.  I hope this week’s post meets her approval, as much as a post about a white male time traveller can ever do so.

A screenshot of the TARDIS underwater, with Harold Holt's head superimposed at the bottom.

The witch’s familiar

This episode was all about Missy and Clara.  I mean, and the Doctor and Davros, and we’ll get to that, but a good part of it was about Clara acting as companion to Missy instead of the Doctor.

Last time the Master had a companion, it was poor old Lucy Saxon, who got an unspeakably raw deal in canon.  Missy’s interactions were more reminiscent of Delgado!Master and Jo, who never quite teamed up, but who occasionally traded barbs and tolerated each other for long enough to achieve short-term goals.

Off the top of my head, I don’t think Missy and Clara passed the Bechdel test, unless you count exposition about Dalek graveyard-sewers, but I think the Bechdel test is arbitrary and fails to take characterisation into account anyway.  We learned a lot about Missy and Clara and their respective levels of competence ego (pretty high in both cases, we are dealing with a pair of egomaniacs here), and in the end, Missy reinforced what she had already demonstrated last week: she may occasionally pursue goals nobler than world domination, but no matter how much she may seem to like you, she’ll still try and kill you for shits and giggles.

Or to manipulate the Doctor, either way.  I don’t agree with the reading that she was romantically jealous of Clara.  I have trouble getting my head around the idea of strictly monogamous Time Lords, and in any case, she regards Clara as barely sentient.  She’d talk the Doctor into killing Clara just to make him suffer.  Because she can.

A couple of days after I wrote that this episode was all about Clara and Missy, Miss S-B of Dreamwidth remarked that, even on her carefully curated reading list, most of the reviews she had seen barely mentioned Missy, erasing her in a way that has never, ever happened to the Master until, purely by coincidence, the role was taken by a woman.

Into the dalek


Clara getting into a Dalek was a fantastic call-back on several levels: to Oswin’s introduction, and to the bit in the very first Dalek serial (I think?  One of the very early ones) where the Doctor gets in and trundles around.

“Where are the pedals?” Clara asks.  Well, I laughed.

I hope it’s not foreshadowing of Clara’s ultimate fate, but I’m going to take a gamble and say that it’s not.  (Did you see how, like, 99% of my predictions last week were wrong?  Let’s hope that’s not the establishment of a pattern.)  It’s not the first time one of Clara’s splinter-self experiences has been echoed in the life of the “real” Clara — she’s a nanny-turned-teacher, just as Victorian!Clara was a governess — and probably not the last.

“You’re not a very good doctor.”

Between their psychiatric facilities, and now their palliative care regime, I’m going to put this out there and suggest that with all due respect, Daleks just aren’t very nice people.


I don’t think Moffat forgot that River Song made a Dalek beg for mercy.  I think this was deliberate.  The Doctor wasn’t there for that moment, but lots of fanboys were, and they were pretty mad that (a) a mere woman had that power, and (b) a Dalek understood the concept of mercy.

Moffat can’t make the fandom less sexist, but he can totally fill in a plot hole that absolutely no one outside of Gallifrey Base cared about.  The Daleks understood mercy all along, because time travel.  IN YOUR FACE, STEPHANIE.

“I’m half-human on my mother’s side.”

So there’s a prophecy that two warring races will create a super-hybrid.  Davros reckons that refers to the Daleks-with-a-twist-of-Time-Lord, but then, he would.  I initially agreed with Davros, but I have been persuaded otherwise: Davros has, let’s just say, a Dalekcentric worldview, and why would you introduce a prophecy in the first episode only to render it instantly null?

I’ve therefore come around to the idea that the Doctor is the prophesied hybrid, and this is all an elaborate scheme of Moffat’s to troll Gallifrey Base by reminding them of the line in the TV movie that they have forever tried to erase from reality, that the Doctor is half-human on his mother’s side.

(Yes, it’s a Star Trekkish cliche, but a lot of the reaction against the idea came back to the gynophobia I discussed last week.)

Of course, now we get to wonder, who is the Doctor’s Mum?  Here is a list of people I don’t want it to be:

  • River Song
  • Amy Pond
  • Rose Tyler
  • most companions in fact

Here is a list of people I guess I’d be okay with:

  • Barbara Wright-Chesterton

That is all.

Mostly, I want the Doctor’s human mother, if such a character does eventually exist, to be a whole new character.  But that’s not how Moffat works, he likes his twists to be hidden in plain sight, which means it’s probably Clara.

I have mixed feelings about this.  Clara is a character who has absolutely shaped the Doctor through all his lives, from the time he was a scared little boy listening for the monster under the bed.  It fits.  It’s good.  It brings us full circle.

On the other hand, I have a really strong negative reaction to the popular fan theory that Clara is going to leave the Doctor to live on Gallifrey and become a Time Lord.

I dislike this idea for a couple of reasons:

  1. It buys into the idea that the reward for being a heroine is to become a princess, or at least to be adopted by or married into the nearest aristocracy.  There’s a strong subtext of “she’s better than what she came from”.  You see it in a lot of Zuko/Katara fic, too, and it was particularly overt and classist when the popular theory was that Rose would become a Time Lord.
  2. Time Lords are terrible.  Gallifrey is an awful place full of corrupt, amoral technocrats.  Why would you think this was a happy ending? What has Clara done to deserve that?  I love Time Lords, but it’s not because they’re in any way nice or good people.

IN CONCLUSION, companions leaving to become Time Lords is a terrible idea, FIGHT ME, ANDREW CARTMEL.

I think at some point I said i was going to talk about davros

He is a lying liar who lies.  However, I think he was sincere when he said he was happy the Doctor once again has a home and a race, because it really fits his Nazi-analogy worldview, ie, stick with your own people and it’s really gross how the Doctor likes hanging out with aliens.

Awkward fact: I really enjoyed the Doctor stealing Davros’s chair, and every single thing about the scenes where he was in it, but at the same time, it had unpleasant overtones of abuse of the disabled.  Don’t tip people out of wheelchairs, even if they are metaphors for Hitler.

a lot of snakes in a trench coat

Literally what Colony Sarff is.  I am so opposed, guys.

One thought on “Doctor Who 9.02: “The Witch’s Familiar”

  1. Pedantically, she noted, the episode where the Doctor hides in a Dalek is “The Space Museum.” But there are plenty of callbacks to “The Daleks” in the S9 two-parter, most notably the corridors (of course).

    I’m also trying to understand what kind of person would spend their time recapping this episode without discussing how glorious Missy is, and then I remember: fandom. Terrible. Right, all makes sense now.

Comments are closed.