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The Magician's Apprentice was the first episode of series 9 of Doctor Who.

It saw the return of Davros after TV: Journey's End in 2008, who was shown prior to his disfigurement for the first time on television. However, it was not the first story to depict Davros as a child. Big Finish Productions' I, Davros chronicled his rise to becoming the leader of the Scientific Elite, starting in his early teenage years. The episode gives no explanation as to how Davros managed to survive after the events of Journey's End, nor when the Doctor discovered he had done so.

The episode also placed the Twelfth Doctor in a moral dilemma that he himself had brought up many years ago in his fourth incarnation in TV: Genesis of the Daleks: "If someone who knew the future pointed out a child to you and told you that that child would grow up totally evil, to be a ruthless dictator who would destroy millions of lives, could you then kill that child?", with the Doctor coming face to face not only with Davros in the present but also as a child in the past.


The serpentine Colony Sarff has searched the entire universe for the Doctor, to give him the final message of Davros; however, the Time Lord is nowhere to be found.

This is quite serious, as not even the Doctor's closest frenemy, Missy, is able to find him. Adding onto this is the fact she was given his Confession dial, which in human terms is the last will and testament of the Doctor...


On a misty battlefield, soldiers flee a bombing run. When the dust settles, one of the soldiers notices a small figure running in the mist. The soldier's companion warns him they need to leave, because clam drones are going to pass through the area to pick off those whom the bombing run missed.

The soldier says he thinks he saw a child and will catch up; he runs off and discovers a boy, whom he tells to stop. The boy, dressed in the same uniform as the soldier, turns fearfully as he is asked if he is lost. The boy nods and the earth below him rumbles; something appears to be tunnelling underneath it. The soldier warns the boy to be still and quiet and takes out a scanner. The soldier and the boy are standing on a Handmine field; they will be safe as long as they remain still and quiet.

The soldier pulls out some tools and tries to keep the child calm; he asks if the boy has ever seen a Handmine before. The boy nods and points to the man's leg — a muddy hand has clamped onto the soldier's ankle. The soldier looks upon his ankle in fear and then back to the boy, before the Handmine pulls him down into the earth, creating a gaping hole that closes behind him.

A young Davros.

Several muddy hands with a single eye on their palms rise from the ground. Alone and panicked, the boy begins to scream for someone to help him. Suddenly, something lands beside him: a sonic screwdriver. The boy picks it up and sees a man through the mist. The Doctor has arrived to help the child. Using the sonic screwdriver to create an audio corridor, they talk. The Doctor tells the boy that he has one chance in a thousand of surviving, but that he should focus on that one chance: one is all he needs. He asks the boy what war this is, not knowing when or where he is. The boy, confused, replies that "it's just the war." He is similarly confused when the Doctor asks him what planet this is. The Doctor tells him not to mind. In an attempt to reassure and comfort the boy, the Doctor asks him what his name is. The boy replies, "Davros. My name is Davros."

At the Maldovarium, Colony Sarff, an envoy of Davros, is searching for the Doctor. He demands that the patrons tell him his location. He is met with silence. Later, in the Shadow Proclamation, the Shadow Architect refuses to tell Sarff where the Doctor is, insisting that she has no idea. Later still on Karn, Ohila warns Sarff of the dangers hunting the Doctor can bring. Colony Sarff tells Ohila that Davros is dying, but is still anticipating his final meeting with the Doctor. They then leave, giving Ohila a message for the Doctor, unaware that the Time Lord is hiding behind the rocks.

On present-day Earth, Clara is teaching in Coal Hill School. She looks out the window, noticing something amiss; using a marker, she draws a circle around a plane in the sky, realising that it's frozen in the air. After assigning her class to use their mobiles to search for any information, Clara is told by another teacher about a call for her. Knowing it's UNIT, Clara leaves for the Tower of London. She attempts to contact the Doctor but receives no answer.

At UNIT HQ, Kate Stewart is tracking the frozen planes. Clara deduces the planes aren't being weaponized because an invasion involves stealth, not spectacle. At that moment, the Doctor channel is opened, and lyrics appear on the screen, with one repeating word — Missy. Missy appears on-screen, explaining that the frozen planes were just a way to get their attention. She proposes a meeting with UNIT.

At 16:00, Clara and Missy meet in a cafe, where Missy demonstrates her ability to freeze the planes with a simple Time Lord trick. She also notes that Clara must have tried contacting the Doctor by now; Missy explains that she can't find him either. Clara dismisses it, stating it happens sometimes. Missy then reveals that it's worse than she thinks, showing Clara the Doctor's confession dial — containing the Doctor's last will and testament. She explains that a confession dial is given to a dying Time Lord's closest friend on their final day. Clara attempts to touch the dial, but is zapped by it; Missy explains that it was given to her, not Clara.

