A few quick thoughts about The Witch’s Familiar

I hope I’ll have time to write up another, ah, concise and objective review type thing later this week about the latest Doctor Who episode, but right now I’m rewatching for tonight’s Verity! recording, and there are, as you might guess, rather a lot of things I love about this episode, but the one that I think I find most satisfying is Missy’s characterisation.

Michelle Gomez’s performance is, obviously, sublime, and I hope she’s willing to come back for, oh, at least another dozen stories, but while Missy is very much a distinct and wonderful regeneration of the Master, there’re lovely nods to the three previous major incarnations. And there’s nothing overt about them, nothing that yells ‘kiss to the past’, nothing even that a casual viewer would think was referencing the past (and, hey, they could easily all be coincidence, and I’m reading way too much into it); rather they’re beautifully incorporated into her new persona.

Most obviously, there’s the overt “look at me, I’m crazy, me!” craziness, much more obvious in her previous outing, where it felt like an affectation, or game, which we also got with the John Simm characterisation. There’s the vicious, casual, just for the hell of it, killing which feels very much like the introduction of Anthony Ainley’s Master in Logopolis (the producer at the time thought the original Master had been far too much of a gentleman and wasn’t scary enough, so he had the new incarnation begin his tenure with a series of pointless murders). And the biggest debt is owed to the orginal Master, Roger Delgado, created by Terrance Dick and Barry Letts.

Missy can be as polite and charming as the Delgado incarnation, and certainly her relationship with Capaldi’s Doctor is very similar to the third Doctor’s relationship with Delgado’s Master (down to the marriage proposals, and really not getting why massive armies/weapons of mass destruction are not suitable wedding gifts). And we also get hints of something reaching for mutual respect between that Master and Jo Grant, the companion at the time, but that was never really explored. But it’s somethng which The Witch’s Familiar does magnificently, and as I’ve watched along, I’ve found every Clara and Missy scene so very easy to rewrite so it could be Delgado and Jo.

He would never have pushed her down a pit though. That just wouldn’t be polite.

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4 thoughts on “A few quick thoughts about The Witch’s Familiar

  1. Katherine Jay says:

    I did feel that Clara should have expected Missy would push her down a pit. Delgado wouldn’t have done it, but he didn’t see Jo as combination pet and rival for the Doctor’s affections, the way Missy does Clara. Missy isn’t very polite, and for her, Clara is about as useful and wanted as your average stone.

    (I adore them together, by the way. In case you were worried.)

  2. Elisabeth says:

    I adore Missy so much, and Michelle Gomez as well. I saw Delgado in her from her very first appearance, and some Simm too in her delighted lunacy; she is a gorgeous execution of the Master in all his incarnations, and her relationship with Capaldi’s Doctor is beyond perfect. More Missy please!

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