I regret to inform you all that I really liked this episode, and therefore my curmudgeonly Classic Who fan status may be at risk, but heck… I really liked it.
Not to say it’s perfect. Some of it was a bit silly. I still think Colony Sarff is a pointless idea, and even though the story’s all about the most popular villains ever, they hinge the resolution on a random new aspect of these villains. The immortal sewer idea actually makes more sense than the Dalek asylum did, but unfortunately the Dalek asylum was just cool in a way that the immortal sewer is not, and either way the more often these “revelations” occur, the more bored I become. However. Most of the plot twists add interest and are exciting, instead of totally changing the episode and killing the investment. The twist, re-explaining how the Doctor gets back to Davros with a gun, worked well.
Most importantly, the Doctor and Davros get to have the long conversation that was promised, the one I wanted with a setup like this. I could watch an entire episode of the Doctor and Davros talking to each other, and I didn’t think they’d actually give it to me, but they did. To keep it moving, they cut in a bit of the Doctor goofing off, and a subplot with Missy and Clara coming to save him. Those elements, believe it or not, actually fit with the themes of the episode. Friends inside enemies, enemies inside friends. Obvious, sometimes, but consistent focus is more important to me at this point than subtlety. Missy’s presence makes perfect sense in the episode, given that theme. The idea of putting Clara inside a Dalek — hmmmmmmmmmm — does too, and made for some really interesting stuff between her and Missy, and later the Doctor, about Dalek language.
And of course, the Doctor/Davros scenes. They’re funny, they’re touching, they’re thoughtful because (by the end) we don’t know who’s lying when. I believe the Doctor when he says it’s not about running, that he came because Davros was sick and he called. I believe them when they’re joking, and I think somewhere inside Davros, he really was happy for the Doctor, or he couldn’t have faked it so well. (I don’t believe for a second that the Doctor had a plan all along, though. We open the episode with a story about the Doctor’s split-second genius, so it’s obvious to me at least that Davros had the master plan, but as usual, the Doctor foiled it at the last possible moment!)
So, a good episode that pleased me. Just a few last notes: First, why is Clara just doing everything Missy tells her to? And on that note, why did she crack and run in the last one? Even I respect her more than this. She’s a smooth talker and a stubborn narcissist when she wants something. In these two episodes she’s just been a damsel, really. Second, the resolution totally overlooks the fact that Daleks have said the word “mercy” on numerous other occasions, but okay, whatever. And third, I dig those sonic shades. 😉