Clara wonders if Missy has turned over a new leaf, but Missy then vaporises a member of UNIT, stating that she has not "turned good". Threatening to have the snipers kill her, Clara demands Missy show she cares about the Doctor. Missy releases the planes from the time stop, revealing nothing else could have been done with them; they were just stuck in time.

Missy explains the Doctor is facing his final day, and therefore has come to Earth; however, when and where is unknown. Clara asks Missy how a Time Lord would spend his final day, and Missy says that it is supposed to be in meditation. Clara tells Kate to track mentions of the Doctor across history that doesn't involve an alien disturbance, and they discover his location: Essex, the Middle Ages. Using a vortex manipulator, Missy and Clara vanish into the past.

Clara and Missy arrive in a castle, where Missy explains that the vortex manipulator she put on Clara, is slaved to her own; where Missy goes, so does Clara. Wondering how they will find the Doctor, Clara is told to look for anything that stands out. At that moment, they hear an electric guitar playing; the Doctor arrives in a stadium, playing the guitar on a tank. His opponent, Bors is annoyed; the Doctor laughs that he wanted an "axe fight". The Doctor begins making bad jokes, to which Clara notes is not like him; Missy retorts "you really are new, aren't you."

To Clara's surprise, the Doctor looks right at them and starts playing Pretty Woman to clue them in; Clara heads down, wondering how the Doctor picked her out of the crowd. The Doctor says he always sees her and hugs her; Clara notes this isn't like him. The Doctor states he spent the past days wearing items his last lives did, stating all of him is welcome to his party. Missy arrives next, wondering what he's up to. The Doctor gets the crowd to boo at her. However, Bors is next heard choking; the Doctor checks his neck, finding a snake, which he tosses off Bors.

The crowd flees. as Sarff arrives, revealing his composition: a colony of snakes, bound together to form a humanoid. They demand the Doctor come with them to speak with Davros. The Doctor, recalling an action about which he feels great shame, agrees to go with Sarff. Missy and Clara demand to be taken as well; after voting, Sarff agrees to take them, binding the hands of all three with snakes. The Doctor, Clara and Missy are teleported to Sarff's shuttle. In their absence, Bors — revealed to have been converted into a Dalek puppet — procures the TARDIS and informs Dalek High Command.

The Doctor encounters a dying Davros.

Travelling to Davros' location — apparently a space hospital - the Doctor tells Clara who Davros is — the creator of the Daleks; a child of war who sealed his species inside tanks to preserve them. In the hospital, the Doctor goes with Sarff to see Davros, leaving Clara with Missy. As he leaves, he mentions the gravity. Both the Doctor and Missy have noticed that the gravity is natural. The hospital cannot be a space station. Missy daringly opens the airlock.

The Doctor meets with Davros, and they talk of how their conflicts have been fuelled by a single disagreement — was Davros right to create the Daleks, or was his lack of compassion wrong? Davros plays several recordings of the Doctor's various speeches to him about morality.

Clara and Missy walk out, apparently into outer space. However, they are breathing, and apparently walking on solid ground. Missy realises that once within the planet's atmosphere, one begins to synchronise with it. The illusion vanishes, showing a city in the middle of a wasteland; Missy reacts with horror and disbelief, while Clara is left confused. At the same time, the Doctor is shown the truth by Davros; they are on Skaro, the Daleks' homeworld.

Sighted by a Dalek, Clara and Missy are taken to see the Supreme Dalek, who has a large weapon aimed at the TARDIS. Missy attempts to reason with the Daleks - if they don't destroy the TARDIS, she can help them fly it, allowing them to conquer the universe. However, the Supreme Dalek demands Missy's total extermination, and she vanishes in the blast.

The Doctor pleads with Davros to not let Clara come to harm — but Davros tells him that he does not control the Daleks. Davros observes the Daleks' choice to wait for Clara to run. As she runs, they exterminate her, causing her to vanish. The Supreme Dalek then orders the TARDIS to be destroyed and it is seemingly vaporised by the weapon aimed at it.


Back on the battlefield, a young Davros, still pleading with the Doctor not to leave, hears the TARDIS rematerialise behind him, and disbelievingly asks him how he has moved. The Doctor explains he's come from the future, and that he has to save his friend the only way he can. Brandishing a severed Dalek gunstick, the Doctor glares towards the child, shouting "Exterminate!"


Uncredited cast[]


General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics



General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.

Uncredited crew[]

Milk VFX[3]


  • Missy refers to the Cloister Wars, the Doctor stealing the moon, and the President's wife.



