The Series 9 premiere of Doctor Who was certainly a spectacle. Old enemies returned, more old enemies returned, a planet returned, the TARDIS was destroyed, and two major characters "died." Even saying all of that, I still haven't completely spoiled the episode for anyone foolish enough to read this before having watched it (I will have by the end of this though, so if you're *still* reading, you've no one to blame but yourself). There was quite a lot to like in this episode, but there were also quite a few things that had me raising an eyebrow.
First and foremost, we've now met Davros as a child. Specifically, The Doctor met Davros as a child. More importantly, The Doctor met Davros as a child trapped in an impossible situation on a battlefield, and abandoned him there. Presumably, considering both Davros and the daleks still exist afterward, the boy not only lives, but being abandoned with no hope on said battlefield is a major factor in Davros' descent into madness and his ultimate creation of the daleks. That being the case, The Doctor is (at least partially) responsible for the creation of one of his most formidable enemies, and the creatures with whom the Time Lords were at war when Gallifrey was destroyed (also by The Doctor).
Next we see Colony Sarff (henceforth to be referred to as Snake Guy) popping up in all manner of places demanding to know where to find The Doctor because Davros is apparently dying and wants to have a chat. After several unfruitful trips by Snake Guy (to everywhere from the Shadow Proclamation to Karn), Davros finally thinks to suggest that perhaps The Doctor could be found through his friends. Quick cut to Clara being the cheeky teacher, right up until she takes a casual glance out the window and happens to not only notice a plane at near cruising altitude, but notices that it isn't moving. (That's one hell of a glance.) She dashes off to U.N.I.T. headquarters where she proves, once again, to be the cleverest girl in the room despite the fact that the room is supposed to be full of the elite minds behind the famous taskforce created for precisely such an event. Throughout the entire scene, we're left with the feeling that, without Clara, U.N.I.T. is comprised of a bunch of bumbling idiots who were too dumb to realize that sending a helicopter to fetch her because all air traffic has suddenly stopped moving might not be the best idea. Thankfully, Missy interrupts them and completely steals the next several scenes. (I might not be a big fan of her being The Master, but I am a huge fan of Michelle Gomez's portrayal of Missy.) She arranges a meeting in one of our "hot countries" where she takes Clara down a peg or two and explains that The Doctor sent her his Last Will and Testament indicating that he will be dead in a day, so they must find him. Clever Clara helps U.N.I.T. with their Doctor seeking algorythm, and off they go via Missy's vortex manipulator to medieval England.
Here we get one of my new favorite scenes from a Doctor Who episode (despite, or possibly because of, its utter ridiculousness). The Doctor enters a fighting arena in medieval England playing the Doctor Who opening credits theme on an electric guitar while riding a bloody tank. This is only made better with the knowledge that that is, indeed, Peter Capaldi playing the guitar (he was in a punk band with Craig Ferguson in his youth, after all). Pithy banter ensues until Snake Guy shows up, and threatens the safety of everyone in the arena lest The Doctor come with him, throwing The Doctor's sonic screwdriver (that The Doctor had left with a young Davros when he abandoned him) at their feet to show that he means business. Despite the protestation of Missy, The Doctor agrees and both Missy and Clara demand to go along for the ride. All three are bound in snake-cuffs and teleported to Snake Guy's ship (leaving the sonic screwdriver in the dirt in medieval England). Once they're gone, we see Bors (the local man who's been The Doctor's assistant/friend for the three weeks he's been in town partying) rifling through a room until he finds the TARDIS behind a curtain, and it's revealed that he's actually a dalek as he reports back to "high command" that the TARDIS has been located. This begs the question: If this disguised dalek has been hanging out with The Doctor this whole time, why did Snake Guy have to search all over the Universe and finally resort to following Missy and Clara to find him??? Also, why the hell was Bors searching under chairs and in chests for the TARDIS as though he had no clue what he was actually looking for? Don't even get me started on the questions I have pertaining to Davros having been in possession of The Doctor's sonic screwdriver for thousands of years...
From that lovely plothole, The Doctor, Missy, and Clara are taken to what appears to be a hospital ship somewhere in deep space. While The Doctor is taken to see Davros, and Missy and Clara are left in a cell it is revealed that they are not on a ship at all, but on the surface of a very cleverly disguised planet. Namely, Skaro, the home planet of the daleks that was supposedly destroyed long ago but Davros has somehow brought back into existence. Missy and Clara are taken prisoner by daleks as Davros and The Doctor banter (including a very poignant quote from the fourth Doctor in Genesis of the Daleks asking Sarah Jane Smith if she could kill a child if she knew that it would grow up to be a purely evil dictator), and ultimately The Doctor is forced to helplessly watch as Missy and Clara are killed and the TARDIS destroyed.
The cliffhanger episode ends with The Doctor returning to the boy on the battlefield and pointing a dalek gun to his head. Essentially, The Doctor is once again put in the position to eradicate all the daleks (a decision he has made time and time again, but never quite seems to stick).
Thankfully the premiere is a two-part episode, so there is hope that at least some of the huge questions we've been left with will be answered. I have serious doubts that the Bors/Snake Guy plothole will be addressed, but perhaps we will be given some kind of explanation as to how Skaro was brought back, or how The Doctor abandoning the young Davros on the battlefield isn't a fixed point in time given how pivotal that action clearly was. Considering this was only the first half of the story, I'm going to give the episode quite a bit of leeway until we've seen it all the way through. What I will say about The Magician's Apprentice is that I absolutely loved all the references to past Doctors and previous storylines. In addition to the numerous references to Genesis of the Daleks (this episode could easily have been called Genesis of the Daleks, Part 2), there were also plenty of nods to the personalities of previous regenerations while The Doctor was throwing himself a farewell party, and it was quite nice to see them dust off the older model daleks as well. Even Skaro itself was reminiscent of the set style often used in Classic Who.
Despite its faults, the Series 9 premiere has certainly gotten my attention. I'm glad they went with a two-part episode for this story, and I'm very interested to see if Moffat can pull it all together for a solid finish next week.