By Elizabeth Carlie
Steven Moffat is, without question, a brilliant writer. Time and again, he’s proven himself with his script contributions to Doctor Who, bringing us inventive stories lousy with our most primal, visceral fears given faces so memorable that few Whovians can look at gas masks, statues, and even our own shadows without being afraid … without wondering.
Since his promotion to show runner in 2008, with his first season hitting televisions in 2010, he has been a divisive figure in fan circles. With complaints ranging from misogynistic themes to gaping plot holes closed poorly, if closed at all, and praise that includes winning a Hugo for the finale of season 5, and countless other award nominations during his tenure thus far, he is very likely one of the most controversial contributors the show has ever employed in its fifty year history.
For many, the premiere of season 9 marks a tipping point for fans that have been both thrilled and dissatisfied with Moffat’s performance not only as a show runner, but as a writer. To his detractors, this season may determine whether or not some decide to stop watching, while his supporters could see the promise of Moffat proving, once and for all, his ability to continue carrying a beloved British institution in a direction that will not only satisfy long time fans, but earn an even bigger new following.
That said…love him or hate him, The Magician’s Apprentice is an episode that even his biggest doubters will have to admit is a sensational comeback.
The episode begins on a desolate planet, in the middle of a war, where the Doctor arrives to save a young boy from becoming a victim of the conflict. What follows is a journey into the Doctor’s past with his oldest enemy, the Daleks, and concludes with an event that could, unquestionably, forever alter the Doctor’s future at the culmination of this first half of a two part story that concludes next week with The Witch’s Familiar.
Touching on the Doctor’s past actions and how they will affect not just the future, but the present, Moffat does an exceptional job of taking a single instant from the Fourth Doctor classic Genesis of the Daleks and bringing it into the present, where the Doctor’s more recent history has driven him to change his course and quite possibly bring about his own undoing. Shocking revelations come out in the first five minutes of the episode, and the surprises don’t stop until the cliffhanger that finds the Doctor standing face to face with an old nemesis in a manner you won’t believe until you see it.
Fans of Moffat will see what they love about his style: shocking moments, creative storytellling, and dealing with a classic monster in a new and terrifying way. Those who question his fitness in the driver’s seat will find things that have been lacking from recent seasons: cohesive plotting, respectful and brilliantly crafted nods to the Doctor’s history, and an emotional roller coaster that begins in the opening seconds and does not stop until its conclusion.
Can Moffat follow through with The Witch’s Familiar next Saturday? Is there hope, despite what we’ve seen so far? Have you already watched the premiere? Discuss your theories in the comments, or hit me us up on Twitter!
Haven’t seen the episode yet? Turn off the SCIFI.radio stream at the top of the page, and hit play here.
Thank you, BBC America. And to you, the reader, you’re welcome.