Culture from the real world[]



  • Jac mentions the numbers 4165 and 439.




Story notes[]

  • To keep Davros' return a surprise, Julian Bleach was not credited prior to airing. The young Davros, played by Joey Price, is credited as "Boy".
  • This was the first series opener in the BBC Wales series, and the first Dalek story, to be directed by a woman.
  • This is the first televised story to be set on Skaro since Destiny of the Daleks.
  • The Radio Times programme listing was accompanied by a head-and-shoulders shot of Missy operating her control device, with the accompanying caption "Doctor Who / 7.40 p.m. Missy is one of many searching for the missing Time Lord as the series returns".
  • On 27 September, the day after the broadcast of The Witch's Familiar, the two-part opener was broadcast on BBC One and BBC One HD as one single feature-length episode.
  • The title sequence was slightly modified starting with this episode; the clock gears, gas and the first Roman numeral clock face tunnel now have a purple hue.
  • The episode's credits list the creators of the Kahler, Skullions, Hath, Blowfish, Ood, and Sycorax, all of whom were present when Colony Sarff was searching for the Doctor. This is the Skullions' first appearance on Doctor Who, having previously appeared in The Sarah Jane Adventures. This is the first time in which creator credits are included for creatures introduced during Steven Moffat's tenure as showrunner, and for creatures introduced in a spin-off series.
  • This is the first time a Special Weapons Dalek has been shown to apparently talk on-screen and also features the gold oblong windows encircling its dome lighting up. These traits were subject to debate and speculation ever since the Special Weapons Dalek model first appeared in Remembrance of the Daleks, as the model featured was never shown speaking either in that serial, or in Asylum of the Daleks. A new model was used in the story, completely separate from the prop used in the first two stories. As a result, if one pays close attention to details, it can actually be seen that it looks slightly different in some places.
  • The congregation of Daleks that Clara and Missy meet on Skaro includes the original silver and blue model used from TV: The Daleks to TV: The Space Museum, the second silver and blue model used from TV: The Space Museum to TV: The War Games, the Emperor Dalek's personal guard from TV: The Evil of the Daleks, the grey and black model used from TV: Day of the Daleks to TV: Remembrance of the Daleks, the Special Weapons Dalek from TV: Remembrance of the Daleks, a black Dalek resembling Dalek Sec, the Supreme Dalek model from TV: The Stolen Earth and Journey's End, and the incumbent bronze model that has been in use since TV: Dalek.
  • Peter Capaldi actually played the guitar in this story, and for the rest of the season, having been a musician in real life.
  • Michelle Gomez confirmed on Twitter that her tickling a nearby Dalek's bumps when referring to the TARDIS as "the dog's unmentionables" was improvised.[4]
  • This story is the first time Ohila has been featured in a full-length episode of Doctor Who as opposed to mini-episodes.
  • The design of the Dalek city and the sliding doors in it pays homage to the set of the first Dalek story, TV: The Daleks.
  • The title (which formed an interesting dichotomy with The Witch's Familiar) was not the first time the Doctor's companion was compared to a "magician's apprentice", as this had already been the object of a sequence in the novel Vampire Science, between the Eighth Doctor and Sam Jones. Referring to the Twelfth Doctor as a magician, as the title does, may also be an allusion to the common wisdom that this Doctor's outfit resembles a classic stage magician's.
  • In the "Showrunner Showdown" interview for DWM 551, Steven Moffat revealed he had wanted former showrunner Russell T Davies to write this episode and sent him an early draft of the pitch. The story behind this original pitch was "almost unrecognisable" from the final episode, focusing on Davros once again on trial as in TV: War of the Daleks. Moffat suggested the plot would have given the Doctor and Davros' conversations an audience, with the Doctor winning over the Dalek crowd but in the process sympathising with his longtime enemy. Ultimately, Davies was not interested, and Moffat wrote the episode himself.


Filming locations[]

  • Fuerteventura, Canary Islands[8]
  • Convento de San Francisco, Garachico, Tenerife, Canary Islands
  • Parque Nacional del Teide, Tenerife, Canary Islands

Production errors[]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • When Colony Sarff is leaving Karn, the glow of a hoverboard, used to make him appear to slither along the ground, can be seen under his robes.
  • After Missy opens the door to the cell she and Clara are in, the snake binding Clara's hands disappears without an explanation.


Home video releases[]

DVD and Blu-ray releases[]

  • The Magician's Apprentice was released on DVD as part of "Doctor Who: Series 9, Part 1" on 2 November 2015 in region 2 and 3 November in region 1. It was later released as part of the complete Series 9 boxset on 7 March 2016.

Digital releases[]

to be added


External links[]