Doctor Who series 9: geeky spots in The Witch’s Familiar

Spoilers! Here are our ultra-nerdy viewing notes and geeky spots from Doctor Who series 9's The Witch's Familiar...

The Witch’s Familiar may have been less frantic than The Magician’s Apprentice, but it contained just as many back-references and kisses to the past – in addition to the ones documented in last week’s article. So here are all the geeky things we were able to notice in this week’s episode…

As ever, let us know in the comments if we missed any. The article starts once you scroll past Daphne The Spoiler Squirrel…

Callbacks of the Daleks

This isn’t the first time the Doctor has wielded a Dalek gunstick. Having narrated every Dalek story to date for Davros in 1975’s Genesis Of The Daleks, the fourth Doctor then destroys the recording using a Dalek gun. Dalek gunsticks were also wielded by the Dalek-humans in David Tennant Story Evolution Of The Daleks.

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Genesis Of The Daleks also saw Davros supposedly exterminated by his own creations in what was the start of a long and troubled relationship between Davros and his children; the conflict between Daleks loyal to Davros and those loyal to the Supreme Dalek formed the backbone of the three 80s Dalek stories – Resurrection, Revelation and Remembrance Of The Daleks. As such, it’s little wonder that Davros made his chair immune to their weaponry…

This story finally gives an explanation for the Daleks’ popular ‘Exterminate!’ catchphrase. However, despite a few mentions of extermination in their debut story and a couple of uses in follow-up The Dalek Invasion Of Earth, it wasn’t really until 1965’s The Chase that they really started to embrace the term, which has been synonymous with the mutant menaces ever since.

Two other popular Dalek catchphrases appear in this story.

“My vision is impaired!” was first used in 1984’s Resurrection Of The Daleks, with “Vision impaired!” popping up in Planet and Destiny Of The Daleks some years earlier, as well as 1988’s Remembrance Of The Daleks. It was then used (followed by ‘I cannot see!’) in Revelation Of The Daleks, Parting Of The Ways, before being subverted at Bernard Cribbins’ suggestion in 2008 story The Stolen Earth, which sees Cribbins’ character Wilf shoot a Dalek with a paintball gun, only to have the paint dissolve from the eyestalk as the Dalek shouts “my vision is NOT impaired!”.

“Seek, locate, destroy” is inspired by “seek, locate, exterminate” from 1979’s Destiny Of The Daleks (“Locate and destroy!” featured heavily in Planet Of The Daleks) and was used in last year’s Into The Dalek. Seek-Locate-Destroy is also the name of an episode of Blake’s 7 – written by Dalek creator Terry Nation.

Davros tempts the Doctor with the idea of committing Dalek genocide; his line “to hold in your hand the heartbeat of every Dalek on Skaro…” evokes Davros’s speech from Genesis Of The Daleks in which he muses on whether he would use a virus that could destroy every living being. Genesis, of course, revolved around the Doctor being sent back in time to destroy the Daleks at their birth, but we have also seen him indirectly responsible for the deaths of millions of Daleks in The Parting Of The Ways and Journey’s End, as well as blowing up their home planet in Remembrance Of The Daleks – and that’s before we even get into the Time War…

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Clara isn’t the first of the Doctor’s companions to hide inside a Dalek casing; Ian Chesterton climbed inside one during the first Dalek story, while the Doctor himself hid inside an empty Dalek shell during 1965’s The Space Museum. Neither of them experienced any of the difficulties suffered by Clara in this story.

Both Ian and Clara climbing inside the Dalek afforded us glimpses of the Kaled mutant inside. We’ve had further glimpses of Dalek mutants in 1966’s Power Of The Daleks, the aforementioned Resurrection, Revelation and Remembrance Of The Daleks, 1983 anniversary story The Five Doctors, Dalek, Parting Of The Ways, Daleks In Manhattan, Journey’s End and, of course, Into The Dalek.

Ninth Doctor actor Christopher Eccleston stated in several 2005 interviews that he would always tune in to see the inside of a Dalek, as he found the idea of the ‘pathetic’ mutant inside the fearsome Dalek casing to be ‘fascinating’.

As in Journey’s End, the Doctor refers to Davros as the Daleks’ pet. In that same two-parter, he revealed that he had created each of these new Daleks using a cell from his own body. In this story the roles are reversed, with the Daleks feeding back into their creator.

