The Magician’s Apprentice: 5 Questions Left Unanswered

Last week we were treated with a brave, audacious series premiere that likely left many viewers with questions unanswered.

While waiting for The Witch’s Familiar, we here at Kasterborous felt it’d be as good of opportunity as any to reflect on some of those questions we’ll be watching for answers for – and perhaps after reading this article you will too!

Bors the Dalek?

Doctor's Meditation Twelfth 12th Peter Capaldi Bors

A few people have noted a gaping hole in the narrative with regards to Bors – in the final scene with Bors, the Doctor’s plucky new medieval sidekick, he appears to have been converted by Dalek nanogenes into one of those half-Daleks we’ve seen in Asylum of the Daleks and Time of the Doctor.

One question remains with regards to Bors however: why was Davros searching for the Doctor if the Daleks already knew where the Doctor was and built a trap? For this there are at least two explanations: first Bors may have been converted after Colony Sarff arrived during the confusion and chaos – that’s the boring yet reasonable explanation – moving on… The second explanation is that, as Davros notes: Davros has no control over the Daleks! The Daleks might have their own plans, that is. It’s possible then that during The Witch’s Familiar, Davros and the Daleks may not necessarily be working together and could even be at odds with each other.

How did the Doctor time travel?

Doctor Who

The cliffhanger of The Magician’s Apprentice is a doozy but one can’t help but wonder if that cliffhanger has been shown to audiences out of context – whether, that is, the cliffhanger was essentially a flashforward to a later development in The Witch’s Familiar.

Bear in mind, the TARDIS was destroyed in the scene previous and so was Missy’s “cheap and nasty” Vortex Manipulator – so how could the Doctor materialise in Ancient Skaro?

One might wonder, for example, if the Doctor has been sent by Davros. Davros, being a sick and dying creature, might gather some satisfaction in the moral corruption of the Doctor (or rather the moral ascendance, as far as Davros is concerned) by forcing the Doctor to kill an innocent child to save his friends. He is, after all, expecting to die anyways.

What’s so magic?

Are Clara & Missy Really Dead? The Witch’s Familiar Trailers & Synopsis

When the titles appeared at the end of Last Christmas, erm, last christmas, audiences began speculating immediately what “The Magician’s Apprentice” could mean. Could Doctor Who be exploring the idea of “magic”, for example? Others speculated that the Magician was a reference to Capaldi’s wardrobe which, the Doctor lamented in Time Heist, looks less minimalist and more “magician” – the inclusion of “apprentice” especially had raised suspicions that a new companion might make an appearance.

The premiere has gone and past us now however, and well, here’s the thing: we’re still nowhere closer to understanding The Magician’s Apprentice’s title now than before we watched it. Surely it would be stretching it to say the premiere featured “technological wizardry” and Colony Sarff was the episode’s titular apprentice-? Alternatively, the title could be another vague reference to Clara – but why reference Clara specifically when the episode really doesn’t seem to centre around Clara in particular?

The only other explanation that I can think of is that the title refers to Bors, since Bors is the Doctor’s apprentice and the villagers believe the Doctor is a magician, but with Bors playing such a small role in the premiere it seems to suggest, at the very least, that Bors could play a bigger role in The Witch’s Familiar. And, mind you, none of this explains why the subsequent episode, The Witch’s Familiar shares this “magic” theme with The Magician’s Apprentice.

Why does the Doctor think he’s dying?

Doctor Who

During the fast-paced drama of The Magician’s Apprentice, you may have missed that it was never actually stated why the Doctor believes that today is his last day to live, which was why he sent the Confession Dial to Missy in the first place.

Certainly, viewers were led to believe that the Doctor’s death would be related to Davros (who incidentally is also dying) – but there’s also a distinct possibility that the events of The Magician’s Apprentice really aren’t related at all to why the Doctor believes he’s going to die.

The Witch’s Familiar may not provide us with a clear answer to this question, since I wouldn’t put it past a certain Scottish showrunner to turn the Doctor’s impending death into a series arc; however, the next episode may bring us closer to understanding just what it is that has the Doctor preparing to die. And, while it may not be the most important question, I can’t help but wonder: just what *is* in the Doctor’s Last Will and Testament anyhoo?

“Are you ready… to be a god?”

This could simply be a marvelous trick of editing, but the superb “Next Time” trailer which followed The Magician’s Apprentice seems to suggest that the Doctor or someone else is taking on the role that Davros once held as a supreme leader beyond the Dalek’s own ranks. Who then, is being elevated to a godly status in The Witch’s Familiar?

Perhaps Davros could choose to use his final moments as a chance to appoint a successor, or perhaps, even more paradoxically, Davros is encouraging his younger self (in a proper “let the hate flow through you” speech) to join the forces of evil over the Doctor’s rosy optimism. I encourage you, dear Kasterbourites to have another look at the Next Time and comment below with your own theories about The Magician’s Apprentice and the upcoming episode.

The Witch’s Familiar airs tonight on BBCOne at 7:45pm!


Richard Forbes graduated from the University of Waterloo, receiving his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Philosophy. When asked (usually by confused old women) what ‘does one do exactly’ with said degree, he laughs and politely declines to answer. A perfect night for him involves a relaxing cup of Lady Grey, some writing and a re-run of ‘Yes Minister’. His favourite Doctor Who episode, provided he’s coerced to answer at gunpoint, is Series 1’s acclaimed ‘The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances’.

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