This is the first time we see Davros’ original eyes open. Though it has never been explicitly stated on screen, it has always been assumed that Davros was robbed of his natural sight – it is explained in the Big Finish audio drama Davros that Davros lost his sight, his arm and his legs in a Thal attack on the Kaled dome. It is possible that Davros’s sight in this story was a ruse to help him gain the Doctor’s sympathy.

Davros also features the only other instance to date of the Doctor and Davros working together on the same side, something Davros longs for in this story. However, just like in this story, his good behaviour on that occasion is revealed to be a deception. And of course, Davros questioning whether he’s a good man is a direct reference to the Doctor’s personal arc last year.

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According to this story, the Daleks are programmed with an understanding of mercy. However, they’re not fans; the second and eleventh Doctors both state that the Daleks lack mercy, while in 1967’s Evil Of The Daleks the Daleks write mercy off as ‘human weakness’.

Davros does not program his subjects with an understanding of pity, however – his pleas for his creations to show pity fall on deaf ears at the end of Genesis Of The Daleks. That said, the lone soldier in 2005’s Dalek is familiar with the word as he begs the Doctor to show some compassion.

Missy proposes an alliance with the Daleks, something we haven’t seen since Frontier In Space in 1973. The Daleks were also responsible for exterminating the Gordon Tipple incarnation of the Master at the beginning of the 1996 TV Movie.

Missy states that Daleks can’t die, but if we listed all the stories which disprove that theory we’d be here all day.

An Ancient Friendship

This story is rare in that we get to see how Missy survived her apparent demise during her last encounter with the Doctor. The only other time this happened was in The End Of Time, which showed the Master’s resurrection at the hands of the Disciples of Saxon.

Missy complains about the Doctor’s cleverness, labelling him a ‘swot’. However, in the Master’s debut story, 1971’s Terror Of The Autons, we learn that the Master’s cosmic science degree was of a higher class than the Doctor’s.

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Missy tells Clara she ‘loves killing clever-clogs’, and she’s right; from Professor Phillips and his assistant Goodge in Terror Of The Autons to poor Osgood in Death In Heaven, the Master has a long history of murdering anyone with a high IQ. Perhaps the peak of his genius genocide came in 1981 story Logopolis, in which the Master was directly responsible for the death of the entire Logopolitan race, a species of advanced mathematicians who could create and change objects using only the power of maths.

Missy alludes to having a daughter. Though this is the first we’ve heard of it, it’s not an unreasonable thought; after all, the Doctor had a granddaughter by the time he fled Gallifrey…

…speaking of which, it seems the Doctor’s flight from Gallifrey (as witnessed in The Name Of The Doctor) is likely to be a recurring theme this series. This has never been explored on television; during his final adventure The War Games, in which we glimpse Gallifrey for the first time, the second Doctor gives the same excuse as the twelfth: that he was bored. This is roughly the line adhered to for the rest of the series.

However, first Doctor actor William Hartnell and Carol Ann Ford, who played his granddaughter Susan, decided between them that the Doctor had somehow annoyed his own people and been forced to leave, so played several scenes that way. Could they be right, over 50 years on?

Of course, there is another explanation, alluded to by Missy when she tells the Doctor “I wasn’t the one who ran”; in 2007’s The Sound Of Drums we learn that all Time Lord children were made to look upon the whole time vortex through a gap in the fabric of reality. As the tenth Doctor tells Jack and Martha, “some would be inspired, some would run away, and some would go mad”. The Doctor explains that he was among the ones who ran away; the Master, on the other hand…

Missy reminds the Doctor that she gave Clara to him; it was revealed in Death In Heaven that she was the one who gave Clara the Doctor’s number prior to The Bells Of St John.

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In With The Old

Missy regales Clara with an unseen tale from the Doctor’s past; given the way the story is framed, it’s probable the Doctor in question was the fourth – he and the first Doctor are briefly glimpsed. This would be appropriate, as the fourth is the only Doctor with not one, but two stories to his name containing the word ‘Android’ in the title: 1975’s The Android Invasion and 1978’s The Androids Of Tara. And, of course, a notable mention for The Robots Of Death.

The Doctor has faced many android foes across his various incarnations – the Raston Warrior Robot from The Five Doctors, the robot mummies from Pyramids Of Mars and the Anne Droid from Bad Wolf to name but three of the more memorable examples – but he has only ever had one android companion. The shape-shifting Kamelion joined the TARDIS crew alongside the fifth Doctor in 1983 story The King’s Demons. However, the robot prop proved impractical to use, and as such lay unused in the back rooms of the TARDIS until his second and final appearance (barring a cameo in the fifth Doctor’s final story) in Planet Of Fire a year later.

The Doctor’s fondness for tea stretches through many of his incarnations, but none more so than the third Doctor, who spent much of his time exiled on Earth, working for UNIT and drinking milky brews.

In Terror Of The Autons, he tells new assistant Jo Grant that his laboratory is ‘strictly out of bounds to everybody except the tea lady and the Brigadier’s personal staff’. His only rival in the tea stakes is the tenth Doctor, who was snapped out of his post-regenerative slumber by the healing properties of Jackie Tyler’s tea in The Christmas Invasion.

The Daleks realise that Missy is a Time Lady after scanning her to find two hearts. The fact that Gallifreyans have a binary vascular system was first revealed in Jon Pertwee’s debut story Spearhead From Space in 1970.

The HADS was introduced in Patrick Troughton story The Krotons in 1968. However, back then HADS stood for Hostile Action Displacement System, rather than Dispersal as in this story, and its function was to move the TARDIS out of harm’s way. The old-style HADS was deployed again in Cold War – materialising at the South Pole instead of the North. Perhaps this prompted the Doctor to toy with the way it works?

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New School
Time for a change...?

This isn’t the first time the ‘dead’ have actually been teleported somewhere else; in 2005’s Bad Wolf the Doctor assumes that Rose (among others) has been disintegrated, when in fact she’s alive and well – or at least, as alive and well as one can be aboard a Dalek spaceship…

Time is a great healer – in this episode, Clara is prompted to say the words “I love you” to Missy whilst inside the Dalek casing. However, she tells Danny in Dark Water that she “will never say those words again, to anybody else, ever”.

The Doctor reveals to Davros that he’s brought Gallifrey back, but he doesn’t know where – this refers to the arc which began in The Day Of The Doctor and was touched upon most recently when Missy lied to the Doctor about its location in Death In Heaven.

The Doctor donates a bit (seemingly quite a lot, actually) of spare regeneration energy to Davros and the Daleks; the fluid nature of regeneration energy is very much a trait of post-2005 Doctor Who. This started with The Christmas Invasion, which saw the Doctor burp some leftover regeneration energy into space and use some leftover energy to grow a new hand after his is chopped off. Later, after being hit by a Dalek energy weapon in The Stolen Earth, the Doctor uses just enough energy to heal his current form and then channels the rest of the energy into the aforementioned detached hand, forming a half-human Doctor.

This, and the unnumbered War Doctor, are why the eleventh Doctor had run out of regeneration energy come The Time Of The Doctor. Fortunately, the Time Lords were able to send the Doctor some more, which he used to destroy an entire fleet of Daleks and change his face (regeneration energy is also responsible for the destruction of the ‘coral’ TARDIS control room in The End Of Time).

The Doctor also receives regeneration energy from a young River Song in Let’s Kill Hitler, as she sacrifices her remaining regenerations to save him after kissing him with a deadly lipstick. (Are you still with us?)

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The Doctor is quite kind to Davros here, using the justification that he’s being kind to his childhood self. However, the Doctor hasn’t always been quite so merciful to children; in 2007’s The Family Of Blood, he sentences the child-like Daughter of Mine to an eternity trapped inside every mirror in existence.

The Doctor’s sonic sunglasses are not the first variation of the sonic screwdriver to be featured on the programme; others include the sonic pen used by Matron Cofelia in Partners In Crime, the sonic cane wielded by the Doctor during Let’s Kill Hitler, and of course the sonic lipstick gifted to Sarah Jane Smith for use in Journey’s End and spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures. Finally, in the 2014 novel The Blood Cell, there was a sonic spoon – presumably designed for dealing with a bowl of unlimited rice pudding.


That wraps it up for this week; next week we’ll be seeing what geeky spots lie Under The Lake, but if there’s anything we missed from this episode, let us know in the comments below!

When he’s not analysing Doctor Who in too much detail, Pete presents and produces Geeks Say Things, the Den of Geek podcast. You can subscribe and download all three episodes so far here.

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